Detroit Red Wings deal defenseman Jon Merrill to Montreal Canadiens
Detroit – Don’t turn your head, don’t sprinkle too far from the screen or you’ll miss out on another Red Wings deal.
It sure seems like General Manager Steve Yzerman is playing an ongoing role, and he has until 3:00 p.m. Monday to complete any sort of sell-off of his available veterans and amass more design capital.
On Sunday, the Wings traded another of their potential Free Agents’ unrestricted defenders, Jon Merrill, for a selection for the 2021 fifth round (previously from Ottawa) and forward Hayden Verbeek to Montreal.
A native Grand Blanc player who played collegially in Michigan, Merrill signed a $ 925,000 one-year deal with his hometown team last summer.
Verbeek, 23, is 5-foot-10, 184 pounds, and is listed as the center. He has one goal and two assists in seven games with Laval, Montreal’s minor league partner. Verbeek signed with Montreal in 2018 as an unoccupied free agent.
The Wings traded defender Patrik Nemeth against Colorado for a fourth-round draft pick on Friday.
On Saturday, the Wings acquired a selection for the fourth round in 2021 in Tampa Bay and helped broker a deal between Tampa Bay and Columbus, keeping part of defense attorney David Savard’s salary. Savard landed with lightning.
So the wings have been busy and could deal with the available assets by Monday.
Goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier, defender Marc Staal and strikers Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening and Darren Helm have all been linked to potential playoff competitors – provided there is still business to be done.
But first of all, it was a big blow to the Wings to see Merrill leave on Sunday.
In 36 games, Merrill had five assists, up 2, while coach Jeff Blashill offered tremendous versatility.
Blashill believes Merrill is a good fit for Montreal and would have been anywhere.
“Whoever traded for Jon would get a really good match,” said Blashill. “First of all, he’s a good player. He’s a kind of all-rounder and plays many different (positions), he can play left and right (side), kill penalties, he can play up and down a bit in your line-up.
“But the most important thing for me is that he has the confidence and the moxie of a man you want in these big pressures in the playoffs. He won’t be a bit afraid of the moment, he’ll seize the moment and that’s what impressed me the most about Johnny.
“I really enjoyed having him. I knew him in another world a long time ago when he showed up as a youth player, but to really get to know him he was an excellent professional and did a really good job for us. “
Losing Nemeth and Merrill means losing a lot of experience defending the wings.
“These are two guys who have been regulars in our line-up all season, two big guys who have been good players for us,” said Blashill.
That means there are now opportunities for other defenders to secure spots in the line-up.
Alex Biega and Dennis Cholowski were both in the line-up on Saturday – Merrill was a good scratch as the protection led to a trade – and Gustav Lindstrom is in the taxi squad and is available for publicity.
“Boys will play, opportunities (for players) who haven’t played much,” said Blashill. “Alex and Dennis did it (Saturday), Gustav Lindstrom is up, there is potential for him to play too. So the guys are going to get chances and what they do with them is certainly up to them and hopefully they take that chance. “
The wings announced this prospect on Saturday Joe Veleno returns to North America and is assigned to Grand Rapids.
The striker played for Malmö in the Swedish elite league – the Wings loaned Veleno to Malmö – and the team was excluded from the playoffs this week.
Veleno had 11 goals and nine assists (20 points) in 46 games for Malmo, finishing third on goals and fourth on points.
Blashill has heard good reviews of Veleno’s time in Sweden.
“I understand he played well and did a really good job there,” said Blashill. “Speaking to Shawn Horcoff (Wings’ Director of Player Development) several times during the season, Shawn was pleased with his progress. It was a productive year for him (Veleno).”
With only 13 games left on the Wings’ schedule, Veleno doesn’t have much time to acclimate again and possibly take a look at the NHL for the first time.
But Blashill didn’t discuss that possibility with Yzerman.
“We’ll see where everything is at Joe, but the most important thing has been that he has evolved over the course of the season. When the opportunity for further development arises, it is vital for him,” said Blashill.
The 21-year-old Veleno was a Wings draft pick in the first round in 2018. Veleno had 11 goals and 12 assists (23 points) in 54 games for Grand Rapids last season.
Milestone made of steel
Carolina forward Jordan Steel will play in his 1000th career game on Monday and could play against his brother Marc, which would be a unique and huge milestone.
So if Marc is not traded on Monday before 3 p.m.
If Marc is with the Wings, it will still be a special event.
“It’s a huge milestone,” said Blashill of the 1,000-game mark. “I’ve had the opportunity to coach a number of people who reached this milestone while playing with us. It’s a really big milestone. It’s something that is definitely deserved.”
“I mean, 1,000 games in this league is huge. For anyone who deserves this, it’s a great achievement. Jordan has been a really great player in this league for a long time and he’s a little underrated to be honest around the league.
“It’s cool for him to be in the same game with his brother and to have this moment together.”
Blashill said forward Robby Fabbri (Upper body) is not available for Monday and Gagner is to be determined.
The wings have a variety of players with “bumps and bruises,” said Blashill.
“I don’t know anyone it’s going to keep out (of the line-up) but I definitely won’t know (Monday),” said Blashill.
… Goaltender Thomas Greiss earned his fourth win of the season (4-15-6) on Saturday in a 5-4 win over Carolina, stopped 30 shots and claimed victory in the shootout.
“He stuck with it,” said Blashill. “He stuck with it and that’s what he does well. He plays to win the hockey game and he doesn’t worry about stats. So if there are one or two or three or four goals (allowed), he wants to win the game and I’m glad that we gave him support with the running (goals). “
Red wings during hurricanes
► Allusion: Monday, 7 p.m., PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
►TV / radio: BSD-plus / 950 AM
► Outlook: The Red Wings (14-23-6) and Carolina (27-9-4) complete a two-game series. … The Wings defeated Carolina 5: 4 in a shootout on Saturday, the Wings’ third win over Carolina this season (3: 0).