The Grind Line: Detroit’s Pending Unrestricted Free Agents

Last week The Grind Line took a look at some of the Red Wings’ most important pending free agents. This week, we focus on each of the Wings’ six unrestricted free agents.

[RELATED: Justin Abdelkader Gets 7-Year Extension]

Brad Richards

2014-15 Stats: 76 GP, 12 G, 25 A, 37 Pts.
2015-16 Stats: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts.

Brandon PeleshokNot re-signed: With the emergence of Dylan Larkin, it is difficult to picture the Red Wings bringing Richards back into the fold. Ken Holland signed Richards in hopes that he would boost Detroit’s depth down the middle. Currently, Richards has two assists through six games with the Red Wings but has been sidelined since October 21st due to a back injury. Considering the options the Wings have at center, it is probably a good bet that the team will part ways with Richards after this season.

Tony Wolak— Undecided: Having only played six games this season, it has yet to be determined how Brad Richards can impact the Red Wings in the long run. If he can stay healthy and put together a good season, Richards could play himself into another one-year contract. If not, look for the Red Wings to go with Zetterberg, Larkin, Sheahan, and Glendening down the middle next year.

Jacob Messing— Not re-signed: Richards will be 36 years old at the start of next season and was brought in for one reason: his play-off performance. Richards’ bonus option even says so (an extra $1 million for two play-off round wins). With the combination of Richards’ back injury and the impactful play of Larkin, the two-time Stanley Cup champion isn’t much of a fit in Hockeytown anymore.

Kyle Quincey

2014-15 Stats: 73 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 Pts.
2015-16 Stats: 7 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts.

Kyle Quincey
Kyle Quincey could find himself on the outside of Hockeytown looking in this summer (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Brandon— Not re-signed: Quincey is another player with younger players pushing for his spot. Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul will lose their waiver-exempt status next season, and force Holland to make some decisions with his defense corps. While his offensive numbers do not jump off the page, he is an adept penalty killer who plays with an edge. An ankle injury is going to keep him out of action for 9-12 weeks, which does not exactly help his chances of getting another contract from the Wings. At the end of the day, Holland will likely part ways with Quincey, allowing some of the younger defensive prospects to lock down full-time roster spots.

Tony— Not re-signed: Now one of Detroit’s best defensive defensemen, Quincey could be on the outside looking in this offseason. The Red Wings have a plethora of defensive depth, but no one with Quincey’s grit. However, look for the Red Wings to replace Quincey either internally or with a similar defenseman at a lower price.

Jacob— Not re-signed: Quincey was re-signed after Holland struck-out in free agency two summers ago. He has played solid defense for the Wings but cap space is limited and Detroit’s depth is knocking on the door. He will be replaced by the defensive-minded DeKeyser, who will chip in more points annually than Quincey, as well.

Darren Helm

2014-15 Stats: 75 GP, 15 G, 18 A, 33 Pts.
2015-16 Stats: 13 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt.

Brandon— Re-signed: This one is tough. Helm brings versatility to Detroit’s roster – he can use his speed to complement a scoring line, move up and down the line-up and is an adept penalty killer. Last season, he spent most of his time playing on a line with Datsyuk and Tatar but his situation is a little different this year. Recovering from a shoulder injury, Helm has skated in the Wings’ bottom-six for the most part. It is going to be difficult to determine the term and cap hit that he deserves. Considering Holland’s loyalty to his veteran players, I believe Helm will be back with the Wings next season.

Tony— Re-signed: Currently making $2.5 million ($2.125 million cap hit) this season for the Red Wings, Darren Helm is destined for a raise—whether that’s with the Red Wings or another team. His worth is north of $3 million per season, but Detroit could opt to spend elsewhere with its depth at forward. The likely decision: Detroit re-signs Helm to a two-year, $7 million deal and uses him in the top-nine going next season.

Jacob— Not re-signed: Currently in his ninth season in Detroit, Helm has been a workhorse since reaching the NHL, but being due for a raise isn’t helping Helm. He may be sacrificed for next season, to make way for a cheaper option. Offensively, no longer playing regularly with Datsyuk or Tatar, has caused his numbers to dip. Defensively, his speed seems to be replaceable by Athanasiou while his consistent penalty killing replaced by Glendening; but he will always be remembered for his amazing penalty kill during Game 5 of the 2009 Western Conference Finals.

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Drew Miller

2014-15 Stats: 82 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 Pts.
2015-16 Stats: 17 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt.

Brandon— Re-signed: Though many Red Wings fans consider Miller replaceable, I believe he will return to the team next season. He is, arguably, the team’s best penalty-killer, and has led all forwards in blocked shots for the past five seasons. There might be cheaper options in the Wings’ system, but none of those players can do Miller’s job as well as he does it.

Tony— Not re-signed: Unless Drew Miller signs a very team-friendly deal, the Red Wings will most likely move on from the New Jersey native. Miller has been an excellent penalty killer and grinder, but is getting up there in age and the Red Wings have plenty of younger, faster prospects to take his spot.

Jacob— Re-signed: Even though he will be 32 to start next season, Miller’s a near-perfect example of a fourth-liner. His board play, penalty killing and shot-blocking are exactly what you want in a grinder and the key reasons he is in his seventh season as a Red Wing. While he is arguably replaceable during the Wings’ youth movement, a veteran goes a long way and as long as he can make the money work, Holland would be making the right choice to re-sign him.

Joakim Andersson

2014-15 Stats: 68 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 Pts.
2015-16 Stats: 11 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts.

Brandon— Not re-signed: Andersson has proven to be a solid, penalty-killing forward during his tenure with Detroit. Outside of that, he has limited value to the Red Wings and is highly replaceable. Ferraro and Callahan are likely candidates to take over his spot on the penalty kill.

The Red Wings will likely let go of free-agent Joakim Andersson this summer (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
The Red Wings will likely let go of free-agent Joakim Andersson this summer (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Tony— Not re-signed: Currently signed to a team-friendly deal, Andersson could also find himself on the outside looking in. His skill set is pretty one-dimensional as a bottom-six grinder, even with his ability to kill penalties and play at center or wing. Unless Andersson establishes himself in the line-up this season, it would be hard to see the Red Wings re-signing him with their ripening prospects pushing for time.

Jacob— Not re-signed: The only consistent thing about Andersson’s game during his time in Detroit is his struggle to remain in the line-up. Nearly every facet of Andersson’s game is replaceable and Detroit has the depth to replace him and even save money doing so.

Dan Cleary

2014-15 Stats: 17 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Pts.
2015-16 Stats: 0 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts.

Brandon— Re-signed: It is tough to say what the future holds for Cleary. For the past three seasons, I have assumed the team would part ways with the 36-year-old winger. While his time in Detroit is over, Holland could sign him to another contract to play in Grand Rapids. So long as he is healthy, I imagine Cleary will continue to play hockey.

Tony— Not re-signed: Now in Grand Rapids, Cleary’s playing days in Detroit are over barring an incredible bad luck streak of injuries. It is more likely that Cleary joins the Red Wings’ front office than sign another NHL contract—in Detroit or elsewhere.

Jacob— Not re-signed: Oh, Dan Cleary, will he ever retire? After taking his own sweet time to report to Grand Rapids, Cleary may have finally realized his NHL career is over. When the Griffins’ 2015-16 season ends, I expect Cleary to hang up his skates and take a job in the front office that has been awaiting him since 2013.

Be sure to return next Monday for The Grind Line’s look at the restricted free agents and their chances of being re-signed.