Trials and tribulations — and how they are handled — are what defines the careers of general managers. Fans from some corners of the Detroit Red Wings universe believe that Ken Holland is unfit to be the team’s general manager because of how he has handled some problems in the past.
We now know that he’ll be managing the Red Wings for the foreseeable future, though, so it’s important that we identify upcoming ordeals instead of focusing on what has already happened. What’s the point of keeping a GM who has clearly made some mistakes if he isn’t given the opportunity to learn from them, after all?
Holland has his hands full this summer, but the biggest test he’ll face during the early stages of this rebuild will be Mike Green, and whether or not to try to re-sign the veteran defenseman. The former Washington Capitals dynamo saw his three-year, $18 million contract expire at the end of this season, and once he begins working out this summer, we could begin to hear rumblings about the Red Wings wanting to keep him around.
A day after the NHL trade deadline passed in late February, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reported that the organization had told Green that they’d be interested in re-signing him
That would fit right in with the old “Red Wings way.” Keep all the veterans you can, even if those players are aging or have seen the best years of their careers come and go; even if those vets take roster spots away from younger, more promising talent. However, during a brutally honest exit interview session with gathered media, Holland said that he has every intention of injecting more youth into the lineup.
What a difference two months can make.
Related Reading: Ken Holland’s Plan to Get Younger Will Take Longer Than He Thinks
Saying that while emotional and facing a horde of hungry reporters is one thing. Actually handing Detroit’s blue line over to the likes of Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts and maybe even Dennis Cholowski is another matter entirely. Holland has never really been tasked with rebuilding a team, so his modus operandi has been to raid the free agency cupboards while flipping futures for established players who were no longer needed on non-playoff teams.
This approach worked out just fine before the salary cap was in place. It was fun to watch the Red Wings chase big-fish free agents or trade for whales like Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek, but that isn’t the way contenders are constructed anymore.
Here's how Winnipeg acquired last night's lineup. Not a single NHL FA signing. Unbelievable job by Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff:
Draft – Draft – Trade
Draft – Trade – Draft
Draft – Draft – Trade
Draft – Draft – College FA
Draft – Draft
Trade – Trade
Draft – Trade
— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) April 14, 2018
Now the Red Wings are the non-postseason squad that is shedding veterans, but that doesn’t mean that inking Green to a new deal won’t be an enticing option. He was Detroit’s only representative at the All-Star game in 2017-18, and it would be easy for the GM to rationalize the contract as a way to bring in a good mentor for the less established players on the roster.
The catch is that Detroit is already up to its neck in veterans who can play that role (hello, Niklas Kronwall) and the right move would be to enter training camp with at least one or two roster spots up for grabs. Four NHL blueliners are already under contract for next season, so adding Green would mean that only one of Hronek, Hicketts or Cholowski could make the roster.
(We’re assuming that Xavier Ouellet is as good as gone here. The Red Wings tried to move him at the trade deadline, and he will likely be sent packing by next October.)
That isn’t what “the theme going forward is the future” looks like. A top-six that includes both Hicketts and Hronek on opening night — assuming health — is. Holland says that he wants at least two players between the ages of 19 and 22 on the roster next season, and has even suggested that number could reach five. The only player currently in the fold who fits that bill is Dylan Larkin, so it seems safe to assume that the defense could look a bit more green in 2018-19. But the only way to make that a reality is to let Green walk, even if there is interest from the player when it comes to re-signing.
There is one unique scenario that could unfold where it might make sense for the Red Wings to bring the defenseman back on a one-year deal. It seems unlikely, but there’s a chance that contending organizations will be timid about signing Green because of his neck injury and subsequent surgery.
Mike Green has successful surgery, and should be 100 percent for training camp, Ken Holland said.
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 10, 2018
If that’s the case, then perhaps the Red Wings could take a page out of the MLB handbook by re-signing Green to a team-friendly deal, while having every intention of trading him down the stretch. If Hronek isn’t ready for full-time NHL action just yet — or the plan is for him to get tons of reps with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2018-19 — then perhaps the Red Wings could shop Green for a few months in hopes of getting a draft pick or prospect out of him.
The name of the game here is asset management. If Holland wants to try and turn Green into a first- or second-round pick, then so be it. But the defenseman shouldn’t be part of Detroit’s rebuild plans in any other way.