July 1st is a chaotic day for NHL general managers. It’s when dozens of players become free agents, signing contracts with contenders, rebuilding teams, and middle-of-the-road clubs looking to make a deep playoff run. This year, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman started off by signing three players: forward Valtteri Filppula, defenseman Patrik Nemeth, and goalie Calvin Pickard. What can Red Wings fans expect from each of these new signings? Today, we’ll take a closer look at each player’s role, how they performed last season, and what fans can expect from them next season.
Valtteri Filppula – Center
Filppula is a familiar face. A mainstay in Detroit for the early part of his career, Filppula was around when the Red Wings won their last Stanley Cup in 2008. Shortly after Yzerman’s departure to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Filppula followed, signing a five-year, $25 million contract with the Bolts. He’s since played with the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders. Last season, the tenacious center posted 17 goals and 14 assists, playing up and down the lineup while rarely making a costly error.
Red Wings fans unfamiliar with Filppula’s playing style can expect an excellent middle-six forward who won’t wow on the stat sheet but will impress on the defensive side of the puck. He’ll no doubt he’ll be the second line center, likely playing between Andreas Athanasiou and either Luke Glendening, Filip Zadina, or Taro Hirose. He’s got the skills needed to serve as a decent 2C, but fans shouldn’t look to Filppula for consistent goal-scoring. With over 15 years of professional experience, he will be an excellent mentor for a player like Athanasiou.
Patrik Nemeth – Defenseman
Patrik Nemeth spent last season playing for the Colorado Avalanche, putting up a goal and nine assists. While totals like those don’t leap off the page, it’s important to note that Nemeth plays defense-first. He’s not known for flashy goals or slick passes; he’s known for being smart at his end of the ice. Last season, he blocked 131 shots, trailing only Ian Cole and Erik Johnson. He’s known for sacrificing the body when push comes to shove, and once nearly lost his arm for his selfless play style.
Red Wings fans should expect a solid, steady bottom-four defenseman to bolster the blue line. He isn’t the type of player you’ll notice on the ice during offensive rushes. Nemeth instead prefers to work behind the scenes by blocking shots and keeping the puck out of the defensive zone. He seems to be a good fit for Mike Green’s style; while Green joins the rush and bolsters the offense, Nemeth will stay back and hold down the back end. This pairing would play into both of their strengths and help Detroit keep their transition play in check.
Calvin Pickard – Goalie
With the announcement of Patrik Rybar’s departure for Finland, the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate needed a goalie, and Calvin Pickard seems to fit the role perfectly. Last year’s whirlwind season had Pickard start for three separate teams: the Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, and the Tucson Roadrunners, the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate. His performance was below average at best, with an abysmal .870 save percentage. He’ll look to bounce back on a stacked Griffins roster, where the defensive prospects should make his job much easier.
Barring any injuries or trades, Red Wings fans should expect Pickard to serve as an above-average netminder for the Grand Rapids Griffins, working in tandem with Adam Larsson to protect the net. While he’s still a perfectly capable goalie on his own, it’s likely that Yzerman will avoid bringing him up to the big leagues. With Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier locking down the net in Detroit, Pickard’s place in the organization seems set in stone. Here’s hoping a bounce back year allows him to shine once again.
What do you expect from the Red Wings’ most recent signings? Who will be traded at the deadline? Let us know in the comments below!