Detroit Red Wings’ Derek Lalonde won’t make a fuss over first 23-man roster. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Derek Lalonde emphatically put Monday afternoon’s roster finalization in its place.

“Everyone makes such a big deal on this day of who made the team,” the first-year head coach of the Detroit Red Wings said. “I don’t understand, I’ve never understood, the black-and-white ‘making the team.’

It is a big deal for the bean counters across the NHL, because teams have to be down to just 23 players on their roster while salary-cap compliant ahead of the deadline. But otherwise Lalonde is right: Being on the roster Monday doesn’t mean being on it Friday, when the Wings open the season.

“There’s still a little evaluation going on,” Lalonde said. “We’re a new staff.”

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The roster submitted Monday featured forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Andrew Copp, Adam Erne, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Larkin, David Perron, Michael Rasmussen, Lucas Raymond, Elmer Söderblom, Oskar Sundqvist, Pius Suter, Joe Veleno Jakub Vrana, and Filip Zadina; defensemen Ben Chiarot, Robert Hagg, Filip Hronek, Gustav Lindstrom, Olli Määttä, Jordan Oesterle, and Moritz Seider; and goaltenders Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic.

Moves made in order to trim the roster included assigning Givani Smith to the minors, placing Robby Fabbri on injured reserve, and designating Jake Walman as a non-roster player.

Many of the players who made the roster have well-defined roles. Bertuzzi, Larkin and Raymond and Vrana, Copp and Perron form the top two lines. Seider, Chiarot, Hronek, and Määttä make up the top four on defense, and Husso and Nedeljkovic will share net duties.

Among the rest, there are two that stick out: Söderblom and Veleno. The Wings want them playing, and if it doesn’t look like they will get solid minutes in Detroit, including on special teams, they will be sent to the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. They’re waiver-exempt, so sending them down is easy.

Söderblom’s spot seems to hinge mostly on Sundqvist. The veteran forward missed all of the preseason recovering from an undisclosed injury, but he has been back at practice since last week and will have several more practices before the opener.

“The days here are going to allow us to see if Sunny is available, where he’s at,” Lalonde said. “But Elmer has done some good things, he has put himself maybe on the good side of that evaluation.”

Essentially, it will come down to whether the Wings want to use Sundqvist in their power play rotation, which would bump the 6-foot-8 Söderblom. If he isn’t on the Wings’ power play, he’s better off with the Griffins.

“That’s how we look at it,” Lalonde said. “We talk about that balance of what it would look like for minutes here, versus what it would look like for minutes in GR. If we’re going to keep Elmer, part of that would be developing him on the power play, also. And getting him more minutes. If we can’t find power play time for Elmer, we’d consider what Grand Rapids would look like for him as far as opportunities and minutes.”

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Veleno is another player who the Wings want in action, not sitting.

“We wouldn’t want Veleno as a 13th forward,” Lalonde said. “With those younger players, if they’re not going to get significant minutes here, we’d consider GR the best option.

“Today we had a lineup where Zadina and Joe were 13th and 14th, and that will probably change. We’re still evaluating.”

Lalonde pointed to puck management as a reason for Zadina playing a spare-part role in practice, but also noted that doing a better job managing the puck would be a message to a handful of forwards. With three more practices and a morning skate before the opener, Lalonde and his staff are still finalizing the lineup that will take the ice Friday.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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