Detroit Red Wings place Alex Nedeljkovic on waivers: What it means

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman placed another veteran on waivers, again showing a willingness to cut loose a player not performing to expectations.

Goaltender Alex Nedeljovic went to waivers Sunday afternoon, two days before his conditioning stint in the minors would have expired. If Nedeljkovic clears, he can be assigned to the minors. That is what happened earlier this month when forward Jakub Vrana was waived and cleared.

Yzerman has not addressed either move in the media.

The move comes as Nedeljkovic has struggled to regain the form he showed last season as the Wings’ starter. He is 2-4-2 with a 4.09 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.

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The move shows the Wings are comfortable with Magnus Hellberg as the backup to Ville Husso. Hellberg is 2-3-0 with a 2.81 GAA and .896 save percentage. Hellberg is also significantly cheaper, earning $750,000 vs. Nedeljkovic’s $3 million. Both are on expiring contracts.

Nedeljkovic was sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Jan. 4. He posted 27 saves in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Wolves on Saturday, improving his save percentage to .920 and GAA to 2.30 in six games with the Griffins.

When the conditioning stint began, Wings head coach Derek Lalonde said the Wings “haven’t given up on Ned,” but ultimately it is Yzerman’s decision. Nedeljkovic counted against the 23-man roster during the conditioning stint, and this move opens up a spot. FIlip Zadina had been expected to be available during this week’s trip, but Lalonde indicated Friday that Zadina may not be ready to return from a lower-body injury until later in the month.

Vrana, who was reinstated Dec. 16 after spending two months in the players assistance program, was waived Jan. 3 and cleared Jan. 4, and assigned to the minors. He was a healthy scratch two games after posting one assist and a minus-6 rating his first six games. At that time, Lalonde said the decision was up to Griffins coach Ben Simon: “it’s his team. We did not discuss that. You have authority of making your decisions.” Vrana was back in the lineup Saturday, and had no points and an even rating.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. 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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