Possible Detroit Red Wings Offseason Plans

The 2013 Detroit Red Wings team struggled through injuries all year.  They had the most missed games because of injury in the entire NHL, and still managed to take Chicago to the brink in round 2.

I’ve generated a few scenarios for the Red Wings offseason and I’ll let you know which one I would do if I was in Kenny Holland’s shoes.  Holland has a tough job this summer with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 Million and a lot of young players to re-sign.  My initial thoughts though are that Ken Holland won’t change the lineup and will merely re-sign players and keep the team the same heading into next season.

For those of you that don’t know, teams have two compliance buyouts that can be used either this year or next year.  They could also use one this year and one next year, both this year or both next year.  Basically it helps teams free up money, since the cap is going down from $70.2 Million to $64.3 Million, and the player’s salary won’t count against the Cap.  Here are some more details on the compliance buyouts and the new CBA.

Roster from Playoffs:

Obviously some of the cap figures I’m using are just an estimation at this point of what I think they deserve, since Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner, Danny Cleary, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl are still without contracts.  As I said earlier, I have a strange feeling that the above roster will be eerily similar to the one that we see the Red Wings come into the season with.  Don’t make any changes, re-sign everyone and trust your coaches to develop the young players.  While the young players showed they are on the rise, it is a mistake to think that the team that lost to the Blackhawks in the second round could win the Stanley Cup next season.  Jimmy Howard is the sole reason that the Red Wings went as far as they did.  They struggled to score goals and they played very poorly in their defensive zone.

There was some talk about the Red Wings buying out Johan Franzen and signing a guy like David Clarkson to replace him, because Franzen will be 41 when his contract is up and had an awful year.  That lineup would look something like this:

If you hate Franzen though, don’t hold your breath, Kenny Holland responded to the rumor with this:

Sounds like buying out Franzen is a definite no.  Moving on.

Another thought would be to buy out two of their free agent signings from last year, Carlo Colaiacovo and Mikael Samuelsson.  Colaiacovo was a 7th-8th defenseman for most of the year, and giving him $2.5 Million for that depth role is ridiculous.  If Danny DeKeyser doesn’t break his thumb, Colaiacovo doesn’t get a sniff of the playoffs.  Samuelsson got paid $750,000 a game, with his $3,000,000 cap hit for four regular season games where he contributed two points.  Brutal.  Buying both of them out would allow for signing David Clarkson, a player I desperately want and the Red Wings desperately need.  Clarkson is a right handed power forward, standing 6’1″ and 201 lbs.  Clarkson also has 45 goals and 70 points the last two seasons, while adding 216 PIMs.  The season before the lockout he had 30 goals, 169 hits and 138 PIMs.  An enforcer that can score?  Yes, please.

Another scenario would be to buy out Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi.  As much as it would sting some Red Wings fans to buy out Bertuzzi, he was injured this year and showed his age.  Bertuzzi and Samuelsson were both healthy scratches in the playoffs, so I don’t see how they will get into the lineup next fall.  More importantly, he would free up some necessary cap room to sign David Clarkson and it would also keep Colaiacovo around for some depth on the blue line, since the free agency crop this year isn’t steller.

This final scenario for me is the most likely, other than leaving the roster the same.  Buy out Samuelsson, who was awful and injured, and use the remaining cap to sign all of your players and make a push for Clarkson.  If Clarkson doesn’t re-sign with New Jersey, he is the perfect player to add to the roster and the rest of the roster would be pretty solid throughout.

You probably noticed that in all of these scenarios, Danny Cleary was let go.  If the Red Wings choose to re-sign him, they probably won’t be able to sign Clarkson, unless Filppula leaves, and quite frankly Cleary was bad this year.  He was slow and didn’t put the puck in the net like he had in past years.  He contributed in the playoffs offensively pretty nicely, but at this point he is too old to be worth re-signing for anything less than peanuts.  Plus, Filppula, Nyquist, Kindl, Smith and Brunner will probably all need raises and Cleary seems to be the odd man out.  It’s almost a necessity to buy out Samuelsson if they want to keep their younger players.  It’s time for the Red Wings to cut the cord with some of the older players and get younger.

This final lineup is my perfect scenario lineup, what I would do if I’m running the Red Wings.  I would buy out Samuelsson and Bertuzzi.  Quincey is listed on the buyout page, but only because I couldn’t find a way to show that I would trade him.  Trade Quincey to a team with a lot of cap room and get whatever you can for him and call it a day.  He’s way overpaid and that $3.7 mill cap hit is just brutal.  It’s time to mitigate your losses and just move on.  Once you make those moves, you re-sign the young guys; Nyquist, Brunner, Andersson, Kindl and Smith.  Give Filppula a small raise to keep him around and then make a push for a few free agents.

I’m probably one of the few that wants to keep Filppula around at almost any cost, but not because I think he’s an amazing player.  It is still unclear how many years Pavel Datsyuk will continue to play in the NHL, though he will sign an extension with the Red Wings this summer.  If Datsyuk retires within the next three years, you will then be forced to try and sign someone to fill a role as a 2nd line center, because there aren’t any centers in the system that will be a top two line forward.  Filppula is 29, and signing him would allow the Red Wings to protect themselves for when Datsyuk retires.  I’m not saying that Filppula will be able to replace Datsyuk as a player, but do you really want Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson to be your four centers three years from now?  I didn’t think so.  As we learned last year with Ryan Suter, high-profile free agents aren’t falling all over themselves or taking paycuts to play for the Red Wings, so you can’t just assume they could get someone in the future.  If the Wings let Filppula walk they could pay for it down the road.

Obviously, David Clarkson is the top of my free agent wish list this summer and I think he is a must-sign.  I would then pursue, Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss, who is a free agent and would be a solid fit as a third line center.  He can put up points when healthy and won’t cost you a ton.  Weiss had 57 points in 80 games last year and only played 17 games this year before injuring his wrist. Finally, I would add Ryan Whitney on the blue line.  Whitney is 30 years old and when he first came into the league he was a fantastic puck moving defenseman.  His stats and his game have taken a hit since he has gotten hurt the past few years and played with the Edmonton Oilers, but I think he could revitalize his game in Detroit.  He’s the type of defenseman that the Red Wings like and he would be a great guy to pair with Kindl or Smith.

There’s a lot of time before next season, and a lot of what they do will depend on contract demands from the younger players, Valtteri Filppula, and potential trades at the NHL Draft.  I don’t expect the Red Wings to make a major splash in free agency, especially after the disaster of missing out on Ryan Suter last summer and a weak free agency class this year, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

[**END NOTE: NHL Regular Season rosters are only allowed to have a maximum of 23 players on it.  Each of these roster scenarios have more than 23 players, meaning that players would be traded, not re-signed or sent down to make them work.  To make these scenarios work Brian Lashoff starts the year in the minors (he’s the 8th D on each roster) and Joakim Andersson (5th line center on the chart) will join him.  This would get them to the 23 man limit and they would be the first players called up when necessary.  It should also be noted that Tomas Tatar will now have to clear waivers to be sent down, so if he starts the year on the Red Wings roster, he will be there for the entire season.  My guess is he starts the year with the Grand Rapids Griffins again, but that all depends on free agency.]

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