Aside from leaving Petr Mrazek exposed, one of the other interesting decisions the Red Wings made in their expansion draft protection list, was protecting Justin Abdelkader over Riley Sheahan. Normally a player who was a lightning rod for criticism all season and who didn’t score in his first 79 games out of 80 he played would be an easy choice to leave unprotected.
However, Sheahan is a different case. He is a big bodied center, which hockey teams at all levels value. He scored 14 goals in 2015-16 and 13 goals in 2014-15. He was obviously doing something right in the minds of the coaching staff as head coach Jeff Blashill didn’t have him sit for a while to think and regroup. You can argue that this past season was just a fluke. He has a good contract worth giving him another shot at $2.075 million for one more season.
The big and most important reason this is even more curious is Holland is leaving Sheahan unprotected when he reportedly received lots of trade interest at the deadline, including a 1st rounder being in play as a return for him as first reported by Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos in February. Also by Mlive for multiple offers and also as JJ brokedown the 30 Thoughts by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman about as many as 10 teams after Sheahan at the deadline.
Now if all that is true and there is no reason to believe it wasn’t then why let Sheahan go for free? Why not protect him and then leave Abdelkader available in the expansion draft? Abdelkader is signed until July 2023 at $4.25 million including a no trade clause. He would not be selected by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Finally on Sheahan, this part from Kahn’s article linked above;
“The Detroit Red Wings are listening to offers for the 25-year-old center, but aren't going to give him away, a source said. They are seeking a high draft pick.”
Fast forward to a few months later and Sheahan being unprotected is confusing; they are giving him away for nothing. Not much has changed from the trade deadline until now, except he finally scored two goals in one game during the last game at the Joe.
Even if Holland feels like he has moved on from Sheahan, logic says you use him as a trade piece around the draft. You revisit discussions with those 10 teams and see who else is interested. If all else fails you still have a big bodied center that you can work on getting back in the right direction, like the interested teams at the trade deadline would have had to do.
Now on Abdelkader, the Red Wings want us to view him as a top six forward, however he only scored seven goals last season. You can argue maybe it was a fluke year for Abdelkader, (he only played 64 games due to injury) like I did for Sheahan. He’s only scored over 20 goals once with 23 in 14-15 came close with 19 in 15-16. This is for a player on the Wings’ top line with Pavel Datsyuk. I would attribute his drop in production besides injury to not having Datsyuk on his line.
The only reason I can think of for protecting Abdelkader is the Wings brass wanted to show respect for who they view as the likely next captain. While that is honorable, this is business and the state of the team is different than when these loyalty decisions could be overlooked. That is a bad way to run a franchise.
Abdelkader being protected over a player in Sheahan that we know had at least 10 teams looking to trade for him at the deadline, with Holland not willing to trade him for just anything, and along with the talk of a 1st round pick or high draft pick in play as a return is just unacceptable.
Even if Vegas doesn’t select Sheahan everyone has to question the thinking by the Red Wings on this one especially given what we know about the interest level in Sheahan around the league.