Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha to take up boxing in offseason

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Anthony Mantha’s plan for the summer?

Mantha is heading to take boxing lessons.

Not for the ability to be a better fighter, that’s not it.

But for the aggression part of it and for the physical benefits, at the suggestion of general manager Ken Holland and coach Jeff Blashill.

“It’s really more for the grit,” said Mantha, of a workout that’s quite popular around the NHL. “To get that extra little more angry. It’s not necessarily to fight next year, that’s not what the message (is). They just want to me that get that little extra grit.”

Mantha has participated in boxing lessons, or workouts, several summers in his career, including two years ago before taking part in Red Wings’ training camp.

“Five or six years ago before juniors, too, I did some, it’s actually a good workout program,” Mantha said.

Blashill sees boxing, and the workout regimen associated with it, as a good education to pushing one-self to the brink.

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For a young player like Mantha, that can be an invaluable tool.

“It teach people how to handle fear, not fear of getting hit, necessarily, but fear of life and overcoming it and not having any fear at all,” Blashill said. “And to bring out aggression. With Anthony, I just want him to continue to see there’s more there.

“More there in terms of pushing himself beyond his comfort level.”

Big 3 free agents

Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou are three restricted free agents that Holland will have to deal with this summer.

Holland said each deal is unique, and he’ll look for an agreement that benefits both the individual player and the team.

Each player was optimistic a deal can be worked out before training camp

“One year, or eight years, I’m happy to be a Red Wing and I appreciate everything the Ilitches do for us,” Larkin said. “We haven’t really talked numbers, and there’s no rush.

“It has to make sense for the team as well. I don’t want to be a burden on the cap.”

Mantha said he’d likely be more agreeable to a short-term contract, believing there’s more to his game, and the potential for even a more profitable contract down the line.

Athanasiou, who held out until into late October because of no contract, was hopeful negotiations aren’t going to be as rocky this time around.

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“It’s part of the game, so however it long it takes, it’ll run its course,” Athanasiou said.

Mixed emotions

Tyler Bertuzzi will not be headed to Grand Rapids to help the Griffins defend the Calder Cup.

Bertuzzi was the playoff MVP last spring, but graduated to the NHL this season and was impressive with the Red Wings.

Holland and the coaching staff feel a good summer of working out will benefit Bertuzzi more, at this point, than another AHL playoff run.

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“It was pros and cons,” Bertuzzi said. “I wouldn’t have minded going at all, but it’s a big year in the gym for me this summer.

“I still have a lot of buddies down there and it stinks not going down to battle with them in the playoffs. But I kind of just want to focus on having a good summer and coming to training camp ready.”

Staff evaluated

Blashill is returning, but as for his staff, there will be a period of evaluation.

Blashill didn’t rule out the possibility of changes.

“I’ll evaluate,” Blashill said. “We’re evaluating everything in terms of how can we be better. When we talked to the team today, we all have to be a little bit better.

“I’ll certainly evaluate our staff and see if there’s anything that makes sense for us.”

Headed to Worlds

Larkin will return to Team USA and play for the national team in May’s world championships in Denmark.

Blashill is coaching the national team for a second consecutive year.

“It’s not being complacent with finishing early in April,” Larkin said. “Playing into May is what it’s all about. I’m young, I have a lot of energy and passion, and I want to keep on playing.

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“I saw where (Chicago’s) Patrick Kane was added to the team and named captain, which is awesome.”

Larkin had to square away insurance issues, which he did, to finalize him competing.

Ice-time issue

Athanasiou scored 16 goals this season, but averaged just over 15 minutes of ice time.

But the inconsistent playing time is something Athanasiou is getting used to.

“You have to be ready, it’s that type of business you’re in,” Athanasiou said. “Whether it’s nine minutes, or 10 or 15, or 20, you have to be to try to do the best you can.

“Obviously you want to play a lot, and if I do play, I think can produce more and give the team a better chance of winning.

“(But) there are a lot of guys in this room that have to play. There’s a lot of things that go on (into it) and you can’t really look to much into it.”

Ice chips

Holland didn’t sound as if the organization will be aggressive in free agency, although a veteran goaltender to back up Jimmy Howard is needed, and likely will be a position the team will address.

… Holland said either he or scouting director Tyler Wright will attend the April 28 draft lottery in Toronto and represent the Red Wings, along with scout Dan Cleary.

… The Red Wings will wait and see where they draft, and how Mike Green’s rehabilitation from neck surgery evolves, before deciding whether to bring back the unrestricted free agent defenseman.

… Holland is open to adding another person in the front office, noting the talent drain in recent years with the exodus of Jim Nill, Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman and Jimmy Devellano (Devellano is still in the organization, but in a different role).