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Changes in Store
Personnel turnover signals new youth movement...
By Jason Kasiorek

With the 2006-07 season now just a distant, painful memory, we can look ahead at what to expect next season. The rate of player turnover should be significant this summer as only seven skaters are currently under contract for 2007-08. The Wings organization will be bringing in the next wave of players to be developed. The possibility exists that over half of the roster will be new faces next season.

Griffins GM Bob McNamara has his work cut out for him to preemptively acquire some proven veteran talent to supplement the youth movement. Chief on his list has to be a frontline offensive playmaker and a sniper with 40+ goal potential. Add to that a legitimate veteran powerplay point man a la Brian Helmer. These three additions address what was lacking in Grand Rapids where there was plenty of secondary scoring threats, but no primary ones. This should also help the powerplay, the Achilles heal of the Griffins all season.

Here is a look at how next season shakes out in the early going:


PosPlayerContract Status
G Jimmy HowardDetroit2008
DJonathan EricssonDetroit2008
DKyle Quincey Detroit2008
DJakub KindlDetroit2010
CRyan Oulahen Detroit2008
CEvan McGrathDetroit2009
CDarren HelmDetroit2010

The defensive side of things should be well taken care of next season with the expected return of Howard, Ericsson, Quincey and Kindl. Wings goaltending consultant Jim Bedard indicated that the organization really wants Howard to get a lot of work next season, maybe even 50-60 starts, playing at a consistent level to stake his claim on a spot in the NHL for 2008. Jonathan Ericsson is expected to build on a surprisingly strong first half to become one of the main cogs on the Grand Rapids blueline. Although he is in Detroit playing a regular shift now, Kyle Quincey still has a year of exemption under the waiver rules and could find himself back with the Griffins for part of another season. A legitimate contender for fulltime NHL employment, the rugged defenseman still could use some work on his consistency before graduation. Rookie pro Jakub Kindl will be joining the club full time next season and should be a fixture on the point of the powerplay where his skills should improve one of the weakest units in the league.

On the other side of center ice, the forwards will experience the most turnover with only three players under contract for next season. Ryan Oulahen will be back for year three and will be counted on to play a larger role in the offense and leadership on this team. Expect Evan McGrath to return a much more involved player after a year adjusting to the pace of the AHL. The third forward is newcomer Darren Helm, a premiere two-way player with great speed, who will be making his pro debut.

May Be Back:

PosPlayerContract Status
D Dan Smith-V Detroit UFA
D Jon Insana GR UFA
D Derek Meech Detroit RFA
LW Ben Simon -V GR UFA
C Matt Ellis-V Detroit UFA
RW Adam Keefe GR UFA
RW Jamie Tardif GR UFA
RW Scott Parse Los Angeles UFA

This group of players has played well enough to warrant a return, but some of them may graduate (Ellis and Meech), and some may sign elsewhere. Veteran Dan Smith had an up and down season, but after a strong second-half he could return as the elder statesman on the blueline. Derek Meech will be re-signed by the Wings, but he must clear waivers to return, meaning he may stick with the parent club or be packaged to another NHL team so as not to be lost for nothing. Jon Insana played well enough to earn a new contract, but is on the bubble depending on who Detroit signs.

Up front, wily winger Ben Simon is one of the better bets to return next season. His grit and leadership have been coveted by Grand Rapids for awhile, and his wife has ties to the area. Captain Matt Ellis made on impression with his 16 game stint in the NHL and should get an opportunity for a job at the highest level either in Detroit or another organization. It is possible he could end up back in Grand Rapids, but he has nothing left to prove at the AHL level. Adam Keefe played well in his limited time before being injured and may be offered a contract by the Griffins to return next season. His size and willingness to protect his teammates will be needed next season as Bootland and Norton are not likely to return. Forwards Jamie Tardif and Scott Parse are both skilled young players who showed enough down the stretch to make the organization take notice. Both should draw some interest from the Griffins, if not the parent Wings.

