Recently the Detroit Red Wings placed veteran forward Frans Nielsen on waivers. It’s a move that may clear the way for others.
In 2021, a COVID-19 riddled year, waivers don’t necessarily mean a trip to the AHL; these days, it likely means a stop on teams’ taxi squad. Players on the taxi squad are permitted to travel and practice with their NHL team.
The Detroit Red Wings placing Nielsen on waivers is the same tactic general manager Steve Yzerman used last week when the organization placed high-priced Danny DeKeyser on waivers. Like DeKeyser, everyone understands Nielsen, who is owed $5.25 million for this year and next won’t be claimed. The move gives the Red Wings flexibility and also may create a path for others to get an opportunity to earn a spot in the lineup.
Yzerman is creating some internal competition, but we also need to realize the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings are years away from being relevant again.
I will admit, I’ve been frustrated with Yzerman and head coach Jeff Blashill’s decision to play the likes of Nielsen, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Adam Erne, and Sam Gagner over younger up-and-coming players.
That being said, with Nielsen being placed on waivers, here is one Detroit Red Wings player that may benefit from the decision.
Evgeny Svechnikov is a 6-foot-3, 24-year old forward that has yet to live up to his draft position. The Detroit Red Wings used the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
The Russian-born winger has played just 20 NHL games to date, merely recording four points, a pair of goals to go along with two assists.
Svechnikov has had an up-and-down professional career. During his first season in the AHL, he burst onto the scene, with the Grand Rapids Griffins recording 20 goals, totaling 51 points in 74 games. All signs were pointing to the NHL, but he’d fail to emulate the same success in Detroit.
After recording his four points in 14 contests the following year at the NHL level, Svechnikov spent 57 games back with the Griffins, but this time only recording seven goals and 23 assists. Unfortunately, the following season would be lost to a knee injury. Last season Svechnikov bounced back with Grand Rapids, recording 11 goals and 25 points in 51 games.
It’s a small sample size, but Svechnikov has recorded a goal and an assist in three games this season with the Griffins before being recalled to the Detroit Red Wings taxi squad.
The Red Wings are struggling to score, and removing a player like Nielsen, Erne, or Filppula from the lineup and taking a flier on Svechnikov seems like a risk worth taking. With Svechnikov being able to practice with the big club, hopefully, he gets an opportunity to play as a top-nine forward rather than vanished on the fourth line.
If the Red Wings are committed to leaving Smith, Rasmussen, and Hirose in Grand Rapids, I really hope Svechnikov gets a real shot to stick at the NHL level. It may be his last chance, as a Red Wing anyway.