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How Dan Cleary Can Help the Red Wings in Preseason

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The veteran NHLer will get his chance to help again, and this time it’s a good thing.

Detroit Red Wings v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

We’ve been joking all summer about the inevitable re-signing of Dan Cleary by Ken Holland. It’s been a running joke for several years now that the guy who gave so much for the Wings to be competitive back when he still had a ton to give earned a sweetheart handshake deal-that’s-not-really-a-deal-because-handshake-deals-violate-the-CBA from Ken Holland and about how the player who is no longer NHL caliber, but still has as much heart as anybody should retire to the front office.

But this year, I think he belongs in Red Wings training camp, and it’s all about the CBA, the World Cup, and preseason veteran minimums.

How it Works

You’ve probably seen a bit of extra chatter about teams signing players to professional try-out agreements to make it through training camp while the World Cup of Hockey overlaps. Part of that is to fill lines in camp, part of it is because every year we get veterans on PTOs trying to compete for jobs, and part of it is because the CBA mandates a number of veterans play in each preseason game. It’s busier this year than most because the World Cup is going on and many teams are missing players from their rosters who would otherwise be in camps and in those preseason games.

Specifically, the part of the CBA we’re looking at is in section 15.4(c)

A Club shall be permitted to dress a minimum of eight (8) veterans for any Exhibition Game. For purposes of this Section 15.4(c), a veteran shall constitute either: (1) a forward or defenseman who played in thirty (30) NHL Games during the previous season, (2) a goaltender who either dressed in fifty (50) or more NHL Games or played in thirty (30) or more NHL Games in the previous season, (3) a first round draft choice from the most recent year's Entry Draft, or (4) any Player who has played one-hundred (100) or more career NHL Games. The matter of Player participation in Exhibition Games shall be referred to the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee for its consideration and recommendations, if any, in accordance with Article 22.

blah blah blah lawyer stuff, but the important thing is that the Red Wings have to have at least eight veterans in the lineup for each preseason game. As a reminder, the Red Wings will play eight preseason games over the course of 12 days.

So What’s the Problem?

Using the CBA definitions of veterans, the Red Wings currently have only 14 of those between players who are healthy and players who are not at the World Cup. Here’s the complete list

Eligible, Available, Healthy World Cup Injured
Gustav Nyquist Frans Nielsen Henrik Zetterberg
Darren Helm Justin Abdelkader Tomas Jurco
Riley Sheahan Tomas Tatar Teemu Pulkkinen
Drew Miller Thomas Vanek Niklas Kronwall
Steve Ott Dylan Larkin
Luke Glendening Alexey Marchenko
Andreas Athanasiou Petr Mrazek
Eric Tangradi
Mike Green
Danny DeKeyser
Jonathan Ericsson
Brendan Smith
Brian Lashoff
Jimmy Howard

Obviously, the ideal situation here is to have enough veterans that you can split them where nobody has to play back-to-back nights (which happens three times in the preseason for the Wings). Currently, they can't do that with only 14 veterans.

One saving grace is that the World Cup will be over no later than October 1st, and will be over as early as September 22nd for others. For teams who don’t make it to the final (like Team Europe and Team Czech Republic), the Wings could potentially get four players back before their first preseason game on the 27th. This would solve the math problem where you can’t split the veterans in two and get eight on each side, but you’re also doing it with players who just finished a preseason tournament.

While you obviously want to get those World Cup guys some time with their non-World-Cuppy teammates, you also might want to give them a bit of time off. You're also worrying about the risk of players getting injured before they can come back to play in preseason games.

Dan Cleary to the Rescue!

Listen, we all know how this is going to play out and that Cleary is going to be around the Red Wings one way or another. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t get signed late on the Friday before Labor Day. What I’m saying here is that signing Dan Cleary to a professional try-out is honestly a GOOD idea this season. He meets the 100 NHL games played criteria to qualify, is already known as good in the room, knows his way around, and is well-liked as a mentor for the kids.

A PTO for Dan Cleary gives Detroit a little more flexibility in case of injury and/or World Cup fatigue. Ideally what happens after that is a minor-league only deal or a retirement to allow him to get into coaching/scouting, but if we’ve got to have one last hurrah for Dan Cleary in a Red Wings uniform, I think this works out best for all involved.

[Update: Or we could just wait for the NHL to solve the problem and not worry about it]