2012 NHL Free Agency: How the Newest Detroit Red Wings Will Help the Team

PJ Sapienza@@pjsapiContributor IIIJuly 2, 2012

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 16:  Jordin Tootoo #22 of the Nashville Predators skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on January 16, 2012 in Uniondale, New York. The Predators defeated the Islanders 3-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 2012 free-agency season has begun. 

While most are waiting to hear about Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, neither of them has made a decision yet.  The Detroit Red Wings were still busy on opening day, adding four players the roster.

Jordin Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson, Mikael Samuelsson and Damien Brunner will be the newest Red Wings.  All four signed to reasonable deals with Tootoo’s three-year deal being the longest.  The big question will be how these signings affect their chances of landing Parise and/or Suter.

Jordin Tootoo signed a three-year deal worth $5.7 million.  The Red Wings have been labeled soft over the past few seasons; Tootoo will change that with his tough physical play.  He is not a goal scorer as his career best is 11.  He is coming off of his best point season with 30 for Nashville in 2011-12. 

His role will be to be the gritty, irritating player who is willing to trade punches when needed.

Swiss forward Damien Brunner was sought after by several teams after his performance in the World Championships.  The Red Wings were able to sign him to a one-year deal for under $1 million.  Coach Mike Babcock expects Brunner to be a top-six forward.

Brunner has been a scoring machine in the Swiss league; this past season he had 24 goals and 60 points in only 45 games.  He is only 5’10" but is very fast and great with the puck.

The team was in need of a solid backup goaltender but they did better than most expected when they signed Jonas Gustavsson.  He has played parts of three seasons with Toronto.  At 6’3" he is an imposing figure in the net. 

His stats are not overly impressive, but considering that he was playing for a bad Maple Leafs team, they are not that bad.  This past season he was able to post four shutouts and should provide a capable backup to Jimmy Howard. 

The final day-one deal was to bring back Mikael Samuelsson.  He played four seasons with Detroit, including the 2008 Stanley Cup-winning season.  He has scored as many as 30 goals in a season but has been slowed by injuries of late.  This past season he only played in 51 games; however he did manage 14 goals and 31 points.

He is the one contract that is a little worrisome.  $3 million a year is too much to pay but it is only a two-year deal.  If he can regain his 20-30 goals-per-year success then it is a good signing.

These players will immediately help the team but they are not the two names that everyone has been hoping for. 

At this point it appears that they have a better chance at signing Suter than they do Parise.  The need to sign Suter is even greater now that many of the plan B type of defenders that they Wings were looking at have signed elsewhere.  Dennis Wideman, Justin Schultz and Jason Garrison have signed deals in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver respectively. 

That makes signing Suter an even bigger priority now. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos is reporting that the Red Wings will land Suter.  That will help alleviate the worries on defense.

Now for those keeping score, they signed three offensive players yet they really appear to only be losing Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom.  TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the Red Wings are in pursuit of Rick Nash.  The team may be adding these players to fill the holes of players that will be exiting in the event of a Nash trade.


Nash is on the trading block, but the Columbus Blue Jackets' asking price is bound to be steep.  In order to secure him they will not only have to trade away some top prospects, but also some current roster players.  These signings may be a way to help offset such a trade.

The other player on the watch list is Shane Doan.  He will not be making a decision until at least July 9th.  He is waiting on issues facing the possible new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes.  The team cannot wait that long as they have to move now to secure the players they need.

If there is still room and money to sign them, it is likely that the Red Wing still will have interest.  Until then, the Parise and Suter watch will continue.

PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.

You can follow him on Twitter.

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