Red Wings

The Red Wings offseason report: Targets in free agency, who to buy out and more!

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So here we are in the Summer of 2013 and the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup Champions which last time I checked is the same team the Red Wings had on the ropes in their 7 game series. Immediately you may wonder if Detroit would have won the Cup if they took care of Chicago. I’d say no but it certainly sounds nice and is fun to think about.

More importantly though the Wings and their fans learned a lot in that playoff run of what we had on our team. The kids finally got a shot to play and didn’t disappoint. We learned Nyquist and Andersson will probably be solid pieces on the 3rd and 4th lines then saw a primarily young defense come into its own after looking very vulnerable in the beginning of the year. Jakub Kindl blossomed in front of our eyes after being up and down between Detroit and Grand Rapids over the past 2 seasons. Essentially prior to his ups this past season, Kindl quickly became a member of Coach Mike Babcock’s doghouse until injuries forced a make it or break it scenario. The Wings also became familiar with a new defenseman who seemingly walked out of college and into a top 4 pairing­­­ for Detroit in Danny Dekeyser.

So here we are in the offseason with 14 forwards under contract, Helm skating in prospect camp in the middle of July and Jimmy Howard hopefully convincing you to buy in that he’s the man between the pipes. The defense is likely set with Kronwall, Ericsson, Dekeyser, Kindl, Quincey, Colaiacovo and Smith leaving UFA Ian White without a landing spot back in Detroit (he seemingly replaced Kindl in the Babcock doghouse).

Not to say though that the blue line is fine for Detroit, they could use a defenseman with a shot that can get through traffic and a player that could run the point on the power play. And it was that power play that saw a decline in production (especially from the point) with the loss of not only Nicklas Lidstrom last offseason but Brian Rafalski as well. Both of those guys produced in past seasons… we’re talking about 50 points off the power play that these two put up together. To further give you an idea on how their absence translated to this past year, Detroit had 19 PP assist from the whole defensive unit last year in 48 games (including three goals from the defense). Lidstrom by himself averaged 25 PP assists a season and 7 PP goals, even if you want to pro-rate that based on the shortened season Lidstrom still almost out scores the whole unit.

Now I know you can’t replace the greatness that is Nick Lidstrom but getting a shot at the point is a start and you can always look elsewhere for production. Get a shooter, get a sniper to work the wing of Datsyuk the put him and Zetterberg back together all while getting another player for the 2nd line. We’ll revisit options a little later.

To give fans a perceptive of what Detroit stands to lose:

Player Pos Team Age Cap Hit Expiry
Filppula, Valtteri » L DET 29 $3,000,000 2013 (UFA)
White, Ian » D DET 29 $2,875,000 2013 (UFA)
Cleary, Danny » L DET 34 $2,800,000 2013 (UFA)
Brunner, Damien » R DET 27 $1,350,000 2013 (UFA)
Pare, Francis » R DET 26 $557,500 2013 (UFA)
Mursak, Jan » L DET 25 $550,000 2013 (UFA)
Pearce, Jordan » G DET 26 $525,000 2013 (UFA)

Now to be fully honest, I wouldn’t mind Detroit saying goodbye to all to the top four players here. Filppula is asking for $5 million dollars a year and Brunner is going to take up a roster spot while asking for $2.5 million dollars. Detroit has cap space but can no longer be in the business of rewarding guys for being good soldiers. That goes for Cleary too who Detroit took in as a cast off and squeezed out all the talent he’s probably going to be able to give.

Detroit also has Restricted Free Agents:

Player Pos Team Age Cap Hit Expiry
Nyquist, Gustav » L DET 23 $875,000 2013 (RFA)
Smith, Brendan » D DET 24 $875,000 2013 (RFA)
Andersson, Joakim » C DET 24 $875,000 2013 (RFA)
McCollum, Thomas » G DET 23 $816,666 2013 (RFA)
Raedeke, Brent » D DET 23 $523,888 2013 (RFA)

Everyone here needs to be re-signed which will probably price out at doubling the salary for the top three. Smith had some rough moments in the playoffs this past year but also had brilliant moments while gaining valuable experience. Joakim Andersson gives Detroit size on the 3rd and 4th lines and is solid on the face offs. He’s slotted to be the 4th line center next year if Darren Helm is ready to go and resume 3rd line duties with Nyquist likely being one of Helm’s wingers. There is no reason not to expect 12-14 goals out of Nyquist along with some shifty play. He has 20 goals written all over him which essentially is how you compete, with cheap young talent to help round out your depth.

