There are a few things to keep in mind about this procedure ...
-- Who's kept on the roster isn't strictly about who's the best player. It's a blend between performance and franchise asset protection. The Red Wings want to keep all their players if possible and the top-end talent is great enough that they can afford to make some roster depth decisions not based on performance.
-- The starting point seems to be defense. General manager Ken Holland has said that with Chelios out, the Red Wings will start the season with either seven or eight healthy defensemen.
-- Up front, the performance pecking order right now seems to be 1 Darren Helm, 2 Ville Leino, 3 Darren McCarty, 4 Aaron Downey. That's gathered from what Holland and coach Mike Babcock have said.
-- Although the roster max is 23, Holland has said that the Red Wings will carry 21-23 players because of cap issues.
When you put the cap numbers on paper, there really aren't a ton of options. With 12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies, the Wings are at approx. $55.190 million in cap hit. That's 20 players.
Add any one of these three defensemen -- Derek Meech $483,333, Kyle Quincey $525,000 or Jonathan Ericsson $900,000 -- and the with the remaining cap space, you can fit just one more salary. (Except for the Ericsson and Leino ($875,000) combination, which puts the team over the limit.)
The problem with keeping Ericsson is two-fold. You can keep Meech or Quincey and fit Chelios ($750,000 back under the cap when he returns. But Ericsson and Chelios don't fit. And Ericsson can go to Grand Rapids without being exposed to waivers. Meech and Quincey cannot, so you risk losing one of those two at the start of the season. If it was all about performance, Ericsson could easily be with the Red Wings at season's start and Quincey could easily be in Grand Rapids, but this is asset protection. I'd speculate that Ericsson is going to Grand Rapids.
With Ericsson gone, either Meech or Quincey is definitely staying in Detroit. Meech has clearly outperformed Quincey. So let's say that Meech is definitely staying.
Helm and Leino can go to Grand Rapids without being exposed to waivers. McCarty would need to clear, but I don't think that the team is worried about that threat.
Add in the fact that Leino has the highest salary among the bubble forward and needs to adjust to pro hockey in North America and that he's behind Helm in performance and you can conclude that Leino will be sent to Grand Rapids.
So here's who's vying for the final roster spot ... Quincey, Helm and McCarty.
To protect all assets, you'd keep Quincey and send Helm down. But I'm guessing that Helm is kept and Quincey gets demoted. First of all, Quincey would be sent to Grand Rapids in a month when Chelios is activated. So keeping him now isn't much asset protection.
Second, with forwards Pavel Datsyuk (groin) and Tomas Holmstrom (knee) hurting, the Wings might need Helm on Thursday, making this discussion irrelevant. Even if everyone's healthy for Thursday, one injury will cause the Wings to call Helm up and demote Quincey.
So, call it a hunch based on 10 levels of speculation, a house build on sand. But I'd look for Meech and Helm -- the Winnipeg mafia -- to make the roster, Wednesday. That would be a 22-player active roster with Chelios on LTIR.
Of course, one trade would change everything.