Red Wings News & Rumors: Watson, Karlsson & More

The Hockey Writers

The Vegas Golden Knights are officially Stanley Cup champions. But, perhaps more importantly, the 2023 NHL offseason has officially begun. The draft is two weeks away, and free agency opens up shortly after. For fans of non-playoff teams like the Detroit Red Wings, the long wait is over – it’s time for some offseason fireworks.

The Red Wings’ front office wasted no time and have already addressed one of the organization’s biggest holes: the head coach of their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. Much like last year when the Red Wings hired Derek Lalonde as their head coach, the new bench boss in Grand Rapids is one that was long rumored to be the favorite for the position.

Dan Watson Hired as 12th Coach of the Griffins 

The Toledo Walleye officially need a new head coach. Dan Watson, the head coach of the Walleye since 2016, was officially hired as the 12th head coach of the Griffins on Wednesday morning. The 44-year-old compiled a record of 272-112-35 with the Walleye. 

The Griffins have not won a playoff series since their Calder Cup championship in 2017. Ben Simon, the team’s previous head coach, took over in 2018 after three seasons as an assistant coach with the team. Though the Griffins’ roster has lacked legitimate depth since the turn of the decade, their results from season to season were not good enough for Simon to retain his job. 

Watson arrives with a reputation of producing results, leading the Walleye to two conference championships during his tenure, as well as another trip to the Conference Final this season. He also gets players to buy-in to what he’s selling. Add in his familiarity with Lalonde (Watson was an assistant on Lalonde’s staff in Toledo from 2014-16) and it always seemed like this was the most likely outcome once Simon was shown the door. 

Watson is now responsible for overseeing the future of the Red Wings’ lineup as players like Sebastian Cossa, Carter Mazur and others are expected to change the Griffins’ fortunes starting next season.

The Athletic Connects Erik Karlsson to the Red Wings

Shayna Goldman of The Athletic released an article discussing defenseman Erik Karlsson and teams the San Jose Sharks could potentially move him to. As you can guess by that article’s inclusion here, the Red Wings were mentioned as a possible fit. Goldman writes:

Free agency would allow Detroit to only spend cap space to acquire a player and save its assets for another deal. But the skill level of the players available doesn’t compare to Karlsson — a player who could have a game-changing impact on the Red Wings’ offensive creation. Plus, the team has more than enough assets to upgrade both its forward core and defense via trade.

– Shayna Goldman (From “Erik Karlsson Trade Destinations: 6 teams that could be interested, and is a move realistic?”, The Athletic, 6/14/23)

Karlsson, the favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman this season, would certainly add some star power to Detroit’s roster. He put up 101 points this season with an otherwise anemic Sharks offense, but producing points from the blue line is what he built his reputation (and his two other Norris Trophy wins) on. The real sticking point is his age (33) and the fact that he has four more years left on his deal that carries an $11.5 million cap hit. It’s hard to imagine any team acquiring that contract without a little bit of salary retention on San Jose’s end, but the Red Wings do have the cap flexibility to absorb his entire contract. 

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The question then becomes does it make sense for the Red Wings to pay whatever the cost would be to take him on, and does it make sense for Karlsson to join a team that does not appear to be ready to contend for a Stanley Cup in the near future? 

The offseason – the season of speculation – has only just begun.

More….

  • The Detroit Free Press reported that the Red Wings have interviewed 2023 Draft prospect Leo Carlsson. Carlsson is considered a top-five prospect in this class and the top Swedish prospect available. The team is probably just doing their due diligence, but this may be a sign that Detroit is interested in moving up the draft board.
  • Goaltender Victor Brattström signed a one year deal with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). The 26-year-old spent the last two seasons bouncing between Grand Rapids and Toledo while trying to make a name for himself in North America. He was a sixth round pick of the Red Wings back in 2018.

ICYMI


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