Another season has come and gone for the Detroit Red Wings. We saw the Wings extend their amazing playoff streak to 24 years and push an exceptionally talented Tampa Bay team to 7 games. Alas, it was all for naught and here we are in the offseason, far earlier than desired. Last season, I detailed what the Red Wings should do and came fairly close on most of the predictions so I thought I’d try my hand at it again. Also I refuse to speculate on Babcock, so that won’t be in this article.
The Salary Cap
Back in December, commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested that the NHL Salary Cap would go up to $73 million. However, the recent drop-off in the value of the Canadian dollar has created a little bit of an issue. In a recent post from Windy City Hockey News, they reported that the $73 million cap hit was based on the Canadian dollar being at 88 cents to the American dollar. As of today, the Canadian dollar is at 82 cents, which would leave us with a projected salary cap of $72.2 million. For the purposes of this analysis, I will use the $72.2 million projected cap hit, which would represent a $3.2 million cap increase.
Wings’ Free Agents
Listed here is a comprehensive table of the Red Wings’ free agents this offseason. All salary cap information is from NHLNumbers.
|Player||Age||Free Agent Status||Current Cap Hit|
In summary, the Red Wings have four unrestricted free agents, and six restricted free agents.
Free Agent Recommendations
Of the players listed in the table above, only Teemu Pulkkinen is NHL waiver-exempt, meaning that he could be returned to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL without having to go through the waiver process. Landon Ferraro and Tomas Jurco would have to clear waivers if the Red Wings choose to send them to Grand Rapids.
Daniel Cleary…your time in the Winged Wheel is up. Cleary’s last two contracts have both been loyalty contracts but it finally became evident to EVERYONE this year that the Wings have far better options to put on the ice than Cleary. I will always remember him for passion and grit and his Game 7 goal in the 2009 Conference Semifinals against the Anaheim Ducks.
Erik Cole is a sad story because he could have really helped the Wings against Tampa. However, his neck injury seems severe enough to likely end his career. He’s had a great career and has a Stanley Cup ring, but health must come first here.
Jonas Gustavsson was again bit by the injury bug. Those groins must be made of string. While he played well when in the lineup as a Red Wing (19-8-5, 2.62 GAA, .908 SV%), the Wings have much better options in goal now thanks to the emergence of Petr Mrazek.
Marek Zidlicky is the tougher scenario. If you asked me in mid-March, I would have absolutely said yes to bringing him back on a one-year deal. However, as the season carried on, Zidlicky’s foot speed, or lack there of, became evident as he could not keep up with the Tampa forwards. In addition, he seemed to struggle on the powerplay, reluctant to shoot the puck, and making ill-advised passes. If I’m Ken Holland, I pass on another year of “Zids”.
Joakim Andersson unfortunately will not be back. While he eventually found his stride late in the season playing with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, his lack of offense is too great to overcome. Andersson has scored a whopping 14 goals in 176 career games. I know he’s not counted on to score, but his linemates for most of the season, Luke Glendening and Drew Miller, combined for 17 this season. I firmly expect his spot in the lineup to be replaced by…
Landon Ferraro, boy-wonder. A month of ago, I thought he was a sure bet to be gone. However, his play over the last month was simply fantastic. In my mind, he was one of Detroit’s best forwards against the Lightning, after Datsyuk and Glendening. I think his speed and tenacity buys him a two-year, $1.1 million deal with a cap hit of $550,000.
Gustav Nyquist will obviously be back, and he’ll likely command a deal above what Tomas Tatar received last year. I anticipate Nyquist receiving a three-year, $11 million deal, with a cap hit of $3.67 million. That would make him Detroit’s 5th highest paid forward behind Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, and Johan Franzen. I think it’s slightly below market value, but I believe Goose gives Detroit a bit of a hometown discount.
Teemu Pulkkinen will also be back, and I believe that the Red Wings will give him a shot at earning a full-time roster spot. His shot is ridiculous, but as the season carried on, Pulkkinen struggled to find space to get his shot off. I think the Red Wings offer him a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a cap hit of $900,000 and see if he can figure out how to play in the NHL.
Tomas Jurco was snakebit…all season. After a promising 2013-2014 season where he scored eight goals in 36 games, Jurco recorded just three goals in 63 games. You can see the compete level in Jurco and we all know about his talent. However, the pieces have not been put together for the youngster. I think the Red Wings give him a two-year, $1.95 million deal with a cap hit of $975,000. Remember, he’s just 22 years old, so he has a lot of time to grow.
Finally, Brendan Smith. At 26 years old, we should have seen something more out of Smith. However, what I see is a guy who has a lot of energy, the potential to make spectacular plays, but ultimately is the target of the other team because they know they can get into his head. As much as I like his offensive upside, I think the Wings are better off moving Smith’s rights in a deal for a better defenseman.
Summary of Recommendations
Here’s the “TL/DR” version for those who only skimmed the above information.
Landon Ferraro – 2-year, $1.1 million ($550,000 cap hit)
Gustav Nyquist – 3-year, $11 million ($3.67 million)
Teemu Pulkkinen – 2-year, $1.8 million ($900,000)
Tomas Jurco – 2-year, $1.95 million ($975,000)
After those moves, the Red Wings would have 14 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders under contract for a total of $62,794,000. That would leave the Wings $9.4 million under my projected salary cap which means there’s room for more moves.
After missing 49 games this season, it’s hard to imagine Johan Franzen coming back. Last month a heartbreaking story came out detailing how Franzen is still incapable of even playing with his daughters. At this point in his career, there is no reason for him to risk coming back. In a perfect world, I wish he could retire and just be done with it. However, due to the cap recapture penalty, if Franzen retires, he would put the Wings in a bind over the next few seasons. However, if the Wings and Franzen mutually agree to leave him on long-term injured reserve, then Franzen’s heft $3.955 million cap hit comes off the books and the Red Wings are free to fill that roster spot with a player of equal value. I’m going to say that the Wings opt for this idea and that creates an additional $3.955 million in salary cap space, bringing the Wings to $13.361 million in cap space.
The Dion Phaneuf Trade
During the trade deadline frenzy, a rumored deal between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings came up. It was as follows:
This trade fell through because the Red Wings wanted the Leafs to eat roughly $2 million/year of Phaneuf’s contract over the next six years. However, with the extra cap space I’ve created by having Franzen on LTIR, the Wings can afford Phaneuf’s contract. I don’t believe that there are any unrestricted free agents that can match Phaneuf’s overall game. I think the Wings make a trade that somewhat resembles this and maybe involves a draft pick and the Wings retain Phaneuf’s full salary. After this deal, the Wings would sit at $11.261 million in cap space.
The Roster Breakdown
We’ve made a lot of moves here, so let me show you how my projected lineup works
Line 1: Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Nyquist
Line 2: Tatar-Datsyuk-Helm
Line 3: Pulkkinen-Sheahan-Jurco
Line 4: Miller-Glendening-Ferraro
Defense 1: Kronwall-Ericsson
Defense 2: DeKeyser-Phaneuf
Defense 3: Quincey-Marchenko
Goalies: Howard, Mrazek
Is this team dramatically better than the team that was iced this season? Probably not. However, I’m thinking big picture with my roster moves. Next year’s free agents include Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan, Kyle Quincey, Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko, Petr Mrazek, and Xavier Ouellet. Helm, Abdelkader, Sheahan, DeKeyser, and Mrazek will all be due for big pay raises so I want to make sure that I’m playing the cap smartly. The team I’m putting on the ice for next season is a playoff team and potentially a Stanley Cup contender depending on the play of that 3rd line.