As I said above, Detroit has 14 forwards under contract. You have your mainstays on the Wings roster, but there are interesting candidates for buyouts which the team can use both this season or wait till next season (they don’t have to use both). Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Jordin Tootoo, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Johan Franzen are notable candidates for buyouts.

Now right off the bat I’ll tackle the Mule.

He receives a lot of criticism (includes from myself) but frankly his contract money wise isn’t terrible, it’s the fact that it goes all the way until he’s 40. He’s also the same player he always was, which is very streaky and floats from time to time. This was never noticed before when you had Hossa or Hudler and Filppula on the 3rd line, it hides the lapses when production comes elsewhere. Now Franzen isn’t the No. 6 forward out of the top 6, he’s No. 3, so it’s not a Franzen issue as much as a lack of depth issue.

Bertuzzi is an injury risk but isn’t costing Detroit much money while Tootoo is only making $1.9 million which is going to be a lot for a guy scratched half the games in the upcoming season. This all then falls onto Mikael Samuelsson and Carlo Colaiacovo who both struggled to get ice time because of injuries. Buying out both players gives Detroit another $5.5 million dollars of cap space, making the grand total of $16 million. Sammy is making $3 million and Covo is making $2.5 million.

So the Red Wings roster could shake out as follows:

Datsyuk, Abdelkader, Franzen
Zetterberg, Miller, Samuelsson
Helm, Nyquist, Bertuzzi
Andersson, Eaves, Tootoo
 
Kronwall, Ericsson
Dekeyser, Kindl
Quincey, Smith

Colaiacovo being the seventh defenseman and Emmerton/Tatar starting the year in Grand Rapids.

There’s definite room for improvement and with $10 million in cap space the Red Wings would be wise to use the amnesty on the above mentioned. Detroit will also have other options as Emmerton is an easy player to move and the Wings could even look into moving Ericsson, Kindl or Smith if the right defenseman comes along. It would be bold but what if the Keith Yandle to Detroit deal surfaces again? Or the Capitals are willing to move Mike Green?

As for Free Agents there isn’t much. Kaberle or Whitney are about as good as it gets for Detroit defense wise.

I can analyze the Red Wings roster up and down but the bottom line is the Wings need firepower that results in goals.

Red Wings’ Targets:

Vinny Lecavalier: (33, 6’3″, 215lbs) Normally I want to stay away from guys over 30 but Vincent Lecavalier is too enticing. The former Tampa Bay captain has a lot of what Detroit needs, size, a good shot and a guy that would anchor the 2nd line center job allowing for Babcock to juggle lines. A 2-3 year deal around $5 million per sounds about right.

Nathan Horton: (28, 6’2″, 230lbs) Horton is another big player, the type of guy the Wings will need in the Eastern Conference. He would also get the more ice time he will be looking for which was lost a little bit in Boston as the Bruins had a lot of depth. Plus Horton has that right handed shot Detroit seems to be lacking. Horton was also a beast this past post season. In 24 games Horton had 7 goals and 12 assist for 19 points to go with 25 hits. For his services you’re probably looking at 4 years at $6 million per season.

David Clarkston: (29 6’1″, 200lbs) This 29 year old is kind of a late bloomer but he’s also a big hitter that isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and shoot either. The question though is he an in your face 30 goal scorer or a one year wonder? I’m betting closer to the 30 goal man as he was tracking nicely in the shortened year. The starting point is $4 million per year.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard:  (29, 5’10″, 175lbs) Not a big name nor is he an answer but the Wings love a project and Bouchard is their type of move. He is a good player to have on the power play, moves the puck well and is creative. The problem is staying healthy. If Detroit thinks they can do a Dan Cleary move here and keep him on the ice, he will reward them. He shouldn’t cost a bunch as a 2 year/$6 million dollar deal could get it done.

