The Detroit Red Wings postseason ended abruptly. Five games in and the team was at home on the couch watching.
But even more abrupt are the questions that the team is posed with during the upcoming offseason.
Free agency, re-signing current roster players and letting other players walk are all part of decisions that will be made before July 1st.
Let's examine eight questions that Ken Holland will have to answer before during free agency.
Ken Holland has no influence on whether Nick Lidstrom decides to play another season or if he calls it a career.
But if Lidstrom comes back, there's only one reason to do so: win a Stanley Cup.
As of right now, the Red Wings have just over $20.7 million in cap space (per CapGeek.com).
If Lidstrom comes back, paying him the $6.2 million that he made this season wouldn't make sense if Detroit tried to re-sign a few of their restricted free agents, mainly Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and potentially Kyle Quincey, if his rights are not traded before free agency.
So ballpark those three salaries in the $5 million to $6 million range combined.
That leaves Detroit with $15 million or so to work with.
If Detroit is going after Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, then Lidstrom would have to take a pay cut to play with Detroit.
How much? Well Lidstrom already has made $42.5 million (per CapGeek.com) since the start of the 2006-07 season, and he doesn't need the money.
Will he be a member of the Red Wings in the fall for a huge pay cut?
And how much will that pay cut be?
Brad Stuart has a complicated family situation in California.
I'll sum it up for you: his family can't live outside of the state of California.
But before the 2012 NHL Draft, can Detroit trade his rights (to negotiate with him) to one of those three teams and expect to get anything in return?
A package deal could potentially work.
For all intents and purposes, Kyle Quincey was Detroit's first round draft pick in 2012.
At least that's how I like to look at it.
Quincey hasn't quite lived up to the hype as a Red Wing, and he will be a restricted free agent this July.
He currently has a cap hit of $3.125 million.
He's not quite living up to his cap hit either.
If he is going to be re-signed, the bottom line is that he's going to have to take a pay cut.
Jiri Hudler had a great season this year, for most players' standards, with 25 goals and 25 assists.
But will Detroit even make an attempt to re-sign him?
Well, it really depends on what the Red Wings get on their free agent haul between Parise, Suter and Semin. Detroit could get all or even none of these players.
If the cap ceiling goes up just enough, Hudler could be back next season with Detroit, regardless of the free agency outcome.
If Hudler is not going to be a Red Wing next season, Ken Holland should attempt to trade him while his value is still high, as he is coming off a 50 point season.
Parise in Green, Suter wearing "C" from Team USA's National Development Team in 2003.
Team USA is the only team that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have ever played on together.
Both players are equally talented at their respective positions.
Parise might have a slight edge, but he and Suter could potentially see around the same money on the open market, somewhere in the $6-7 million dollar range.
But would they take less to play on the same team and give Detroit the potential to sign or re-sign some other players that would help them out?
The name "Alexander Semin" comes to mind.
This question remains on the table, but only so far as if the Red Wings can sign Parise and Suter.
Dream scenario for a Red Wings fan right here.
The last time Detroit overpaid for a free agent, they spent the next three years paying for it.
That free agent was Marian Hossa during the 2008-2009 season. He signed a one year-$7.45 million contract.
Not saying Hossa wasn't worth it, but the end result was a Game 7 loss to the Penguins on home ice at the Joe Louis Arena in the Stanley Cup Finals.
So you can understand when some Detroit fans are a little bit cautious about overspending for a big name free agent (or two or three).
Detroit will be tempted to throw big money at Suter, Parise and possibly Semin. But, although the temptation is great, the long-term results could be unfortunate.
Hudler is the safest bet that Detroit has, and since his work ethic has picked up, he's a lock to score 20 goals and a fairly safe bet to put up 50 points again.
Oh well. No risk, no reward in my opinion.
If there's one person that Jimmy Howard does not want to become like over the rest of his playing career, it's Roberto Luongo.
Luongo just can't come up big when his team needs him to (albeit occasionally he is hung out to dry by his team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs) come up big.
Jimmy Howard has now played in three playoffs as a number one goalie and has not advanced past the second round.
Howard had been fairly consistent over his playoff career until this year against Nashville.
A 1-4 record and an 88.8 save percentage do not look great at all.
Giving up 13 goals in five games against Nashville doesn't do anything to ameliorate his statistics.
However, statistics aren't everything. Howard was hung out to dry numerous times by his defense, but his inability to make the saves on shots that he could have had is what fans will remember when thinking of his playoff performances.
So, what if Jimmy Howard turns in another bad playoff performance next year in his contract season?
Does he get another contract similar to the very reasonable $2.25 million he's making now, or does he end up playing for another team because he wants more money?
Time for Ken Holland to start looking for a capable franchise goalie for the "just-in-case" scenario.
The last time anyone saw Steve Yzerman in a Red Wings uniform was after a 2006 playoff loss to the upstart Edmonton Oilers.
Yzerman finished his historic career and hung 'em up, taking over a spot in the Red Wings front office.
He has since moved on to the Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager position, but he gave Lidstrom the "C" to wear proudly.
Lidstom has a Cup and another Stanley Cup Finals appearance since taking over the captaincy, but many wonder if that Game 5 loss to Nashville was the last time we'll see Lidstrom playing a game for the Red Wings.
Of course there is always next year's Winter Classic, in which he could play as a Red Wings "alumni," but who will take over the captaincy?
This isn't something to take lightly, as there have only been two Red Wings captains since the 1986-87 season.
But what-ifs aside, Holland and Mike Babcock need to decide which player is best suited to be Detroit's next captain.
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