On July 26th, the final member of the Grind Line, Kris Draper, retired from the NHL and accepted a position within the front office of the Red Wings. Draper had a 20 year career in the league and is known around the league as having an incredible work ethic. His first three seasons in the league were with the Winnipeg Jets where he played only 20 games combine, then in 1993 he was traded to the Red Wings for one dollar.
Draper went on to finish his career as the fifth Red Wing to play over 1,000 games with the team, joining Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. He finished his career with 161 goals and 203 assists in his 1,157 regular season games. During the postseason Draper played in 222 games that included six Stanley Cup Finals and winning four Cups with the Wings. In the playoffs he scored 24 goals and had 22 assists, but his contributions have always been bigger than the score sheet.
His tireless work ethic was an inspiration to all of the younger players coming up with the Red Wings. Seeing a guy who realized that he couldn’t make the Winnipeg Jets figure out how he was going to make the Red Wings, with dedication and hard work. His efforts always showed on the ice as it looked as if he never took a play off in his 17 years in Detroit. His fans always had a great respect for Draper, evidence by all of the tweets congratulating him on his retirement, and his teammates respected him as well. The best example being when Claude Lemieux attempted to rearrange his face during the 1996 Western Conference Finals and the brawl that transpired when the teams met in the regular season next year. He was one of the great players of his generation, and I hope to see his 33 in the rafters at the Joe in the future.
In other Wings news, it appears that Ken Holland is set with the roster for this offseason. In an interview with MLive.com Holland stated that the lineup is set and did not want to waste cap space on a thin free agent market. Keeping almost $6 million in cap space will give the team flexibility come the trade deadline,
“I think we can compete and I like our cap space,” Holland said. “If, after 60 games, we get to the (trade) deadline and are in a playoff position, we can make a deal. We haven’t had that (cap space) the last couple of years.”
Holland said that he pursued Tomas Fleischmann and Scottie Upshall, both ended up signing four-year deals with the Florida Panthers, and made an offer to Jaromir Jagr before he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. With the cap space and plenty of depth in Grand Rapids the Wings are in a position to make a big move if necessary. Regardless of what he does, in Holland we Trust.
A shame to see him go. It’s an end of an era with just Nick hanging in there. The good news is that Ken Holland is still running the front office so I know the Wings will be fine.