Ever since the NHL turned to a hard salary cap after the lockout ended in 2005, there hasn’t been a place on the Red Wings roster for an agitator or goon-like guy for very long.
They’ve come and gone, usually in short order. Guys like Aaron Downey, Brad May and Darren McCarty all did their time, but none of them stayed on the roster all that long.
GM Kenny Holland has come under some fire for not having someone who can, as coach Mike Babcock has said, “keep the flies away.”
But it’s also a misnomer to say that the Red Wings have truly needed that type of player on the roster. They did win their last Stanley Cup with Downey playing over 60 games, and didn’t win the following year with Downey gone, but those are coincidences.
Holland has—rightly—determined that roster spots these days are precious, and can only be doled out to players who bring multiple things to the table.
Which is why RW Jordin Tootoo has been placed on waivers.
Tootoo’s shelf life with the Red Wings, in his role as spunky, undersized agitator (think Dennis Polonich), has run out pretty much on schedule. Tootoo was signed by the Red Wings in the summer of 2012.
Some pro-Tootoo people are blaming the awkward signing of Danny Cleary late in the summer as the reason why Tootoo has been squeezed out. That may be so, but it should also be plain that Cleary is a better overall player than Tootoo.
Justin Abdelkader is every bit the agitator that Tootoo is, and Abdelkader is stronger, bigger and can score. And don’t forget Niklas Kronwall’s penchant for making momentum-changing hits in open ice.
Tootoo would drop the gloves against anyone, big or small, and that is to be commended. There wasn’t an ounce of fear or cowardice in his short body.
But Tootoo lacked hands, was never going to be anything more than a fourth-line player, wasn’t all that great of a skater and his ice time reflected that.
If Tootoo is claimed, the claiming team picks up his $925,000 salary, which is also the dollar amount that the Red Wings will clear in cap space. Tootoo will be assigned to Grand Rapids if no NHL team claims him. In either case, the Red Wings free up the $925K in cap space.
According to Helene St, James in the Free Press, the Red Wings have been trying to trade Tootoo but haven’t gotten even an offer of a draft pick in return.