Detroit Red Wings: A make or break year for Danny DeKeyser

(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) /

It is a make-or-break season for Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser.

The often injured Detroit native is entering a vital season with the Detroit Red WingsDanny DeKeyser had struggled to remain healthy in each of the past three seasons and mainly when the organization needed him the most, last year.

The Red Wings desperately needed someone to step up and fill a leadership role on the backend after Niklas Kronwall retired before the start of last season.  All signs pointed to the former Western Michigan Bronco, but DeKeyser only appeared in eight total games last season before being shut down needing back surgery.  The year prior, DeKeyser missed extensive time suffering a broken hand after blocking a Steven Stamkos shot after battling a hand injury a week or two earlier.

DeKeyser has two-years remaining on a lucrative five year $30 million deal, which averages $5 million per season.  It’s a lot of money for a defender that has played a total of 125 games over the past three seasons combined.

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During those three years, he’s compiled 36 points, including 11 goals.  DeKeyser, once a highly sought after prospect coming out of college, elected to join his hometown Detroit Red Wings as a free agent. DeKeyser is not known for his offensive capabilities but proved to be a reliable two-way defender throughout his first four full NHL seasons.

Through those four years, DeKeyser averaged well over 21 minutes of ice-time per night throughout 305 games.  He’d go on to score 18 goals and record 86 points, playing as a plus-1 while recording a whopping  481 blocked shots.  During that time-frame, DeKeyser earned a Corsi For Percentage of 49.5, still a touch below average.  Analytically DeKeyser doesn’t grade out great; he carries a career Relative Corsi For Percentage of -1.8.  Ideally, that number should be a positive, not a negative.  To give you a comparison, Filip Hronek‘s Relative CF% over his first two years is a solid 2.5.

The Detroit Red Wings are relatively thin on the backend and expected to make a splash in free agency, possibly landing Torey Krug or Alex Pietrangelo if he becomes available.  It would be nice to have a healthy DeKeyser for an entire season anchoring the second paring with Patrik Nemeth.

As it stands, DeKeyser would likely start the season paired with Filip Hronek, leaving Nemeth with a potential free-agent target.  That leaves Alex Biega, Madison Bowey, Jared McIsaac, Dennis Cholowski, Moritz Seider, Albert Johansson, and Gustav Lindstrom all battle for the final three or four roster spots.

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DeKeyser, now entering his ninth NHL season, will be the longest-tenured Red Wings defender.  Hopefully, he can revert to his old self and be the reliable veteran leader mashed in with a youthful core.