Now that the NHL has formally announced the 31st team in the league, I think it’s time I sit down and write about this plan I’ve got for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings have some major moves to make with their RFA’s and Pavel Datsyuk’s contract. I’m not mad that Datsyuk is going home, he does not owe the Red Wings anything. Ken Holland says the asking price is high and that he will not move a key prospect to get rid of the cap hit, which is good to hear. The Red Wings are better off eating the contract for one-year than moving a prospect to unload the contract to chase Steven Stamkos, who may not even want to come. The ideal trade would be to trade Datsyuk and Jurco for a 4th round pick to Carolina or Phoenix and call it a day.
With the impeding Expansion Draft next year before the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, there will be more trades in the next 365 days than ever before. Teams are going to move assets that they know they will not be able to protect so that they do not lose them in the Expansion Draft for nothing. I’m going to keep this post short and sweet because with all the moves I’m expecting, this could be totally worthless in about 7 hours when the 2016 NHL Entry Draft starts.
In order to make any moves, the Red Wings first need to lock up Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek. Their best bet is to give DeKeyser Kyle Quincey’s money and offer about a 5-year $21-23 million contract. Perhaps even a bit more if they have to. For Mrazek, they need to offer a bridge contract of about 2 for $5 million ($2.5 AAV). Mrazek will want more money, but this would be a good way to push his big pay day back until the Datsyuk contract issue is finalized, either by trade or it expires.
In my mind, the Casey Cizikas contract pretty much ruined any chance of re-signing Darren Helm; but I’m still holding out hope. The most I would give him would be $3 million a year and not a cent more. I’ve loved Helm since he was a rookie and thought he was a perfect Draper replacement, but you simply cannot afford to give him more money than that for the role that he plays.
The Free Agents on defense are quite underwhelming now that Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski have signed. This is where I call up the Anaheim Ducks or Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks will not be able to protect Cam Fowler in the Expansion Draft and the Jets likely will not be able to protect Jacob Trouba. I would call them up and offer Nyquist and Ericsson (while retaining about half of E’s contract) for Fowler or Trouba. That may not be enough, but it’s worth a shot. Perhaps add a pick as a sweetener to get the deal done. Both players would immediately bolster the back end, and while Fowler is a better and more reliable player, Trouba is only 22 years old and has plenty of time to continue developing. And while you are thinking, why would the Jets or Ducks do this to their Cap? Well it would only add about $2 million to their cap, room that both of them have, and it would give them another Top 6 forward for a defenseman they could lose for nothing next year.
Outside of Trouba and Fowler, the only other realistic option on defense that I see right now is Kevin Shattenkirk. He’s going to want a monster contract after Keith Yandle got about 7 for $44 million and I would imagine that he would want a 7 for $48 mill deal at the minimum. Being a righty, younger than Yandle, and having similar offensive output means that Shatty is about to get paid. He might be a little tougher to pry away from the Blues, but he is absolutely worth a shot.
The last move I would look at making, which will not happen, would be to trade Jimmy Howard. He deserves a chance to start on a different team and the Red Wings need to unload more money. You could probably move Jimmy and a 2nd for a 2nd or a 3rd. Depending on the team you call up…my eyes would be on Buffalo. This would be a move that would benefit both the Red Wings and Jimmy, I think he needs a fresh start.
Either way, it’s that point in time where the young guys will start needing new contracts and Ken Holland has to start unloading some of the bad ones that are currently on the books.
If the Red Wings swing and miss at Stamkos, there’s a few forwards that they should take a run at. David Backes, Kyle Okposo, Eric Staal, Milan Lucic, and Loui Ericsson should all be looked at. I personally do not think Alexander Radulov is worth the risk, especially without Pavel Datsyuk on the team to control him. I also would not be surprised if the Red Wings kicked the tires on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Rick Nash or Martin Hanzal.
The bottom line here is that the Red Wings have a lot of different directions that they can go with their team once they unload the necessary anchor contracts to do it. I think Stamkos is a pipe dream, so re-signing their UFA and RFA forwards and then adding a guy like Kyle Okposo would be my preference. Add some thickness up front but still keep the skill. That allows you to try and move someone on the back end to get more skilled with a guy like Fowler or Trouba.
So here is my best case scenario lineup:
And now a more realistic scenario:
The easiest way to sum it up is that the Red Wings need a Top 6 forward to replace Datsyuk, with Anthony Mantha taking on an expanded role and replacing Nyquist in the Top 6.. Then they need an upgrade on defense in the Top 4 because Ericsson and Kronwall are trending down and fast. And lastly, they need to sign their own UFA/RFAs and pray. It’s going to be very interesting to see how all of this plays out, but I would expect some roster turnover in the coming days.
Photo via: ABC