Detroit Red Wings Off-season Needs
With the retirement of Detroit Captain and Icon Nicklas Lidström, and the speculated departure of forward Jiri Hudler and Defenseman Brad Stuart, the Red Wings should be active in the upcoming free agent market. This article explores potential transactions General Manager Ken Holland could make this summer.
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The Season That Was
Disappointing is an appropriate word to describe the 2011-2012 campaign on the Detroit Red wings. After leading their the Central Division of Western Conference for most of season leading up to the all-star break, the wings succumbed to many injuries. Notably, Lidström missed 12 games due to an ankle injury while Helm (knee), Ericsson (wrist), Kindl (upper-body) and Franzen (back) also missed time. These injuries never allowed the Wings to get into a consistent style of play leading into the playoffs. Never becoming 100% healthy the Wings were handled easily by the Nashville Predators 4-1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, with Stanley Cup Finals underway, the Wings are already drafting off-season plans. The following outlines possible departures and additions to the team for the 2012-2013 season.
As the 2011-2012 season came to a close, all attention focused on whether or not 20 year Red Wing Lidström would return for another season. For the past couple of season Lidström has signed one-year contracts during the off-season. With the announcement that Lidström has decided to retire, Red Wings general Manager Ken Holland will have to fill some big shoes before the Wings take the ice for their next regular season game in October. Lidström netted 265 goals and 878 assists in 1564 games played with a +/- of 450.
Along with Lidström, another longer term Wing, Tomas Holmström, is a free-agent this off-season. The aging Wing is expected to retire along with Lidström. The Red Wings are expected to focus on becoming a younger team and while Holmström front of the net presence is valuable second to none, players such as Bertuzzi and Franzen are poised to take over in this regard. Bertuzzi and Franzen are younger players who are still able to contribute in all facets of the game, something that Holmström cannot.
It looks like Niklas Kronwall will be getting a new defensive partner for next season. Brad Stuart, has spent the past five seasons with wings, the majority of the time playing along side of Kronwall. Stuart has been rumored to want to sign with a California based team to be closer to his family which currently lives there. Expect Stuart to sign with a contender for next season such as the San Jose Sharks or the resurgent Los Angeles Kings.
Jiri Hudler, 28, is expected to test the free agent market this summer. With as great 2011-12 season, 25 assists and 25 goals, Hudler expects to get a pay raise. With the Wings expected to target big-name free agents and give more time to younger players such as Helm, Abdelkader, Emmerton, and Nyquist, makes Hudler expendable. Don’t expect the Wings to match the offers Hudler receives from teams that need more depth the most.
Ty Conkiln’s rough season which started with him having the job as the backup goaltender to Jimmy Howard, expect the Red Wings to go in a different direction. Conklin posted a 5-6-1 record with a goals against average of 3.28 and a save percentage of .884% Expect the Wings to go to a younger option that is rather inexpensive.
Will have over 20 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season, the red wings are poised to be a force a free agency for the first time in years.
Devils Captain Zach Parise is expected to be the Wings main target this off-season. With a lackluster offensive performance in the playoffs the Wings need offensive help. Parise would help the Wings in the points category but also help with leadership. The Devils are expected to lose about 20 million dollars this season and most likely not be able to sign Parise to the contract he expects. However, with the Devils deep playoff run this season, Parise may want to take a pay cut to stay loyal to the team he currently captains.
Ryan Suter, is the most coveted defensive free agent this off-season. Suter is by far the most talented defensive free agent who haves the ability to contribute offensively and be a rock-solid defender. Suter is rumored to be looking for a long term deal. This scenario plays directly into the hands of the Wings who have a history of having a willingness to offer players long term contracts. Henrik Zetterberg signed a 12 year, 73 million dollar contract in 2009 while Kronwall signed a 7 year 33.25 contract in 2011. Expect the Wings to be active in trying to sign Suter who is the most viable option as a Lidström replacement.
With many teams in play on Parise, Alexander Semin is a viable contingency plan for the Wings. Even if the Wings are able to sign Parise, Semin could still be enticed to sign a deal to play for Detroit. This option seems to be logical since it would give the currently unhappy Semin to play along side countryman Pavel Datsyuk, who together they won the IIHF hockey championships with Russia this year.
The Red Wings have many options for a backup goaltender for next seems. The most likely option is Joey MacDonald who is already under contract next season. MacDonald is only expected only to make a little more than a half of million dollars for the season. With this low cap hit a his prior seasons statistics, 8-5-1 record, .912 save percentage, goals against average of 2.16, MacDonald is a solid goalie option. Other options include Brent Johnson, and Dan Ellis.
Final Note: To be successful this off-season the Wings will need to be willing to spend to get the free agents they want. I expect that this will occur and the traditional of excellence in Detroit will continue. Additionally, there are open spots on the team that will most likely not be filled via free agency. Expect players such as Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith to get regular playing time.