Raleigh, N.C. — When the Red Wings announced the signing of goaltender Magnus Hellberg earlier in the week, it was originally thought it was to provide depth in the organization.
But now, it seems like Hellberg might be, essentially, trying out for a job next season.
Hellberg, 31, only signed for the remainder of this season, but after Thursday’s game at Carolina, there are only eight games remaining for the Wings.
Coach Jeff Blashill said after Thursday’s morning skate Hellberg will join the Wings on Friday for practice in New York (the Wings play the Rangers Saturday).
Blashill was hesitant about the issue of how, or when, Hellberg will be used.
“We’ll see how it all plays out,” Blashill said. “It’s been a while since he’s played. It’s a process with immigration. It takes a while to get guys over here and things like that. We’ll take this day by day and see what tomorrow brings.”
Hellberg was a 2011 second-round draft pick of Nashville, but he only played four NHL games with the Predators and New York Rangers. Hellberg has played 187 games in the American League (AHL), but told Swedish news organization Aftonbladet he had no desire to play in North American minor leagues, and only wanted to play in the NHL.
For the last five seasons, Hellberg has played in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Hellberg posted a 2.42 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this season for Sochi, with five shutouts.
Blashill, then coaching the Wings’ affiliate in Grand Rapids, remembers facing Hellberg, who was playing in Milwaukee, in the AHL.
“He did a good job then; he was actually really good that year against us,” Blashill said. “He had a .924 (save percentage), something like that, so I knew him as a young prospect. Obviously, it’s been a lot of time since then.
“To say I know him (unbelievably) would not be true. Hopefully (he can) continue to add goaltending depth.”
There is an opportunity for Hellberg to stick in the organization if his performance warrants it.
Alex Nedeljkovic returns next season, but Thomas Greiss is an unrestricted free agent and isn’t expected to be re-signed. Nor is Calvin Pickard, who is a potential UFA in Grand Rapids, but isn’t expected to be brought back.
Hellberg could be a viable back-up to Sebastian Cossa, the Wings’ first-round pick in 2021, or be of the tandem in Detroit with Nedeljkovic.
Forward Oskar Sundqvist, whom the Wings acquired for Nick Leddy at the trade deadline, has shown versatility since being added to the lineup.
One area where Sundqvist has impressed is on the power play as an effective net-front player.
At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, Sundqvist has done a good job screening, while also redirecting pucks and causing havoc for defenders.
“He’s a guy who brings two things to a power play — one, a big body, who can both screen the goalie and win loose pucks, and those are important aspects of a power play,” Blashill said. “Two, specifically for us, he’s a right shot and we just don’t have a lot of those, so it opens up more different things you can do when you have a right shot and a left shot that are either at the net or on the bumper or vice versa.
“He brings those things and he’s done a pretty good job of it.”
Blashill was Thursday named an assistant coach for Team USA at the men’s world championships in Finland.
Blashill was named head coach of the team from 2017 to 2019. Blashill won a bronze medal at the 2018 tournament and holds the record for the most career wins (19) at the world championship by a Team USA coach.
USA Hockey previously announced that David Quinn would serve as the head coach for the Americans at the 2022 Worlds. Quinn, 55, served as head coach of the New York Rangers from 2018–21.
This year’s world championships take place between May 13-29.
Forward Robert Mastrosimone, a Wings 2019 second-round draft pick, has entered the NCAA transfer portal. Mastrosimone had 11 goals and 25 points in 34 games this season as a junior at Boston University, his best collegiate season to date.
It’s unclear whether the Wings have discussed turning pro with Mastrosimone.
… While the Wings’ offense was silent in Tuesday’s loss against Ottawa, defenseman Marc Staal was concerned with the Wings’ effectiveness on the defensive end.
Staal feels the Wings are allowing too many quality scoring chances.
“We’re still giving up too many chances off the rush,” Staal said. “We need to be more solid from the red line in. We have guys that are skilled enough to score. We just have to keep working on tightening up in the defensive zone.”