NHL free agency doesn't start until July 1, but don't tell that to Detroit Red Wings fans.
After three straight years of being eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs (including a five-game series loss to the Nashville Predators this year) free agency cannot come soon enough for Red Wings fans.
As much as fans hate losing players to other teams via free agency, the pain is even worse of losing players to a division rival.
Have no fear "Motown." This time it will be the Detroit Red Wings getting players from free agency instead of losing them to other teams.
Please keep in mind that I have not addressed possible trades in this article, merely free-agent signings.
Here are six players that they will target come July 1 or even at the NHL draft.
At least one part of the Predators' "defensive triangle" will not be in Nashville next season.
With Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne signing a seven-year, $49 million extension to stay in Nashville, GM David Poile now has some decisions to make.
With a projected cap number around $32 million to work with, Poile must attempt to re-sign (or fill the roster spots of) 15 free agents.
Eight of those are unrestricted, and seven are restricted.
Some of these could hypothetically be "rental players" and thus be let go regardless after the season's conclusion, but Ryan Suter will likely want somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million to $6.5 million to stay in Nashville.
Having to re-sign Shea Weber, that would decrease Nashville's cap number down to the neighborhood of $18 million to sign 13 players.
Doing the math then, it is easy to see why Suter would come to Detroit.
If Detroit's Nick Lidstrom retires, it frees up another $6.2 million in cap space.
Even if Lidstrom doesn't retire at this season's conclusion, bringing in Suter would calm down a back end that had been tumultuous for the Red Wings down the stretch, and faltered when it counted most in Round 1 against Nashville.
Alexander Semin might be the biggest gamble that Detroit could take out of any player that I put on this list.
Having said that, he will help the Red Wings more than any other free agent could if Detroit were fortunate enough to get him.
Semin provides a few things that the Red Wings lack, all rolled up into one.
Semin is right-handed. Detroit struggled this year trying to get good looks with just one or two (depending on the night) right-handed shooters in their lineup.
Detroit's power play was awful this year compared to years past.
At 22nd in the NHL and only 16.1 percent conversion, Detroit's power play really struggled at parts of the season. At one point, the Wings went 30 straight chances without a goal.
Semin only put up two power play goals this season, so I'm sure you're thinking, OK, so how will he help the power play?
See the "right-handed shot" part for that one. Most of Detroit's chances weren't really chances because players weren't in a position to shoot on the one-timer. This caused havoc with their setup, and as a result a poor overall power play.
A True Sniper
There's just something about a player who can score almost at will. Maybe it's the fact that as Detroit fans, we haven't really had a true sniper since Marian Hossa left, and before him maybe Brett Hull.
If you need more proof of why Detroit needs a legitimate right-handed sniper, maybe you need to watch more Red Wings games. The Red Wings frustrated fans with their passing and lack of shots this season. I often found myself yelling at the television "SHOOT!"
Semin would bring the wood on his shots, and he wouldn't be hesitant to unload his shot either.
Zach Parise is pretty much everything you want in a top-line forward.
After last season's knee injury that caused Parise to miss all but 13 games, there was some doubt as to whether he would be able to return to his former 80- to 90-point self.
Parise put up 69 points this season, a far cry from the 94 that he put up in 2008-09, but this could make it easier financially for the Red Wings to acquire him.
The New Jersey Devils have a little bit of a player problem as far as next season goes.
Parise is one of 11 unrestricted free agents on the Devils, and New Jersey has around $22 million in cap space to use next season.
Keep in mind that money is including no Martin Brodeur, who carries a $5.2 million cap hit as well.
Detroit had over $5 million in cap space at the start of this season, so bringing in either Parise or a player of his quality (Semin) would really help the Red Wings out next season.
There's something about watching Dennis Wideman "toe-pick" it into the corner in a shootout that brings a smile to your face.
Shootouts aside, however, Wideman would make a very nice replacement for Brad Stuart (who could be leaving to be closer to his family in California this offseason).
Wideman is an offensive defenseman, with 11 goals and 46 points this season, but can also bring it defensively with 113 hits and 132 blocked shots this season.
One thing to be slightly concerned about is Wideman's turnover number, which ended up being minus-38 through the regular season.
Sounds a little bit like Brian Rafalski to me (high offense, high turnovers), although his cap hit would be more friendly than Rafalsi's $6 million, as Wideman makes somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million.
David Jones had just 16 points in the 42 games that he played prior to the NHL All-Star Game.
But after the game Jones went on a tear, with 21 points in 30 games to end the season. He was part of the late-season push to get the Avalanche in the playoffs that fell a little bit short in the end.
Jones is a right-handed shot, and his 210-pound frame could help Detroit get to the net more often and get traffic in front of opposing goalies.
His $2.5 million cap hit last year is a little bit worrisome for someone who would play the second line at the very best, but it's not unheard of completely.
Jones is also 27 years old, meaning he's not a rookie anymore, but he may not be as tired as some of the other veteran players, and he may want the Cup just a shade more.
Jokinen has been one of the faces of the Calgary Flames since the start of the 2008-09 season began. But Jokinen will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, and if Calgary is looking to "blow up" the team and rebuild, the effort might start before July 1.
The Red Wings could really use a second-line center, as neither Johan Franzen nor Valtteri Filppula really claimed it this past season.
Although Jokinen's faceoff percentage isn't exactly where he would like it (somewhere in the mid-46 percent range) his vision and hands on the ice offensively really do show up on the score sheet, as he put up 61 points in 82 games with the Flames.
If Jokinen leaves, he will command something pricey from Detroit, probably in the way of Filppula and/or someone else. I'm not sure that's a trade Red Wings GM Ken Holland is willing to make. However, it would potentially be worth something to explore.
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