Stephan Weiss: (30, 5’11″, 191lbs) Weiss is the fall back if the Wings miss out on Lecavalier. He is a hard working player the wings covet and is a 4 time 20 goal scorer but coming off an injury last season. He sports the offense the Wings hoped to get from Filppula and is no stranger to putting up big power play numbers. A 2-3 year deal around $3 million per will probably be what Weiss will command.

Mike Ribeiro: (33 6’ 180lbs) A playmaker that will be allowed to leave Washington, Ribeiro is making 5 million a season and after last year, there is no reason to think he’ll take anything less. With 13 goals and 36 assist last season Ribeiro should be a target after Lecavalier and Weiss. He would also fit nicely with Clarkston or Horton.

Michael Ryder: (33, 6’, 200lbs) Ryder should a be affordable if Detroit wants him. He has the right handed shot Detroit is lacking but doesn’t offer much after the ability to shoot the puck. If he’s teamed with the right center Ryder can be a problem for opposing teams. Much like Bouchard, Ryder is a second move after you get your guy but he has much more scoring to offer. Rumors say he could be had for about the current $3.5 million he is playing for.

Jaromir Jagr: (41, 6’3″, 240lbs) He is over 40 but can still drive the net and put the puck in it. What we know about Jagr at this stage is he’s a hired gun and goes to the highest bidder. If Detroit has extra money after a buyout and wants to add depth, I’d be ok with bringing him aboard. He likes to float at this stage and can’t give Detroit what they will need for 80 games. He will also require top 6 minutes but only play on the PP and have to miss a few shifts a game.

Teemu Selanne: (42) No need to bother with Selanne. The Fin is Anaheim’s version of Lidstrom, flirts with retirement and eventually plays. He will only skate for the Ducks.

Danny Briere: (35) Briere is a player on the smaller size. I don’t like the age and he appears to be on the decline fast. Going to the East, I don’t think he is a guy that is part of the solution. He is a center by trade and terrible on the faceoff.

Dustin Penner: (30, 6’4″, 245lbs) He was once considered a bright star averaging 24 goals a year for a 5 year period with Anaheim and Edmonton. A change of scene candidate here as he should be cheap and provide a big body and depth.

Jarome Iginla: (35, 6’1″, 207lbs) The face of Flames hockey for 15 years was finally dealt to Pittsburgh at the deadline this past year. All he does is continue to score goals, hit and set up teammates. Even at 35 he is still a player any team would want on their top 6. With 530 goals scored so far, 165 on the PP, himself with Datsyuk sounds like 35 goals in the bank doesn’t it? There where rumors about him and Detroit this past year some of those saying he he wanted no part of Motown. The question is, does he want a cup or to go back to Calgary? Will he take a 1 year, $6-7 million dollar deal? Or does he re-up with Calgary for 3 years at $18 million?

Prediction: I’d love Lecavalier and Horton and the Wings got the money to pull it off too. With the buyout the Red Wings could sneak away with a 3rd party too, maybe Ryder.
To be realistic though I think Stephan Weiss and Michael Ryder are what Detroit fans can hope for. The crop is thin and teams will over pay. Detroit doesn’t want to get caught giving money to multiple players in their mid 30’s or older. Lecavalier will be a No. 1 target and Horton a 1a.

After that it’s about fit.

Weiss or Bouchard move the puck in a stale PP and Ryder can light the lamp… the dark horse is trade possibilities.
Imagine a top 6 of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lecavalier, Franzen, Horton, Abdelkader and a bottom 6 Helm, Nyquist, Bertuzzi, Miller, Eaves and Andersson.

About Jason Bray

Detroit Sports Columist. Joined The Majors staff in 2012 covering the Detroit Lions.

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