The Grind Line: Detroit Red Wings Pending Restricted Free Agents

This offseason, the Detroit Red Wings front office will face tough decisions when it comes to building their future. Last week, The Grind Line Red Wings writers evaluated the probability of pending unrestricted free agents staying put, a group now without Justin Abdelkader, who signed a long-term contract with his hometown team. This week, we take a look at the Red Wings’ pending restricted free agents and their likelihood of signing a one-year or multi-year contract to remain with the Red Wings.

Danny DeKeyser

2014-15 Stats: 80 GP, 2 G, 29 A, 31 PTS.

2015-16 Stats: 17 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS.

Tony Wolak – Multi-year contract. Considered to be Detroit’s top defenseman of the future, the Red Wings should lock up DeKeyser long-term over the summer, if not sooner. It is more likely that the Red Wings sign DeKeyser to a contract similar to Gustav Nyquist’s than that of Justin Abdelkader, given his age. Look for him to sign a four-year, $20 million contract over the summer.

Brandon Peleshok – Multi-year contract. This one is a no-brainer. DeKeyser is in line for a hefty raise from his current $2.187M cap hit next season and he deserves it. While he is not scoring at the same pace he was last season, the 25-year-old blueliner is, arguably the Red Wings’ most consistent defender. DeKeyser gives the Red Wings versatility on the backend – he is capable of playing big minutes, working on the penalty kill and power play if necessary. Expect Holland to sign DeKeyser to a long-term deal this offseason.

Jacob Messing – Multi-year contract. In last week’s column, I mentioned that DeKeyser would be replacing Kyle Quincey as Detroit’s number one shutdown defenseman. DeKeyser is due for a long-term contract this summer. If his offensive game takes another step forward and he puts up another 30-point campaign this season he will cash-in. If he stays healthy from here on but scores below 30, Holland will look to get him at a cap-friendly deal that his true value exceeds annually.

Alexey Marchenko

2014-15 Stats: 13 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS.

2015-16 Stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS.

Tony Wolak – One-year contract. If Alexey Marchenko can stick with the Red Wings—and in the lineup—for the rest of the season, he could play himself into a multi-year deal. The most likely outcome, however, is that he signs his qualifying offer over the summer to remain with the Red Wings for at least another year. Marchenko looks to be a future, full-time NHLer. It’s just a matter of when he achieves that status, given his development and Red Wings’ depth chart.

Brandon Peleshok – One-year contract. Out of all the defensive prospects in Detroit’s system, Marchenko probably ranks highest on the depth chart. He plays a simple game, which has afforded him the opportunity to play in 14 games for the Red Wings this season. While the spots on Detroit’s blueline will be limited next season, Marchenko will likely find himself on the team out of training camp.

Jacob Messing – One-year contract. Marchenko appears more comfortable with each game that passes and has been a solid blue-liner for Detroit this season. Marchenko wasn’t drafted as a point producer and hasn’t developed into one either, but he plays smart, makes plays and has learned quickly during his 28 NHL games. Through those 28 games, Marchenko has posted only two points (1 G, 1 A, none this season).

Petr Mrazek

Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings
(Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

2014-15 Stats: 29 GP, 16-9-2, 2.38 GAA, .918 SV%.

2015-16 Stats: 12 GP, 6-4-1, 2.15 GAA, .935 SV%.

Tony Wolak – Multi-year contract.Another player that should be locked up long-term, Petr Mrazek has had a standout season so far. The Red Wings would be wise to sign him to a multi-year contract before he really hits his prime. Mrazek has had the best season of any of Detroit’s pending free agents.

Brandon Peleshok – Multi-year contract. Again – no-brainer. Mrazek is poised to become the Red Wings’ number one goaltender within the next few seasons. In fact, it appears as if he is beginning to edge out Jimmy Howard in their battle for Detroit’s net this year. Currently, Mrazek boasts an impressive 2.15 GAA and .935 save percentage. On a team that needs to improve in several areas, his stellar play has been a constant and allowed Detroit to remain competitive. While Holland would probably like to offer Mrazek a bridge deal, that may prove to be difficult if he keeps up his current level of play.

