Ken Holland: Red Wings will play prospects, with cap freedom

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Wings general manager Ken Holland spoke to the media Wednesday, ahead of Thursday's season opener.

Detroit — The Red Wings will make use of their young players and some rare salary-cap space this season to move young players into the lineup, the team's top managers said Wednesday.

“Over the course of the year, we’re going to be moving more and more younger people on to our team, and the hope is that they are going to develop and we are going to become more and more competitive,” general manager Ken Holland said at an annual lunch with Detroit Sports Media, formerly known as the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association, at Sinbad’s Restaurant & Marina.

Entering his 36th season with the Wings and 22nd as general manager, Holland has made good on his vow at the end of last season to put two or three more young prospects into the lineup.

Some injuries among defensemen have allowed him to add a few more, temporarily.

The Red Wings will could have four players, defensemen Dennis Cholowski, Libor Sulak and perhaps a third, along with the forward Michael Rasmussen, debuting in the NHL against the Blue Jackets on Thursday at Little Caesars Arena.

It would be the first time since Oct. 10, 1985, that the Wings started a season with that many players in their first career games.

In a 6-6 OT tie with the North Stars 33 years ago, the Wings debuted Chris Cichocki, Tim Friday, Adam Oates, Per Klima, current assistant coach Doug Houda and Ray Staszak, according to Greg Innis, the Red Wings statistician.

Placing Johan Franzen on long-term injured reserve again Wednesday opened $4 million in cap space, said Ryan Martin, the assistant general manager.

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“That’ll be the most we’ve had certainly in the past five or six years, which is a great fit for what we are trying to do,” said Martin, in his 14th season in the front office.

He is in his sixth season as general manager of the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“With four young defensemen and some forwards pressing for time on ice in the NHL,” Martin said, “It gives a coach a ton of options, if you have injuries up here, if guys down there are playing well. You need cap space to do that. It’s going to be a nice thing, and it’s something we haven’t had in a long time.”

Holland sounded open-minded about the progress of the season.

“Expectations, I don’t really have any,” he said. “Obviously, we missed the playoffs two years in a row. We’re going to move some younger people on our team.

“I thought last year our team competed really hard. I think we were in 27 games in which we lost by a goal.

“Over the course of the year, we’re going to be moving more and more younger people on to our team, and the hope is that they are going to develop, and we are going to become more and more competitive.”

Asked why Filip Zadina is not one of the young guys in the lineup, Holland discussed familiar developmental themes.

“I wanted him to be important, and he will be important in Grand Rapids,” he said. “He’s going to play in important situations. He’s going to play with the top two lines.

“You know, he’s 19 years of age (Nov. 27). I’m looking at Filip Zadina and I want Filip Zadina to be fully developed by the time he’s 22.”

Holland cited the career development of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who hit their strides in the NHL about four years after the Red Wings drafted them, at age 19.

Twitter: @greggkrupa