Red Wings place defenseman Danny DeKeyser on waivers

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, 30, had surgery for a herniated disk last summer and has struggled to return to form this season.

Detroit — Danny DeKeyser hadn’t been playing, and was recuperating from offseason herniated disk sugery, but you still didn’t see this coming.

The Red Wings waived the veteran defenseman Sunday in a somewhat surprising move.

DeKeyser, 30, had surgery for a herniated disk early last year, which limited him to only eight games.

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There was expected to be a difficult return this season, given the gravity of the surgery and DeKeyser’s age and lack of actual playing hockey over the calendar year, heading into this season.

But the transition has been more difficult than expected.

DeKeyser has struggled to return to form this season, while playing in 10 games this season, DeKeyser has one goal and no assists with a minus-1 rating, while playing about 15 minutes per game (about six less than his career average).

 DeKeyser has been a healthy scratch (but not really healthy) in the last six games.

“Danny is available to play," coach Jeff Blashill said recently, explaining DeKeyser’s inability to crack the lineup. "Right now, it’s a coach’s decision, but it’s not like we have a 100% Danny DeKeyser. He’s recovering from the surgery.

“Danny is recovering from a major surgery that’s taken him longer than any of us want and, most importantly, him. He’s played with not a lot of strength in his one leg and that’s how he played the first six games or so.

“We’ve made the decision to go with other guys right now because Danny isn’t 100%, not close.”

An undrafted free agent out of Warren De La Salle and Western Michigan — DeKeyser is from Macomb — DeKeyser quickly became one of the Wings’ most reliable defenseman upon signing with his hometown team.

DeKeyser has played 451 games in his NHL career, all with the Wings, and has 30 goals and 94 assists for 124 points, with a plus-8 plus-minus rating.

But DeKeyser’s future with the Wings now looks hazy.

DeKeyser has a cap hit of $5 million remaining for this season and next season. DeKeyser signed a six-year contract worth $30 million before the 2016-17 season.

If DeKeyser clears waivers, which he is expected to do given the money owed, the Wings could assign him to the taxi squad or the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he could attempt to get back to full health.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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