As official team training camps get set to begin, the diggers are back on the beat in Detroit and diligently spinning away on the news of the day. Here's what we've got so far:
Darren Helm and the Cautious Groin
Apparently Helm has been taking it easier this week after reports of "a bit of a tender groin." If that doesn't send shivers down your spine just before training camp opens. It's like a Pavlovian response by now. You start getting excited for hockey news to really ramp up so you can get pumped about the return of the regular season and then the first reports that somebody is battling the groin flu pops up and you're ready to return to your fallout shelter.
Am I making too much of this by exploding straight to sheer panic-sweats when I hear mention of a guy taking it easy on his groin in mid-September? Yeah, I probably am. The Wings have done this to me. It's their fault.
Daniel Alfredsson Suffers Back Setback, Might Back out of Coming Back for Back-to-Back Seasons in Detroit
Chuck Pleiness calls it a "minor setback" and Ken Holland is couching his language about whether Alfie will be fit for camp. The most-curious piece of Pleiness' writeup is the talk about how the Wings want Alfie back, even if it's for only 60-65 games (about two weeks after Babcock told the press pretty much the opposite of that). For those conspiracy nuts among us, the Red Wings will have 60-65 games left to play in their season in late November.
There's a good assumption that 60-65 games means starting with the team at season's beginning and then missing somewhere between 17-22 games for rest as the season goes on, but it could just as easily mean taking the first two months of the season off to let the kids play and then coming back in time for a run.
Danny DeKeyser Apparently Went from Confident to Hopeful about a New Deal
Ah the good old days of last week, when Danny DeKeyser told the press that it was essentially only a matter of time before he re-signed. Now he's anxious about maybe missing the start of camp. I'll tell you what, this is the friendliest contract impasse I can remember watching. Both sides are saying all the right things in the press about how they're talking and they'll get something done, but it's mid-September now. It's hard to look at this situation and take at face value all of the seeming niceness we're getting.
DeKeyser is an RFA who has played top-four minutes since he joined the Wings, but only has 76 games of experience. Both sides agree that one year isn't happening and it doesn't seem that a longer deal is likely either. The most-common speculation says DK signs for two years, leaving him an RFA with arbitration rights at the end of that contract. The Quincey deal is a good comparable as far as expected duties, but even DeKeyser admits that him being an RFA means he'll have to take less. I just have no idea how far apart both sides are because the Detroit press is being so nice about walking on the eggshells that less-friendly reporting cities may have stomped on to try and get information on how far apart the sides are right now.
Completely Unrelated: Aaron Rome Gets a Camp Invite to Pressure the 6/7 Guys
The 6'1" 220-pound left-shooting 31-year old (as of September 27th this year) is known as a mean net-front-clearing guy, but he's obviously so good at that role that he's accepting PTO offers in mid-September. Injury problems have derailed a big part of his career, as have mobility issues. Don't worry though, because Helene is on the case.
Re: D Aaron Rome invite to #RedWings camp. It's just a PTO. No damage in sending message to Kindl, Lashoff to keep on their toes.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) September 15, 2014
Yeah, Aaron Rome is here on a tryout because Kindl and Lashoff may be too comfortable in camp. Pull the other one, Helene.
Kyle brought this up on Twitter and I agree: The kids in Grand Rapids are there to keep Kindl and Lashoff on their toes. Every single day, those two are going to be battling to show Babcock that they belong in the lineup above Ryan Sproul, Matty Backman, Xavier Ouellet, and Alexey Marchenko. It doesn't make sense that they need Rome to put this pressure on.
What does make sense though? Well, it's almost as though the Wings are facing the possibility of going into camp without a guy who has top-four experience and plays net-front duties. Wait, they do have that happening? Yeah, the concept of Aaron Rome having a contract with the Wings on October 9th and Danny DeKeyser not having one makes me want to pour cobra venom into my eyes, but right now, Dekeyser seems to have more leverage than the average RFA D-man does and it's entirely possible that Rome's camp invite is at least partially designed to strengthen the Wings' hand in negotiations. If you're going to say that you'll be fine with a guy holding out, then having him look at your depth chart and chuckling isn't doing you any favors. Rome is an easily-broken stopgap nobody, but you better believe he's going to be trying his ass off and taking advantage of every opportunity at camp to show the Wings that he can do his job.
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Finally, although there's not a direct report, I want to address the idea that the Wings were simply waiting on Afredsson to decide before they signed DeKeyser so they'd know how much space they have left over for him. None of the diggers are reporting on that, but I've seen it in plenty of places around the internet and I want to comment that I don't think it makes sense. Danny DeKeyser's contract is going to be longer than Alfredsson's and it's going to be less-flexible and more-important.
If the Wings are looking to play cap crunch games, then signing DeKeyser first makes more sense. With Alfredsson, they can use the over-35 bonus trick to pay him just as much as he wants without endangering the cap. If the DK signing gives them only $1.5M in space, then the Wings can still fill up Alfredsson to a contract worth more than $5M in total compensation thanks to extremely easy-to-achieve bonuses, which can be cap-deferred until next season. Trying to squeeze DeKeyser in after guessing on Alfredsson puts things in the wrong order.