Likely On the Way Out:

PosPlayerContract Status
D Brad Norton-VDetroitUFA
D Tom GalvinGR UFA
LW Matt Hussey-VDetroit UFA
LW Tony VocePhiladelphia UFA
LW Kip Miller-VGR UFA
LW Mike WalshGR UFA
C Eric HimelfarbDetroit RFA
C Jeff Campbell GR UFA
RW Darryl Bootland-VDetroit RFA
RW Josh Langfeld-VDetroit UFA

In every organization, change is inevitable, especially when the team has such a disappointing season. Rugged Brad Norton will probably not be re-signed by the wings, and was contemplating retirement. Rookie Tom Galvin played well during the season, but not spectacularly, and will likely not be back to start the season unless a rash of injuries occur. A disappointment with his inconsistent play and effort, Matt Hussey will probably not be offered a contract by the Wings. Tony Voce is an RFA for the Flyers, but is not expected to receive a qualifying offer and will become an UFA. The organization had not formally talked to Kip Miller yet, but after watching the frustration evident in him as the season wound down, he will likely walk off into the sunset and retire. Notre Dame Alumni Mike Walsh didnıt show much in a limited call-up to Grand Rapids, but played well in Toledo (ECHL) and could be on the bubble.

Long time Griffin Eric Himelfarb improved as the season went on, but it may not have been enough for the Wings to tender him a qualifying offer. Jeff Campbell played well enough to stick for the season, and is a possibility to return, but will probably find himself the victim of the numbers game with influx of new players coming in. The writing was on the wall that Darryl Bootland was not in the Wings plans going forward. While he will be missed in Grand Rapids, he will probably catch on with another NHL organization and have another opportunity to earn a job at the top. Josh Langfeld is an UFA and after splitting the season between the AHL and the NHL will likely do the same for another organization next season.


PosPlayerContract Status
GStefan LivDetroitRFA
G Logan KoopmansDetroitRFA
D Danny SyvretEdmonton 2008
LW Brock Radunske Edmonton RFA
LW Krys Kolanos Detroit UFA
LW Jan Mursak Detroit 2011
C Cory Emmerton Detroit 2011
RW Michel Goulet Edmonton 2009
RW Jonas Johansson Washington RFA
RW Brendan Brooks Detroit UFA

Stefan Liv signed a three year contract to return to Sweden after a rocky rookie pro season in North America. He was said to have an out clause in his contract if he could get a one-way deal with Detroit, but that is not likely. Logan Koopmansı three years in the organization are up, and after a series of injuries, has not shown enough to be re-signed. The 3rd year pro has mentioned retirement as a possibility. Highly touted blueliner Danny Syvret returns to the Oiler's organization after a roller-coaster season and is probably destined for their new farm team in Springfield. Likely to join him there are Brock Radunske who couldnıt crack the Griffins lineup, but tore up the ECHL at the end of the season, and Stephane Goulet who may need some more time in the low minors.

Krys Kolanos, one of many failed experiments, is an UFA and will be looking for a new home next season. Brendan Brooks will be joining in him in looking for employment after a disappointing season that saw him loaned out of the organization. Winger Jonas Johansson was returned to Washington (NHL) after the season where he will likely earn another contract with the organization.

Junior ace Jan Mursak may have been the surprise of the playoffs, and while he will play in the OHL next season, he should return to the Griffins and be a regular for 2008-09. Cory Emmerton is another of the wings young draft picks that got some pro experience at the end of the season, but still has junior eligibility before he can turn pro.

Dark Horses:

There are plenty of dark horse candidates for jobs in Grand Rapids next season between the graduating unsigned draft picks (RW Johan Ryno, RW Mattias Ritola, D Jeff May, D Bretton Stamler and D Sergei Kolosov), and the usual diamonds in the rough invited to camp as tryouts. This yearıs batch of tryouts is rumored to contain several top shelf junior players including speedsters Justin and Tyler Donati, and Reid Jorgenson, who have all attended Detroitıs camp in the past. Top prospect Igor Grigorenko is a possibility to spend some time in Grand Rapids next season, but the newly signed forward has an out-clause in his contract that says he can return to Russia if he spends three weeks in the AHL.