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Should the Red Wings send Michael Rasmussen back to Juniors?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We’re four games into the season and while that’s too early to really delve far into performances to-date, we can at least speculate on trends to this point; this is especially crucial for the Red Wings with Michael Rasmussen, given that there’s a short decision window coming that affects his contract status moving forward which is now only five games away. For you lawyerly types, I’ll let the CBA do the talking (Specifically Article 9.1 (c) (ii):

In the event that a Player signs his first SPC at age 18 and has had his SPC extended pursuant to Subsection (i), and such Player does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the second season under that SPC, then the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for one (1) additional year. Unless a Player and Club expressly agree to the contrary, in the event a Player’s SPC is extended an additional year in accordance with this Subsection, all terms of the SPC, with the exception of Signing Bonuses, but including Paragraph 1 Salary, games played bonuses and Exhibit 5 bonuses, shall be extended; provided, however, that the Player’s Paragraph 1 Salary shall be extended in all circumstances.

For the non-lawerly types, that’s the Entry-Level Slide you’ll hear discussed and it’s already happened once with Rasmussen, who signed his entry-level contract with Detroit in August of 2017 and saw that contract automatically extended by a year once already due to him spending all of last season in juniors. What this means is that the team is eligible to get another year where Rasmussen’s deal is automatically extended as long as he doesn’t play more than nine games for the Red Wings this season.

What’s more, if the contract slides because he’s in juniors (which is the only other place he can be assigned due to the NHL’s agreement with the CHL regarding players Rasmussen’s age and contract situation), his contract won’t count against the 50-contract limit for the Wings and only the portion he was paid while still with the team will be charged against their cap.

So will the Red Wings keep Rasmussen up? I doubt it, and I think they’re already setting up for getting that nine-game look before sending him back to (hopefully) tear things up with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans.

Through four games, the only Red Wings forward playing fewer minutes per game is Christoffer Ehn and while his minutes are longer, they’re both significantly lower in terms of shifts/game than the rest of the forward corps. It seems he’s already being set up for limited time and, for a kid who needs minutes to develop, it seems likely that the Wings aren’t going to give him that at this level.

The other side of the coin is that either by eye test or statistical measure, Rasmussen hasn’t really grabbed on to demand more of that time. He’s clearly NHL-sized, but has a bit more framing-out to do and more to learn about how to more-effectively use that size against bigger and more-experienced competition than he’s used to. Rasmussen has one point (a primary assist on a Tyler Bertuzzi goal), but is currently rocking pretty dismal possession stats (although he’s not alone in that).

The final piece of the puzzle here is that as Evgeni Svechnikov gets closer to returning from injury, it’s likely we’ll find an odd-man out who has to go to make room. It already seems like Rasmussen is filling the exact spot of young guy playing on the wing trying to earn more ice time that Svechnikov will need to fill. Based on the contractual advantage that Rasmussen has over Svechnikov with the ability to slide/extend his deal, it seems the writing may already be on the wall for Rasmussen’s time in Detroit for the 2018-19 season.