The Detroit Red Wings decided not to retain the rights of former first-round pick Tom McCollum, then changed their mind at the last minute and tendered him a qualifying offer. Fellow netminder Jordan Pearce was released by the team instead and while those moves are but minor blips on the overall free agency picture this offseason, it made for a confusing couple of days for Red Wings fans. McCollum had his best season as a professional during the 2012-13 campaign and was part of a Grand Rapids Griffins team that brought home the AHL’s Calder Cup, but has overall failed to live up to the expectations of a goaltender drafted 30th overall and has been passed by other prospects on the organizational depth chart.
The Red Wings drafted McCollum in 2008, after a 25-17-6 season for the Guelph Storm (OHL). He has been with the Griffins for the past four seasons (while also seeing some time in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye), winning 50 games and recording two shutouts. He struggled with consistency the first three seasons he was in the AHL, and while he put together a respectable 2012-13 season he did so in the same year that saw rookie Petr Mrazek (a 2010 fifth round pick) steal the spotlight and the starter’s job. With Mrazek slated as the heir apparent to Jimmy Howard in Detroit, and free-agent signee Jared Coreau (Northern Michigan University) expected to be the backup in Grand Rapids next season, there really isn’t a spot for McCollum anywhere other than the ECHL moving forward. Time will tell if he can repeat his performance from last season, attracting attention from other teams or seizing the opportunity to fill in at the AHL level if injury issues arise.
In one appearance with the Red Wings, McCollum played 15 minutes and allowed three goals on eight shots.