Heading into July 1st, Red Wings’ fans were anxiously awaiting what their team would do. There were plenty of defensemen to be had and the Wings were rumored to be a destination for at least five different players. At the close of July 1st, the Wings return with no significant new additions and actually elected to bring much-maligned defenseman Kyle Quincey back. What’s next for Detroit? Did the East improve too much for the Wings to fall out of the playoff picture next year? What will the roster look like entering the season and are there any moves left to be made?
Free Agency Wrap-Up
I won’t dwell too much on what happened yesterday. Plain and simple, the Wings made significant offers to multiple free agents and were rebutted by all of them. Many Wings’ fans are angry, calling for Ken Holland’s head. However, there are a few important things to recognize. First and foremost, Ken Holland did all that he could. He made offers to Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Niskanen, and Dan Boyle. He was told that Anton Stralman was not interested in playing for Detroit at all. He can’t force these guys to come play in Detroit. Yahoo! Sports Nick Cotsonika provided some words of wisdom for Wings’ fans.
Wings are compared to the rest of the league — and also the Wings of old. These aren’t the old days. Still make the playoffs every year.
— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) July 2, 2014
Nick is absolutely right. I’ve come across too many Wings’ fans expecting this to be like the summer of 2001 when the Wings landed Hall of Famers Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille in various signings and trades. I’ve seen many Wings’ fans also lament the fact that Detroit no longer is a top destination for free agents. Little do these people remember that just last year, the Wings landed two of the top targets on the market in Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Everybody supporting Detroit needs to take a step back and evaluate the situation in a logical and rational manner. We can’t say that Detroit is no longer a top destination for free agents. Take a deep breath Detroit, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock still run the show in Detroit and that will always give the Wings a fighting chance.
The Kyle Quincey Dilemma
After Holland missed on his big targets in free agency, he decided to give Kyle Quincey a two-year, $9 million deal with an AAV of $4.5 million. Initially I pegged this as a horrific move. Quincey was absolutely atrocious at times last year. His penalty differential was -26, indicating that he took 26 more penalties than he drew. That penalty differential was second worst in the NHL, trailing only Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf. It was especially frustrating because the AAV of $4.5 million is actually a raise from Quincey’s last contract. However, let’s again step back from the ledge and view the situation logically. If Holland elects not to re-sign Quincey, what do the Wings’ defensive corps look like next year? The Wings would have Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, Danny DeKeyser, and Brendan Smith as the likely top-six, with Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, and Alexey Marchenko next in line. First off, that top-six would be atrocious. Babcock and his coaching staff already want to limit the use of Kindl and Lashoff. Without Quincey, Kindl and Lashoff would be forced to play significant minutes. If Babcock elected not to use Kindl and Lashoff as regular contributors, the Wings would be forced to rush their defensive prospects, something they don’t want to do.
In a perfect world, we know that Sproul, Ouellet, and Marchenko could all benefit from at least one more season in Grand Rapids. Essentially, Ken Holland and the Wings’ front office are hedging their bets that they can make the playoffs this year without having to rush their defensive prospects. When Quincey’s contract is up in two years, he will not be renewed and the Wings’ will have a seasoned prospect ready to go. I expect Sproul, Ouellet, and Marchenko to get regular rotations with the big club so that Babcock can properly evaluate their abilities and determine when they are ready. I fully expect all three of them to be in the Red Wings’ lineup by the 2016-2017 season.
2014-2015 Playoffs – Who’s In?
Ken Holland’s ingenious bet is based on the fact that he believes his team will still make the playoffs. If we look at how the free agent signings shook out, the only team outside of the playoffs in the East that could potentially make it this coming season is Washington. Washington threw big money at Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to help shore up their back end. However, Washington’s goaltending is extremely suspect and I don’t think they will threaten Detroit’s playoff chances. I think Holland made the right call here. The East did not get substantially better and the Wings will still be a contender. You also have to remember that the Wings were not healthy at all last year. If the Wings can remain healthy this year, this is a much more dangerous team. Finally, Holland has left himself an ace-in-the-hole. Once the Wings sign DeKeyser and Tatar to their qualifying offers, the Wings should have approximately $5-7 million left in cap space. That gives the Wings the option to improve their defense through trade at the trade deadline.
2015 Trade Deadline Targets
If the Wings ultimately decide to make a deal in 2015, there are a few targets that make sense.
Keith Yandle, D – Arizona Coyotes
This is the worst kept secret in the world. The Wings have wanted Yandle for a long time and Arizona has been quietly exploring trade options. If Arizona falls out of the playoff picture early, I think Ken Holland will be very quick to pick up the phone. Yandle would provide a big boost to Detroit’s powerplay and would bring some big offensive numbers. The Wings have sorely been missing production from the blue line ever since Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski retired.
Zbynek Michalek, D – Arizona Coyotes
The other Arizona defenseman that might be expendable, Michalek has always been a strong stay-at-home defenseman. He would be the perfect defense partner for Niklas Kronwall. As a side note, ever since Nick Lidstrom retired and Brad Stuart, Kronwall has had to severely restrict his game and play more conservatively because he knows his defense partner can’t cover for him. Michalek would allow Kronwall to start hitting big again and start pinching in on the play. At 31 years old, Michalek could be a fit in Detroit for a long-time.
Marc Staal, D – New York Rangers
This one is much more of a stretch, but Staal is a fit in Detroit. New York might be forced to move him to save cap space and he’s very affordable at $3.975 million. At 27 years old, Holland could evaluate if he wants to keep Staal around for the long haul.
Andrej Sekera, D – Carolina Hurricanes
Sekera quietly had a fantastic season for the Hurricanes last season. He posted fantastic offseason numbers and he is a great skater. Sekera may not be the best defensive player in the world, but he would definitely jumpstart the powerplay and provide big points from the blue line.
2014-2015 Detroit Red Wings Roster
After the regular season ended, I detailed what I thought Detroit should do in the offseason. With most of the major moves out of the way, we have a pretty good idea of what the roster will look like going into the regular season. Here’s how I think the line combinations shake out:
Line 1: Franzen – Datsyuk – Abdelkader
Line 2: Tatar – Zetterberg – Nyquist
Line 3: Weiss – Sheahan – Jurco
Line 4: Glendening – Helm – Miller
Pair 1: Kronwall – Ericsson
Pair 2: DeKeyser – Smith
Pair 3: Quincey – Sproul
Extra: Kindl, Lashoff
I think Sproul will make the team simply because he is right-handed and has a booming shot. He can’t be any worse defensively than Kindl or Lashoff and he has a much higher upside. The Wings are loaded with centers and have many options for line combinations. I still think the Wings’ top-six looks very strong and that’s without Daniel Alfredsson. I think Alfredsson will retire, and he is replaced in the lineup by Tomas Jurco. That lineup is still a playoff team.
Essentially, all Wings’ fans need to back away from the ledge. The door has not closed on Detroit being a prime destination for free agents. Just last year the Wings landed their top two targets. The East did not pass Detroit by and I fully expect them to make the playoffs once again. Finally, the Wings have cap flexibility to make an additional roster move if they find themselves struggling out of the gate again. Stop doubting Ken Holland, he is still a master of cap management and he has his finger on the pulse of this team.