The calendar may have a new year on it, but the same old injury problems for the Red Wings still carry us into 2017. The Wings are struggling mightily this year and, regardless of the preponderance of other contributors, the injuries to players like Justin Abdelkader (Dec 1), Darren Helm (Nov 15), Alexey Marchenko (Nov 20th and Dec 13), and Mike Green (Dec 17) have hurt them.
Today at DetroitRedWings.com, Dana Wakiji offered up an update on the status of our aching Wings:
General manager Ken Holland told Mlive.com that defenseman Alexey Marchenko, who has missed the last seven games with a shoulder injury, could play in Thursday night's game in Los Angeles against the Kings.
Holland said Green is a possibility after the California trip and Abdelkader is a week to two and a half weeks away.
Darren Helm (shoulder) is about two weeks away, according to Holland.
For confirmation on the terms used here, “neither is expected back during the trip”, “a week to two and a half weeks away”, and “about two weeks away” might as well all mean the same thing, considering the trip ends on January 14th, but I suppose this leaves a bit of wiggle room since “the California trip” technically ends this weekend.
It’s a bit disappointing to hear we’ll have to wait that much longer on these returning players after seeing recent updates about them starting to skate with the team again.
Currently the Red Wings have 26 players on their roster but only 22 of them are healthy players. Abdelkader, Green, and Marchenko are currently on Injured Reserve, meaning that there’s somebody who is occupying their roster spot, but their cap space never changed status. If Marchenko is activated on Thursday, the Wings would not be forced to make any sort of move to accommodate that return, as Marchenko would simply become healthy defenseman number 8 and roster player 23 (the max roster size).
Provided nobody else is injured before Abdelkader and Green come back, the Wings would need to make roster moves to make space for them. Nick Jensen seems the likeliest candidate for a trip back to Grand Rapids, since he cleared waivers earlier in the season and hasn’t been around long enough to need to clear again before being assigned (currently at 15/30 days or 5/10 games played to hit that requirement)
Bringing back Green probably just means that Jensen send-down, leaving the Wings with the 8 defensemen & 13 forwards setup they’ve been using all season to avoid having to expose another waiver-eligible defenseman. Abdelkader’s return would bring the first real tough call, as the only waiver-exempt forwards who could go down without having to clear right now are Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin.
Darren Helm would further complicate things, as his return would end the LTIR exemption of his cap hit, forcing the Wings to create both roster and cap space, though it’s possible that the cap space issue is solved by the injury to Jimmy Howard, who is currently on Injured Reserve, but could be moved to LTIR. That wouldn’t make any roster room, but it would make enough cap space for Helm.
As a reminder, the absolute maximum cap space the Red Wings could earn by eliminating a forward off their roster via waivers, assuming whomever they waive goes unclaimed would be the prorated portion of the $950K in cap savings gained by waiving and then assigning Drew Miller.
There’s a growing dread that Andreas Athanasiou would be the first forward sent down to make roster space, and I’m finding it hard to say it doesn’t look like that’s what the Red Wings would do. Anthony Mantha is playing too well to send back down and the thought of Dylan Larkin going to Grand Rapids is too batshit stupid for even the most-pessimistic of fans to honestly believe. Then again, Athanasiou is already being used alongside AHL-caliber talent, so perhaps the step back down wouldn’t be as big a shock to him. We’ve got another couple of weeks and plenty of opportunity for another convenient injury to crop up before having to worry about what’s going to happen there.