Jacob Messing – Multi-year contract. I was a little upset with Holland when Jimmy Howard was handed a six-year, $31.8 million extension ($5.3 AAV) during the summer of 2013. While Howard’s numbers have not been terrible with 5 wins in 10 starts (2.34 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO), Mrazek has proved himself as the future. In 11 starts, Mrazek has earned 6 wins and posted a 2.15 GAA and .935 SV% as well as a shutout that included stopping 15 shots on goal from Alex Ovechkin. Holland will look to move Howard in the off-season and reward Mrazek with a two or three-year bridge contract.

Teemu Pulkkinen

2014-15 Stats: 31 GP, 5 G, 3 A, 8 PTS.

2015-16 Stats: 20 GP, 6 G, 4 A, 10 PTS.

Tony Wolak – Multi-year contract. Teemu Pulkkinen’s season will certainly determine the type of contract he signs. If Pulkkinen can put together a 20-goal season, the Red Wings should sign him to a Tomas Tatar-type contract. If he slumps, the Wings could sign him to another qualifying offer and think long-term after next season.

Brandon Peleshok – Multi-year contract. Pulkkinen’s off to a solid start this season, playing primarily on the Red Wings’ third line. With 10 points through 20 games, Pulkkinen is sixth in scoring among Detroit forwards. Holland will most likely sign Pulkkinen to a short-term bridge deal, and give him the chance to show that he can produce offensively on a more consistent basis.

Jacob Messing – One-year contract. I haven’t been too impressed by Pulkkinen’s NHL career thus far, but I’m beginning to realize I may have set my expectations for him a little too high due to his success in the AHL. With 10 points (6 G, 4 A) in 20 games, Pulkkinen has displayed the depth he can bring at the NHL level and his OT winner against St. Louis was an incredible play to give Detroit the extra point. Holland will look to sign Pulkkinen to a short-term, bridge contract this summer; however, Pulkkinen could also find himself as a bargaining chip in a potential deal due to Detroit’s deep prospect pool and abundance of bodies to re-sign.

Riley Sheahan

Riley Sheahan of the Detroit Red Wings
(Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

2014-15 Stats: 79 GP, 13 G, 23 A, 36 PTS.

2015-16 Stats: 21 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS.

Tony Wolak – Multi-year contract. There is still much to be desired in Riley Sheahan’s game, but expect the Red Wings to sign the young center to a multi-year deal this offseason. Currently making just over $1 million in salary this season, Sheahan could command a contract closer to $2 million next year. If the Red Wings sign Sheahan to a multi-year deal, it could be close to $6 million with a cap hit increasing in year over three years.

Brandon Peleshok – Multi-year contract. Coming off a career year in 2014-15, the expectations for Sheahan were high heading into this season. Despite playing on the Wings’ second power play unit, and with some offensively gifted players at even strength, he has managed to score just five points through 21 games. Even if Sheahan does not manage to boost his offensive production, he remains a solid two-way player who can play at center or the wing. At 23-years-old, he has plenty of time to work on his offensive production.

Jacob Messing – Multi-year contract. With the options of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and rookie-sensation Dylan Larkin at center, Sheahan’s is in a tough spot to rise himself into Detroit’s top six. That’s not a knock on Sheahan though, his defensive game outweighs his offensive game and that’s a good characteristic to have in a third-liner. In 144 NHL games, Sheahan has posted 65 points (25 G, 40 A). Detroit will look to sign him to a multi-year, cost-effective contract.

Louis-Marc Aubry

2014-15 AHL Stats: 67 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 PTS.

2015-16 AHL Stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS.

Tony Wolak – One-year contract. A big, grinding forward for the Griffins, Aubry probably doesn’t have a future in the NHL, but can provide depth for Grand Rapids. The Red Wings will likely re-sign Aubry to a one-year, two-way contract to continue to play bottom-six minutes and provide leadership for the other prospects.

