Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland will have to make some changes to the team's roster in the very near future.
On September 30, when NHL teams were required to finalize their rosters, Holland designated Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves to the long-term injury reserve list (meaning they must miss a minimum of 24 days or 10 games). He also put Jonas Gustavsson and Jordin Tootoo on injured reserve to free additional roster spots.
But decisions are coming in the next couple weeks that will force Holland's hand again in terms of roster moves.
Here are five roster moves to expect by the end of October.
When Darren Helm comes back at some point this season (likely sooner than later, given that he is skating again finally), Cory Emmerton can be sent down to Grand Rapids.
The great thing about this roster move, however, is that Emmerton has already cleared waivers once this season. This means that he will not need to clear waivers again unless he plays 10 games.
Given the fact that Emmerton can be a healthy scratch for any of these October games—thus prolonging the time that Detroit can keep him without putting him through waivers again—Darren Helm can take his time to recover properly.
Emmerton is a role player, but a healthy Helm would obviously be the Red Wings' preference if it was an option.
The move that was spoken about in the previous slide is activating Darren Helm from the long-term injury reserve designation. To say Helm has had injury problems over the past year-and-a-half would be stating the obvious.
But many Red Wings fans have likely forgotten about Helm's injury problems that stemmed from the 2011-12 season. Helm went down with an injury in March of 2012 and missed the rest of the regular season.
In his first playoff game back against Nashville, Helm had his wrist cut with a skate, which effectively ended his playoffs. Helm played in one game during the lockout-shortened season and it has been tough sledding since then.
When Detroit finally activates him this month—if indeed he gets to that point in October—he will have played just two NHL games over the past 19 months.
Jonas Gustavsson believes that it is "just a matter of days" before he is ready to be back in the lineup, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.
Gustavsson has had a sore groin since his only preseason start on September 17 against Chicago. While this isn't necessarily news—as he heavily struggled with groin injuries last season—it will bring a slightly higher level of goaltending back to Detroit.
While Petr Mrazek has shown signs of promise, he is still at least a couple years away from being in the NHL on a full-time basis.
With Jimmy Howard getting the bulk of the starts at the NHL level, it is important for Mrazek to continue to get games in the AHL. Mrazek has been doing nothing more than sitting on the bench with Gustavsson out.
Patrick Eaves is targeting October 26 as a day that he can return to the Red Wings lineup, according to Ansar Khan of MLive. Eaves sprained his left MCL and his left ankle on September 19 and began the season on long-term injury reserve.
The 29-year-old put up just eight points in 34 regular-season contests last season and three points in 14 postseason games.
Should Eaves be activated, there will need to be another forward spot cleared out, as well as cap space for his return.
This is a difficult move to make, a move that many would argue isn't the right call.
But Mikael Samuelsson (who is making $3 million a year per CapGeek) isn't fitting into the Red Wings lineup right now.
Don't be mistaken, he has one goal on one shot in the two games he's played. But between those two games, he has played just 18:05 of total ice time or 9:02 per contest.
For a guy making $3 million that is playing that kind of ice time, it just doesn't make sense to keep him on with the Red Wings.
Samuelsson does have the hard, right-handed shot that the Red Wings need in their lineup. But with just one shot in those two games, Samuelsson has already been the odd man out once this season.
CapGeek shows Samuelsson as having a no-trade clause in his contract. His contract is also a "35-plus" contract, meaning the Red Wings get minimal—only $100,000 per CapGeek—contract relief if he goes to the minors.
Nevertheless, there is the off chance that Samuelsson is claimed on waivers, meaning the Red Wings wouldn't be responsible for his cap hit anymore.
This is a chance Detroit can afford to take as they don't necessarily need the cap relief from Samuelsson's contract as much as the roster spot.
The cap relief could also come in the form of Daniel Alfredsson's performance bonus being rolled over to next season's salary cap, per CapGeek. CapGeek tweeted that Alfredsson would make $2 million for appearing in just 10 games this season.
Jordin Tootoo struggled to get involved offensively last season with just eight points in 42 games. He also played a playoff game, but was scratched after that.
Tootoo was put on injured reserve to start the season with a sore shoulder, but now he must wait his turn to get back in the lineup. According to MLive's Ansar Khan, Tootoo was cleared to play, but there is no certainty that he will make it back into the lineup.
With players coming back from injuries in the next couple weeks, Tootoo could end up being waived.
Although that would only free up $925,000 according to CapGeek, it would still free up a much-needed roster spot.
These cap space and roster decisions won't be easy for anyone.
Fans, players and management will feel the repercussions of these moves, especially if a fan favorite like Jordin Tootoo is moved.
Ultimately, the Red Wings could end up losing one or two of these players on waivers. That would clear up their cap space dilemma, but it would also result in them losing depth players on their roster.
Bottom line of this cap space issue is that two skaters will need to be moved from the roster, and who those skaters end up being will depend on the cap space that is freed up in the respective moves.
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