Detroit Red Wings: Frans Nielsen the odd-man out in training camp

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

After the first day of training camp, it appears Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen is the odd-man-out.

As the calendar turned from December to January, it didn’t just signal the beginning of the new year. It’s also the start of a new NHL season.  The Detroit Red Wings opened training camp Friday as they quickly hope to get last year’s sour taste out of their mouth.

On the first day of camp, the Detroit Red Wings didn’t exactly do many line rushes; they were working more three on three, four on four-type drills along with a pair of power-play units.  On day one, Detroit’s top power-play unit consisted of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and newcomer Bobby Ryan with Danny DeKeyser operating the point.

The second group consisted of Filip Zadina, Vladislav Namestnikov, Evgeny Svechnikov, Michael Rasmussen, and Givani Smith, all taking a turn upfront.  On that second unit, it was defenseman Gustav Lindstrom anchoring the point.

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Robby Fabbri, along with Filip Hronek, were two names that were not working the power-play on day one of camp, but both are expected to have a role.  In all likelihood, Hronek will be anchoring Detroit’s top power-play unit, with DeKeyser hoping to win a role with the second group.

One name you didn’t see that should jump right out at you is the veteran center, Frans Nielsen. Nielsen spent the first day skating with the second group, and that is eye-opening for a player that wears an ‘A’ on his sweater for this team.

At 36-years of age, Nielsen had fallen way off, leaving us to question why Yzerman didn’t buy-out the forward when he had the opportunity to do so.  After the Detroit Red Wings went to arbitration with Tyler Bertuzzi, they’d be allowed a two-day window to buy-out a player if they chose but opted to stand pat. The extra buy-out is primarily used when a team is tight against the salary cap but needs to make space if the arbitrator sides with the player granting them a significant raise.

The Detroit Red Wings have plenty of cap space heading into 2021, nearly $10 million, so there was no real need to buy-out Nielsen financially. Still, it was an opportunity to rid themselves of a rapidly declining player that carries a cap hit of $5.25 million.

Nielsen played 60 games last season, recording four goals totaling nine points.  Nielsen played a career-low 13:41 minutes per game, skating to a minus -13 rating.  Neilsen maintained an awful 45.2 Corsi For Percentage.  Nearly 60% of Nielsen’s shifts started in the defensive zone, but he’d only win 46% of his faceoff opportunities.

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There is a real chance Nielsen starts the season as a healthy scratch, perhaps taking the Jonathan Ericsson route, dressing sparingly late in his career.