Brandon Peleshok – One-year contract. Aubry never really blossomed into the power forward the Red Wings hoped he could become. For the most part, Aubry has served as a fourth-line center in Grand Rapids. At this point, it is fair to say that Aubry making Detroit’s roster is a long shot, but the team will likely retain him as a depth player for the Griffins.

Mitch Callahan

Mitch Callahan of the Detroit Red Wings
(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

2014-15 AHL Stats: 48 GP, 16 G, 22 A, 38 PTS.

2015-16 AHL Stats: 14 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 PTS.

Tony Wolak – One-year contract. Though one of Detroit’s ripening prospects, Callahan has not put together a great season in Grand Rapids this year. Considered a fringe big league player over the summer, Callahan has fallen behind Andreas Athanasiou on the call-up depth chart. Surely, the Red Wings will make him a qualifying offer and Callahan will compete again next year if he can pass through waivers.

Brandon Peleshok – One-year contract. Callahan’s game is best suited for Detroit’s fourth line. For a number of reasons, he has not made his way onto the Red Wings roster just yet. Depending on the decisions the team makes this offseason, Callahan could push for a spot on the team as the 13th or 14th forward.

Jacob Messing – One-year contract. In the 2014-15 season, Mitch Callahan broke out offensively and posted 38 points (16 G, 22 A) in 48 games before sustaining a season-ending ACL tear. Sadly, that offensive breakout hasn’t extended into the 2015-16 season and the aggravating, big-bodied forward has only posted five points (2 G, 3 A) in 14 games with the Griffins. He was cut during training camp and cleared waivers to be able to be sent back down. Holland’s loyalty will likely give Callahan a one-year contract and another chance to make the team next season; but if he doesn’t he’ll require waivers once again and will either find himself with the Griffins or a different organization.

Tomas Nosek

2014-15 AHL Stats: 55 GP, 11 G, 23 A, 34 PTS.

2015-16 AHL Stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS.

Tony Wolak – One-year contract. The Red Wings are a fan of Tomas Nosek’s play and they believe he is a future NHLer. However, he has yet to appear in a NHL game and has a few players ahead of him on the call-up depth chart. Nosek will continue to improve his skill set in Grand Rapids for the remainder of the season, sign a one-year contract, and come to training camp ready to make an impact.

Brandon Peleshok – One-year contract. Nosek had a strong preseason this year, but the numbers game forced the team to send him back down to the AHL. Unfortunately, his play has not carried over to the regular season in Grand Rapids, as he has just one assist through 14 games. Despite a rough start this year, I see Nosek as a dark horse candidate for the 13th or 14th forward spot in Detroit next season.

Ryan Sproul

Ryan Sproul of the Detroit Red Wings.
Ryan Sproul (Ross Bonander/THW)

2014-15 AHL Stats: 66 GP, 5 G, 19 A, 24 PTS.

2015-16 AHL Stats: 14 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS.

Tony Wolak – One-year contract. Currently leading the Griffins’ defensemen in scoring, Ryan Sproul has the offensive chops to compete in the NHL. He just needs to improve his game in the defensive zone. The Red Wings will likely sign him to another qualifying offer and start him in Grand Rapids next year, given their defensive depth chart.

Brandon Peleshok – One-year contract. Sproul is in the same boat as Marchenko and Ouellet – looking to earn a spot on Detroit’s main roster next season. In addition to the aforementioned players, Nick Jensen probably ranks higher on the Red Wings’ depth chart as well. While the Red Wings will likely retain Sproul, I would not be surprised to see him start the season in Grand Rapids next year, which means he will have to pass through waivers.

Jacob Messing – One-year contract. Sproul will sign a one-year deal with the organization and try and make the team out of training camp ahead of next season (or will require waivers to be sent back down). Sproul is currently tied second on the Griffins with 8 points in 14 games (2 G, 6 A). He has a booming shot from the point and is even right-handed, which Detroit seems to be adding to the line-up with the addition of Green and Marchenko receiving regular time.