In a little more than two weeks, Jake Walman and Oskar Sundqvist have demonstrated how they make the Detroit Red Wings better.
Sundqvist arrived at the NHL trade deadline with a meatier resume, but Walman has maximized the nine games since March 21 to show he has a future with the team, too. He has used his speed to help the Wings break out the puck, and he’s made them more dynamic because of his shot.
“He’s done a good job,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Certainly he’s a shooter, he can really shoot the puck. I think he’s been accountable for the most part defensively, so he’s done a good job.”
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The Wings took Thursday off to recover from hosting the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and playing in Winnipeg on Wednesday. After enduring a six-game losing streak, the Wings have won consecutive games for the first time in nearly two months as they head into Saturday’s home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
General manager Steve Yzerman acquired Sundqvist, 28, and Walman, 26, and a 2023 second-round pick from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenseman Nick Leddy and minor-leaguer Luke Witkowski. Yzerman opted to move Leddy, 31, after negotiations to re-sign fizzled.
Sundqvist is 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds and plays like it. He has a mean edge to him, and he’s adept around the net, with smarts to boot. On Wednesday, he made a simple play with the puck when he dumped it softly along the boards and below the goal line, but it lead to Michael Rasmussen’s goal in the 3-1 victory. Sundqvist has four points in nine games with the Wings and 91 points in 279 career games. He plays both special teams and is an effective checker.
“He’s a good pro,” Rasmussen said. “He’s really heavy, he’s good positionally, he’s really really hard on his stick. He’s just a good player, a guy you can put on in the last minute of the game. It’s good to watch him, how he is positionally and with his stick, how he uses his body in battles.”
WHAT WE KNEW THEN:
Sundqvist is signed through next season with a $2.75 million salary cap hit. There’s more at stake for Walman, who is on an expiring contract with a $925,000 salary cap hit and will be a restricted free agent. The trade was an audition to prove he can be a fit in Detroit. Leddy is gone, and veterans Marc Staal and Danny DeKeyser, who like Walman are left-side defensemen, are on expiring contracts.
Even with the probability that Staal re-signs, and leaving open the possibility 2021 first-round pick Simon Edvinsson is ready to make the NHL next season, there’s a spot for Walman if he earns it. He’s still gaining a foothold in the NHL (66 career games) but he’s had a solid opening stretch in Detroit.
“He is good positionally, he’s a good skater, he’s really good with the puck,” Rasmussen said. “I think when he’s using his skating and his hockey sense, playing with his instincts, he’s a really good player. I enjoy playing with him.”
Walman (6-2, 215 pounds) adds size to the back end and has a big shot. He has directed 22 shots on net since joining the Wings, second among defensemen only behind Moritz Seider (24) and tied with forward Jakub Vrana.
“We lost a really good player in Leddy when we made the trade, and it’s nice to get somebody back that can provide some solid minutes,” Blashill said.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.