I know the Wings are in the midst of their push for a 23rd consecutive playoff berth, but it’s never too early to think about the offseason gameplan, especially one as critical as this. With injuries devastating the team, the Wings got a look at a handful (or should I say multiple handfuls) of their young prospects and almost all of them have impressed. This puts the Wings in a difficult position for next year with contracts for certain veterans expiring. The Wings have always been known to allow their young talent to season in Grand Rapids, but with so many of their young guys getting playing time, it’s going to be hard to send these guys back down. Here’s my breakdown and my opinion on what the Wings should do this offseason.
The current salary cap is $64.3 million and CapGeek/NHL Board of Governors project the salary cap to be $71.1 million next season. The Wings had a cap payroll of $67,695,493 for this season (they made it work by having players on the long-term injury reserve. As of now, the Wings currently have $49,974,545 tied up in 16 players for next season, leaving them with approximately $21 million to work with for 7 roster spots to get to a roster size of 23.
Wings’ Free Agents
For the purposes of this free agent outlook, I’m only going to look at guys that have appeared in the Winged Wheel this season. The Wings do have five additional free agents, but they are exclusively minor league players and therefore, I won’t focus on their contracts. The advanced stats are taken from Extra Skater.
|Player||Position||Free Agent Status||Current Cap Hit||NHL Games Played||Goals/Wins||Assists/GAA||Points/SV%||5-on-5 CF%||5-on-5 FF%|
|David Legwand||Center||Unrestricted||$4.5 million||76||13||36||40||49.5%||50.7%|
|Daniel Alfredsson||Right Wing||Unrestricted||$5.5 million||63||17||28||45||50.2%||49.4%|
|Mikael Samuelsson||Right Wing||Unrestricted||$3.0 million||26||1||2||3||50.8%||51.5%|
|Todd Bertuzzi||Right Wing||Unrestricted||$2.075 million||57||9||7||16||49.5%||48.6%|
|Daniel Cleary||Left Wing||Unrestricted||$1.75 million||52||4||4||8||47.3%||47.4%|
|Tomas Tatar||Right Wing||Restricted||$630,000||66||18||16||34||55.9%||55.8%|
|Kyle Quincey||Defenseman||Unrestricted||$3.775 million||75||4||8||12||50.0%||50.4%|
|Jonas Gustavsson||Goaltender||Unrestricted||$1.5 million||25||16||2.52||0.912||51.2%||51.9%|
|Mitchell Callahan||Right Wing||Restricted||$565,278||1||0||0||0||63.6%||57.1%|
Free Agent Recommendations
The guys listed here have appeared in at least one game for the Wings and their contracts will be up this summer. Of the guys listed here, Sheahan, Almquist, Callahan, and Ferraro are exempt from waivers. If the Red Wings somehow miss the playoffs, Glendening would be eligible as he only has 11 games of eligibility remaining. The rest of the guys on this list would have to clear waivers if sent down and thus, several cuts will have to be made.
The Lifetime Achievement Group
The Wings should not re-sign Emmerton, Samuelsson, Cleary, or Bertuzzi. At this point of his career, it’s clear that Cory Emmerton will not amount to a consistent NHL player and the Wings would be better off cutting ties with him as the new wave of youth is about to pass him by. Bertuzzi, Cleary, and Samuelsson have all spent the last two seasons being woefully ineffective and oft-injured. They all have made significant contributions to the Wings throughout their careers, but this offseason is not the time to offer them a lifetime achievement contract.
The Daniel Alfredsson Dilemma
Daniel Alfredsson is a different story. To me, if he wants to sign for another year, then the Wings have to give it to him so long as it is at a reasonable rate. The $5.5 million cap hit he had this season seems just a tad too high. If the Wings can bring that down to $4.5-$5 million with the similar games played bonus, then I am all for that contract. Alfredsson has been a mainstay for the Wings this year and is currently tied for 2nd in points on the Red Wings with the red-hot Gustav Nyquist. For the sake of the analysis, I’ll pretend that the Wings give Alfredsson a 1-year $4.75 million deal.
