Detroit — Tomas Nosek was likely to play in the NHL next season — the Red Wings had Nosek penciled as their fourth-line center.
Nosek still might be NHL bound, just not with the Red Wings.
The Red Wings lost Nosek in the expansion draft Wednesday to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Nosek, 24, was impressive in a 11-game late-season call-up with the Red Wings, and was one of Grand Rapids’ best players as the Griffins won the Calder Cup.
Nosek has size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), is viewed as a fine defensive forward and penalty killer, but has improved his foot speed and quickness, and showed a willingness to drive to the net, which could expand his offensive potential.
“We knew we were going to lose a player,” Holland said. “As I looked at our list, I was anticipating we were going to lose a forward. Nosek had a good year, he had a real good playoff run with Grand Rapids.
“We felt he might be able to play in the NHL.”
Nosek had 15 goals and 26 assists (41 points) in 51 games with the Griffins during the regular season, and had one goal in the 11 games with the Red Wings.
In the Calder Cup playoffs, Nosek had a team-leading 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 19 games.
The Golden Knights chose Nosek over other available Red Wings such as goalie Petr Mrazek, defensemen Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul or Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall, and forwards Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening.
Holland said he’ll discuss his decision not to protect certain players — particularly, surprisingly, Mrazek — this weekend at the entry draft.
With 17 players under contract through next season, the Red Wings have roughly $67 million committed with the salary cap expected to be $75 million.
That leaves six players for roughly $8 million (and placing Johan Franzen on the long-term injured list will free just under $4 million), but Tomas Tatar, Andreas Athanasiou and Xavier Ouellet are restricted free agents, with Tatar likely to get a contract north of $4 million per year.
This weekend’s entry draft is expected to produce trades, especially after Vegas picking through teams’ rosters in the expansion draft.
Teams are reassessing, and could be aggressive with a week to go before free agency.
Holland said he talked with general managers leading into the expansion draft and will circle back to some at the entry draft.
The problem is, the majority of teams in the NHL are looking for a top-four defenseman, driving up the price for the precious few who are available.
The Red Wings will look aggressively to trade a goaltender, likely Mrazek, 25, who has one year remaining on his contract at $4 million.
Mrazek had a poor statistical season, and his attitude and work ethic came into question in stories after his name was not on the protected list.
But several teams could be interested in upgrading their goaltending, and Mrazek remains a viable option.