Red Wings Role Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the just-completed campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Detroit. Today, we feature Danny DeKeyser.
2021-22 totals (GP-G-A-P): 59-0-11-11
Contract Status: Sign: Unrestricted free agent
At the start of the season, the Red Wings were expecting Danny DeKeyser to be one of their top four defensemen. He was more than a year removed from back surgery. The presumption was his mobility would be closer to normal. They thought he would offer steadiness to the defensive group.
That projection was not reality. He struggled on many nights. His mobility was still compromised. The fan base grew less tolerant of his flaws. In February, when he had the worst Corsi rating on Detroit’s defense, it was more than clear that DeKeyser’s 10-season run as a Detroit player was probably coming to an end.
— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) May 11, 2022
2021-2022 Detroit Red Wings Highlights
He was +4 in his last six games of the season. DeKeyser didn’t have a single minus game in that span. Earlier in March, he was +6 over six games when he was fresh off the injured list.
2021-22 Red Wings Lowlights
In late February, DeKeyser was -6 over two games against the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs. Coach scratched him for multiple games. He played another game and the Red Wings put him through waivers on his 32nd birthday. It looked as if his Red Wings career was over. Instead, the Red Wings put him on the injured list. He came back later in the season.
In the past 48 hours Danny DeKeyser has celebrated his 32nd birthday, cleared waivers and been placed on iR. At Red Wings practice today. pic.twitter.com/oHEyjyFPCB
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) March 9, 2022
What Does His Detroit Future Hold?
After DeKeyser played in the last home game at Little Caesars Arena this season, he admitted to trying to soak in the atmosphere.
“Anytime you’re in a situation like this where your contract’s up, you never really know what’s gonna happen,” DeKeyser said. “Definitely you have thoughts that go through your head if it is your last home game or not. That stuff will take care of itself in the summer. There’s not a whole lot to worry about right now.”
DeKeyser had to know then that he wasn’t coming back to the Red Wings. His performance level has declined. As much as the organization may appreciate that he’s a Michigan native who gave 10 years of service, the Red Wings are moving in a different direction. In addition to wanting DeKeyser’s $5 million cap space, the Red Wings need roster spots for young defensemen such as Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johansson. Eemil Viro may also be close to ready.
DeKeyser hopes he’s not at the end of his career.
“I would love to keep playing if I can,” He said. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. That stuff will play itself out in the summertime.”
DeKeyser said his back was feeling good at the end of the season.
“A lot of ups and downs for me the last couple of years,” he said. “I had stretches where I feel like I’ve played pretty good hockey and then other times some stretches that I would’ve liked to have been better. It’s just for me trying to find that consistency and trying to be simple out there every night. I’m 32 now. Just play a solid defensive game with the puck and try to defend well. That’s what I try to do right now.”
There’s no room for sentimentality in building next season’s Detroit roster. It is time to say goodbye to a loyal 10-year player. Recently fired coach Jeff Blashill paid homage to DeKeyser’s contributions near the end of the season.
“Danny was a big free-agent signing when he signed out of Western Michigan,” Blashill said. “It was a big impact on this program for a long time. He made himself a top-four defensemen in this league, was an elite defender in his best days. I think over the last couple of years he’s been a great, great pro. He’s had to fight through lots of adversity.He had the major surgery and there’s been lasting effects from that, but he’s continued to train. When you see the work that those guys have to put through and their consistency and approach in order to get themselves ready for games I think it’s a great lesson for young players and he’s provided that. “