The Hometown Kid
The Red Wings should not re-sign Legwand. Yes, he’s a hometown guy and yes he still has plenty to offer at age 33. However, the Wings simply have too much center depth when healthy. If you asked general manager Ken Holland at the beginning of the year if he thought he would trade for a center, he would have thought you were crazy. The Wings have Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, and Joakim Andersson under contract for next year and we haven’t even talked about Riley Sheahan yet. Legwand has not been effective enough to justify giving him the likely $4 million contract he’s looking for.
Mr. “Elastic-I-Wish-They-Were-Steel-Groins” Gustavsson
In year one of Gustavsson’s contract, he was atrocious. This year? The Wings likely are on the outside of the playoff picture if not for Gustavsson’s stellar play. However, the Wings would be wise not to re-sign him. It seems like Gustavsson plays three games, injures his groin, and then is out two weeks. The Wings also have a logjam of goaltenders in Grand Rapids with Petr Mrazek, Jake Paterson, and Thomas McCollum. I think the Wings should let Gustavsson go, and recall Mrazek, who has a cap hit of $595,000 for next season.
Boy, the kids have been something else this year. They have excited Wings fans with their sheer brilliance, competitiveness, and enthusiasm. Every single youngster should be re-signed. Sheahan, Tatar, DeKeyser, and Glendening should remain with the Wings. Since all are restricted free agents, the Wings could issue the qualifying offers to each of them. However, the Wings may look to negotiate a longer term contract with Sheahan, Tatar, and DeKeyser. I’d imagine that Sheahan will get a 3-year, $7.5 million contract with an average cap hit of $2.5 million. Tatar will be looking at 3-years, $9 million for a cap hit of $3 million and DeKeyser will likely be looking at 3-years, $10 million based on the going rate for defensemen. I will input their contracts in as such. Glendening will get a similar length contract but it will probably be closer to 3-years, $3 million for a $1 million cap hit. The other kids (Almquist, Callahan, Ferraro) should be re-signed but will be sent down to Grand Rapids.
The Kyle Quincey Headache
In 2012, the Red Wings traded a 1st-round pick and a prospect to get Kyle Quincey back from Colorado. Now? The Wings would be lucky to get a 3rd-round pick for him. Quincey is the 2nd highest paid defenseman on the Wings, but clearly is not worth that. He has been far too error-prone and has not provided the level of offense expect of him. The Wings would be best served to cut ties with Quincey and promote either Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet from Grand Rapids. I would vote for Sproul as he has chipped in 10 goals and 20 assists for the Griffins this year in just 49 games. Sproul has a cap hit of $620,000 for next season.
Summary of Recommendations
I went through a lot of information there, so here is a summary of what I’m suggesting
Daniel Alfredsson, 1 year, $4.75 million
Riley Sheahan, 3 years, $7.5 million
Tomas Tatar, 3 years, $9 million
Danny DeKeyser, 3 years, $10 million
Luke Glendening, 3 years, $3 million
Rest of kids at two-way minor league contracts
Projected Line Combinations
Line 1: Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Gustav Nyquist
Line 2: Johan Franzen – Stephen Weiss – Daniel Alfredsson
Line 3: Tomas Tatar – Riley Sheahan – Justin Abdelkader
Line 4: Luke Glendening – Darren Helm – Drew Miller
Extras: Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco (should be sent down to Grand Rapids – he’s still exempt from waivers)
Defense 1: Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Defense 2: Danny DeKeyser – Brendan Smith
Defense 3: Brian Lashoff – Ryan Sproul
Extra: Jakub Kindl
Goaltenders: Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek
That’s my initial plan for the Wings. This plan would put them with a 23-man roster that has a cap payroll of $65,557,045 with $5.5 million in cap space. That cap space could be used to push for a top-four defenseman, or as Ken Holland normally likes to do, he can save it for the trade deadline to pick up a player that may be needed. Either way, the Wings are in a good position moving forward and Wings fans can be excited for the future.