This was originally reported as a one-year deal, but it’s now been confirmed as a two-year contract.
As rumored by Ansar Khan, the Wings have added a second veteran defenseman to their defense corps, adding 2008 Tampa Bay sixth-rounder Luke Witkowski on a short deal.
#RedWings also signed Luke Witkowski for one year at $750,000. They are done, Ken Holland said. Capped out.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) July 1, 2017
Witkowski, 27 has had a pretty good showing all-in-all for a sixth-rounder, but he basically represents added muscle at this point. He has four assists in 54 career NHL games to 58 penalty minutes.
Luke Witkowski Career Stats
|2007-08||Ohio Junior Blue Jackets||USHL||58||3||10||13||139||-10|
|2009-10||Western Michigan Univ.||NCAA||32||2||4||6||67||-13|
|2010-11||Western Michigan Univ.||NCAA||42||1||8||9||56||15|
|2011-12||Western Michigan Univ.||NCAA||40||2||11||13||66||8|
|2012-13||Western Michigan Univ.||NCAA||38||2||8||10||46||-3|
|2014-15||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||16||0||0||0||15||0|
|2015-16||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||4||0||0||0||4||0||Playoffs||2||0||0||0||0||1|
|2016-17||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||34||0||4||4||39||-1|
(data table is from EliteProspects.com)
If the name is familiar to you, there’s a couple reasons for that. For one, you’ll notice an overlap with Witkowski at Western Michigan with both Jeff Blashill and Danny DeKeyser, so there’s knowledge in the locker room for the Holland, Michigan boy.
You may also remember him as the guy who broke Anthony Mantha’s finger in a pointless late-season fight.
You can hear the context from the announcers explaining that Mantha owed Witkowski the battle because previously he had thrown punches at a downed Greg McKegg (after McKegg had taken a cheap run at Dylan Larkin). The Wings only had a few games left after that, but had to spend them all without Mantha because the bolts had called up Witkowski via a combination of injury need and need for revenge.
Witkowski is waiver eligible and has a low enough salary that it can be entirely buried in the minors, but it’s curious that the Wings would add another guy like this with plans for Dylan McIlrath and Nathan Paetsch to keep playing in Grand Rapids next season. At this point, with the eight defensemen assumed for the Wings’ roster and a bunch of guys needing to work on their game in Grand Rapids, it will be interesting to see where Witkowski fits.
We can presume that Kronwall won’t play much, we know Sproul will miss plenty of early-season time after ACL surgery, we can also guess that Jonathan Ericsson won’t play a full season and Mike Green may be gone by the deadline (possibly Trevor Daley too), so it’s likely Witkowski will serve as a back-filler for depth as the Wings need it going in.
Red Wings also sign Luke Witkowski for 1 yr, $750K for toughness (ask Anthony Mantha). More likely to play F than D.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 1, 2017
Witkowski played both for Tampa last year, so this isn’t a major surprise, but it’s still strange.
The most likely scenario is that he was brought in to fill in the “Steve Ott” role. Tyler Bertuzzi seemed likely to make the team, so it remains to be seen if this will keep Bertuzzi in Grand Rapids longer.