By Blake Froling
Detroit sports fans have two drafts to pay attention to this week: the NBA Draft on Thursday and the NHL's Expansion Draft, with picks being revealed on Wednesday night. One team has the opportunity to add to its core, while the other will be losing a piece from theirs. There are opportunities for both teams in each draft.
Losing a player sounds bad on the surface, but it could turn into a positive for the Red Wings, depending on who is taken. They decided not to protect goalie Petr Mrazek, a move that surprised most experts. Mrazek is only 25, eight years younger than Jimmy Howard, and makes less money than his elder. But the Red Wings might actually be hoping Vegas takes Mrazek.
He struggled to find consistency in net last year with a mediocre 3.04 goals against average and .901 save percentage, both of which ranked 42nd among 44 qualified goalies. When Howard went down with a knee injury early in the season, he was playing some of the best hockey of his career. When he came back months later, he continued that trend. The Wings are hoping that version of Howard will return this season, and that the injury was just a fluke.
If Vegas doesn't pick Mrazek, Detroit will be in a tough situation. They'll have two spots available for three goalies and nearly $10 million tied up to one position group. Detroit would likely be forced to place either Mrazek or Jared Coreau, who made 14 appearances for the team last year, on waivers. If Vegas selects Mrazek, his $4 million cap hit is wiped from the books and Detroit can use it to try to bolster their blue line. The only problem is that there are better goalies on other teams that were exposed to the draft, so Mrazek will likely stay in Detroit.
The Red Wings are hoping for addition by subtraction. The Pistons might be doing the same.
The Pistons might look to trade the No. 12 pick in Thursday's draft, and maybe a player such as Andre Drummond or Reggie Jackson, for a veteran that can help them in the short term. With a ballooning payroll that's only going to get gaudier when the team re-signs shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (yes, I guarantee they will sign him), the Pistons are almost forced to be in win-now mode. Having a top ten payroll and a lower tier team usually isn't good for job security.
Rod Beard of the Detroit News said on the SportsPen that the "win-now veteran" could be someone like a Dwayne Wade. Not necessarily Wade himself, but an older player with playoff experience that can possibly get the young Pistons over the hump and past the first round of the playoffs. Detroit is hoping a deal like this will materialize before the draft, but just like the Red Wings, I don't think the Pistons will get their wish.
The Pistons, for better or worse, will be stuck with the 12th pick. I don't think that's a bad thing at all; I'm still not sold on this "win-now veteran" idea. That didn't work so well with Josh Smith or Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva or Allen Iverson or Tracy McGrady or Chauncey Billups the second time (I could go on and on).They'll end up drafting some teenager who will help them in three years or so but provide limited impact in the short term. The Pistons will be better than last season (I guaranSheed it) but not much better. They're doomed to NBA purgatory unless they blow it up or they strike gold with their recent picks. Sounds a lot like the Red Wings right now...