Well, the time has come to part ways with the press box’s main attraction. Yes, the man who transformed the Leino Lounge into his own, personal VIP area has very likely played his last game as a Red Wing. Not that we remember when that was anyway.
It’s kind of a sad story. Derek (or, as he’s known around the DOT, Derrick) Meech seems like a genuine good man, and was always willing to play forward when the Wings needed him to. In fact, he did damn near anything the Wings needed him to. But, alas, it was not to be in the long-run, and having been waived (and not claimed), it looks like he’ll spend the duration of his one-year contract in Grand Rapids, adding to an unbelievably talented Griffins club that will likely boast quality NHL-calibre players like Kirk Maltby and Mattias Ritola.
Shortly after Kirk Maltby’s signing was announced, Ken Holland waived Derek Meech — an unrelated move, by the way — that opened him and his one-year, one-way, league-minimum contract up to anyone that needed depth at defense. But, being that teams are holding steady with their rosters and/or are waiting for their prospects to show something at training camp, no one plucked him off the wire. Holland said that he had been trying to trade the 26-year-old swingman, to no avail.
To be sure, Ken Holland will continue working the phones, offering Derek Meech to an NHL squad that could use a Red Wings castoff, which — for the record — is better pedigree than many teams’ actual blueliners can boast. If no other NHL club trades for Meech, he’ll very likely spend the whole season in the American Hockey League, thanks to his one-way contract. Since he’ll be making more than the AHL maximum of $105,000 (the nature of a one-way is that he’ll earn the same salary in the NHL or elsewhere), he’s subject to re-entry waivers, meaning that the Red Wings would be on the hook for half of his salary — both in paycheck form and cap hit form. That’s a risk that Ken Holland has said he will not take. It’s also the reason Kirk Maltby was talked into taking a two-way deal. While Maltby must also be waived on the way down, he will not be subject to re-entry waivers on the way back up, should an injury occur.
It’s been a strange summer for Meech. He was one of the Wings’ restricted free agents, and actually filed for arbitration before agreeing to a league-minimum deal. Which doesn’t add up. I had a feeling that Holland promised Meech that he’d find an NHL home for the defenseman — if it wasn’t in Detroit — but he had to take the league minimum to make a trade as easy as possible. But, there were no takers.
When news came down that he’d been waived, I thought for sure Holland had something up his sleeve. It’s an odd time to waive a player — since the team doesn’t need to be anywhere near the salary cap for another few weeks. Yes, there were too many bodies on the roster, but that doesn’t need to be settled right now, either. The timing was peculiar, and I even mentioned to Hollis that I bet Holland has lined up a taker — kind of a good faith “holding up his end of the bargain” now that the writing was on the wall — in Ruslan Salei’s handwriting.
There will be a lot of talk about Kyle Quincey in the coming weeks — since he was essentially given up on in favor of Derek Meech. I won’t get into specifics, since George Malik absolutely nailed it, but on the surface — it may look that way. Would we prefer to have Kyle Quincey than an already-waived, destined-for-Grand Rapids Derek Meech? Perhaps. But Derek Meech was far from useless and certainly had his role on the club for the last few years. Quincey likely would have had a larger role at this point, but what’s done is done. At the time of that decision, it was one or the other and Derek Meech was the better player — period.
But here we are. September 11th, 2010 (make sure you pay your respects today, by the way) and Derek Meech is without an NHL home. He’s been a good sport, a worthy soldier, and — yes, at times — a target of mockery. We wish him nothing but the best and hope that he’s back in the big leagues soon — wherever it may be.