For the diehard hockey fans out there that have been keeping tabs on the NHL and NHLPA meetings, there has been little cause for rejoicing other than the continuous meetings between the two sides over the past few days (via Winnipeg Free Press).
Having said that, if the two sides somehow manage to come to a deal before the NHL decides to cancel the remainder of the season, there are a number of issues that Red Wings GM Ken Holland should sort out prior to getting too far into the season.
The main issue has to be the incredible surplus of forwards on the Red Wings' roster. Currently, the Red Wings have 16 signed NHL forwards and seven signed NHL defensemen.
So given the fact that four of these forwards will not make the starting lineup every night, and at least two of those forwards will not make it onto the Red Wings' roster, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock will have some player battles to watch during this coming training camp and season.
Here are four Red Wings that could be playing elsewhere than Detroit by the end of the 2012-13 season.
Dan Cleary saw his point total dip to its lowest total since his first season with the Red Wings in 2005-06 with just 12 goals and 33 points.
This was despite Cleary playing the most games (75) that he has played in a regular season with Detroit since his rookie season.
More games but less points, one year left on a deal with a cap hit of $2.8 million this season (but an actual salary of $3 million) and a no-trade clause that expired last season.
These are all signs that Cleary may be in the midst of his last days with the Red Wings.
Don't write off Cleary completely after his knee surgery this offseason, as according to him, he feels "fantastic" (per ProHockeyTalk.com). But the top-six forward roster spot that Cleary is ultimately seeking may be given to someone who's injury history isn't as extensive.
If Cleary struggles, he could be out of Detroit by season's end.
When Todd Bertuzzi signed a two-year extension worth $2.075 million a season, it was Ken Holland who said that for "the way he skates and the way he trains, the two years didn't bother [him] because it was a cap number that we thought was good for our team and he liked the term" (via NHL.com).
Bertuzzi isn't playing in a league right now and his play could start to slip if the season doesn't start soon.
At 37 years old, Bertuzzi is no longer in the prime of his career, but he did put up 38 points last season in just 71 games played.
He has a lot of hockey left in him for someone his age, but if his play declines this season, he will become more of a liability with his "35-plus" contract and a modified no-trade clause (via CapGeek.com).
If this were to happen, one option that the Red Wings could look at is a contract buyout after this season (assuming it starts).
The Red Wings would still owe Bertuzzi his full salary for the following season of $2.075 million, but his departure would open up a roster spot for what looks like a promising class of younger forwards.
Keep in mind, this is worst-case scenario and hopefully "Big Bert" can play out both of his contract years in a Wings uniform.
Johan Franzen may have had 56 points in 77 games played last year, but that doesn't tell the whole story of why Franzen is likely the biggest underachiever on the Red Wings.
Of the 77 games that Franzen played, he only had points in 40 of them, leaving 37 games where Franzen was held off of the scoreboard.
For someone who plays on the top line and someone who scores in bunches, Franzen needs to be more consistent. Taking over a game is fine if he can do it more consistently, but being held off the scoreboard in 37 games is unacceptable for someone playing on the top line with players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Prior to the CBA expiring, I wrote an article arguing that Franzen could be a key piece in trading for a top-four defenseman.
Regardless of whether Franzen serves out the final eight years of his contract, or if he is traded or bought out before the end of it, Franzen would come to a team and be able to immediately help them offensively as well as in his own end.
The Red Wings should be looking to upgrade on their blue line despite having seven defensemen at the moment (per CapGeek.com), but players like Ericsson, Kindl, Colaiacovo and even Quincey don't exactly inspire confidence in the quality of the personnel on the back end.
Bottom line: Franzen needs to either become more consistent or be traded for someone who can make the Red Wings better on the back end.
Cory Emmerton is yet another victim of the Red Wings' overflow at the forward position.
Emmerton put up 10 points in 71 games last year in just over eight minutes of ice time per game.
Emmerton had this to say about his finger and tweeted again following the surgery:
1 period 1 shot 1 blocked shot 1 broken finger, great stats Cory— Cory Emmerton (@cemmer48) October 13, 2012
Just out of surgery everything went well hope to be back as soon as possible, now I gotta learn how to use my damn left hand— Cory Emmerton (@cemmer48) October 17, 2012
Judging by the fact that Emmerton has to "use his left hand" for a lot of things, he's going to be hard-pressed to get a job in the NHL this season, meaning he may pass waivers if the Red Wings had to send him down to the AHL.
One way or another, Emmerton's job is in jeopardy assuming this season gets started within the next two months.
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