Luckily, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the 2013 free agency season.
Free agency presents a chance for every team to get better; something Detroit could have done a better job at doing in the 2012 free agency season.
There are still a number of "what if" scenarios that exist in relation to the free agency period next season.
What if the NHL gets in a reduced season in this year?
What if the lockout ends the season?
Despite these questions lacking answers at the present, it is never too early to be looking ahead to free agency.
Which of the 10 Red Wings restricted and unrestricted free agents will return to Detroit in 2013-14?
The key goal of Ken Holland in regards to the 2013 UFA class should be re-signing Valtteri Filppula.
Filppula suffered a knee injury this year while playing overseas, so he might be a bit rusty come next season if he does not see further game action this year.
Nevertheless, Filppula is a dangerous offensive player with 23 goals and 66 points last season in 81 games for the Red Wings.
He has filled the second line center position very nicely for the Red Wings, winning 51.1 percent of faceoffs at home and 52.74 percent of draws on the road via his NHL.com player page).
Filppula's current cap hit on his contract is $3 million, and he would have been making $3.5 million in salary this season (via CapGeek.com).
Next season, even with the proposed NHL rollback in salaries, Filppula will likely still see his cap hit rise substantially, possibly upwards the $5 million range.
Mark his re-signing back with the Red Wings as all but a certainty unless he receives a deal for higher than the $6.5 million range.
I would give Filppula a 98 percent chance of being back in 2013-14.
Dan Cleary had a big time drop off in goals in 2011-12 from 2010-11.
One season after posting 26 goals in 68 games, Cleary put up just 11 last season. He also saw his shooting percentage between the two seasons fall 7.5 percent points to just 6.0 percent overall (via his NHL.com player page).
Cleary also posted zero game-winning goals after putting up eight game-winners in the previous season.
Cleary's point production dropped because of his goal decline, but he found himself playing more on the second or third line. He had occasionally been on the first line in the 2010-11 season.
He is 34 years old and his play could continue to decline in the long run.
Will he be around next year?
I think it will depend on the amount of money that he is willing to accept and what money the Red Wings are willing to offer him. Keep in mind, Detroit has 16 forwards signed this season (per CapGeek.com) so not all of the Red Wings forwards are going to be re-signed next season.
I give Cleary a 50 percent chance of being re-signed this off-season.
Damien Brunner might be the best Red Wings' player who has never played a game for Detroit.
Brunner has the speed, skill, awareness and overall dynamic play-making ability to play at a high level for the Red Wings.
Speaking of playing for the Red Wings, Brunner is played with Henrik Zetterberg over in the Swiss Elite League.
The two have great chemistry going and Brunner is reaping the results on the offensive score sheet. He already has the same amount of goals this year in only 30 games as he did last year in 45 games (via hockeydb.com).
Last year's point total of 60 is well within Brunner's sights as he has 53 points in 30 games this season.
Of course, having Henrik Zetterberg on your team does contribute substantially to this total.
The Red Wings would most likely offer Brunner an extension, but he's due for a raise as well as his would-be contract this year was a one-year entry deal worth up to $1.35 million including bonuses (via CapGeek.com).
Somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million for a shorter term deal would be a good bet, even as the salary cap will decrease.
Brunner's added success in the Swiss Elite League this season would give him added value in the European leagues as well, but I still say a strong pitch from the Detroit Red Wings' brass this off-season convinces Brunner to give Detroit a shot once again.
I put his return to Detroit around 85 percent.
Drew Miller isn't the fanciest player in the world, but he sure plays an important role for the Red Wings on the third line.
Miller is currently playing in Scotland (yeah, you read that correctly) for the Braehead Clan of the EIHL.
He already has 25 points in 18 games with the Braehead Clan this season (via hockeydb.com).
With 14 goals and 25 points last season in 81 games, Miller was as reliable on the third line as he was clutch with his four game winning goals last season.
The reason the Red Wings need to make an effort to re-sign Miller is because he brings a solid two-way presence about his game. With 79 hits, 66 blocked shots and a plus-17 takeaway to giveaway ratio, Miller has proven his ability to contribute at both ends of the ice (via NHL player page).
At 28 years old (29 in February), Miller should be in the prime of his career and the Red Wings should attempt to re-sign him. With no obvious rift between Miller and the Red Wings management, I see Miller re-signing with 95 percent certainty in the off-season.
Gustav Nyquist is averaging almost a point per game in the AHL at 25 points in 27 contests. In a way this NHL Lockout could be benefiting Nyquist as he gets to play out the last year of his entry-level contract and then enter restricted free agency.
Nyquist's ability to play this season and burn a year off of his contract while getting paid means that he will at least get a little bit of a bump in his salary going forward next season.
The reason it is good for the Red Wings management is that Nyquist has not been able to prove himself at an NHL level in his contract year meaning Detroit could be able to keep him around at a lower price for a longer term.
At any rate, Detroit has a really stellar young player in Nyquist and he should be a 100 percent lock to sign an extension with the Red Wings for next season unless he the unthinkable happens and he is traded at some point.
Jan Mursak might be the most up and down player in the Detroit Red Wings lineup.
Mursak was a phenom coming out of the OHL, putting up 80 points in 62 games in 2006-07 with Saginaw Spirit. He also did fairly well in his first stint in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins, putting up 77 points over 139 games in two seasons (stats via hockeydb.com).
Since then however, Mursak hasn't really done much of anything.
With four points in 44 games over two years with the Red Wings, Mursak seems to have been stymied offensively.
During the lockout, Mursak has gone to play over in Austria. He's doing well with 36 points in 23 games, but fans should remember: it's Austria, not the NHL.
Mursak is a restricted free agent this season and he would have made just $550,000 with the Red Wings this season (via CapGeek.com).
Will the Red Wings keep Mursak around? Will any team give him a qualifying offer if the Red Wings do not?
I give Mursak a 40 percent chance of playing hockey for Detroit next season. This isn't anything against Detroit, but Mursak must realize that some players are just not cut out to play in the NHL.
Mursak might be one of those players that is better suited in other leagues.
Ian White will be 29 this coming year.
He had 32 points and was a plus-23 with the Red Wings last season, but White hasn't played in any other leagues during this lockout, meaning that he could potentially lose some value statistically next season.
With 92 blocked shots last season to go along with 49 hits (but a minus-12 takeaway differential), White was sturdy on the back end to say the least.
But without future Hall-of-Fame defenseman Nick Lidstrom as his pairing, one could expect White's offensive output to fall significantly this season.
Given, White won't break the bank with a would-be $2.875 million cap hit this season (via CapGeek.com). But one has to wonder if he'll want more and if so, how much more.
The Red Wings could be looking to go with a bigger, stronger defenseman or perhaps a more mobile defenseman depending on what they could get in free agency.
Re-signing White is fairly certain, depending on what White is offered on the open market. Defenseman are in the business of being overpaid these days. I will list his return to the Red Wings next season as an 80 percent chance.
Jakub Kindl has developed significantly in the past two seasons.
Now weighing 216 pounds (per his NHL.com player page), the Czech defenseman is now a force to be reckoned with in front of the net.
Kindl played seven more games last season than the season before but more than tripled his point totals (four points to 13 points) between years. The 13 points may not seem like a lot, but Kindl is ready to take big strides whenever he gets back to playing in the NHL.
The 2005 first-round pick of the Red Wings is playing in his native Czech Republic during the lockout where he has 11 points in 27 games.
As Kindl is a restricted free agent this season, Detroit will not have to break the bank to sign him to an extension. They might want to lock him up for a four or five year deal to make sure that they get him for a good price overall.
His chance of receiving an extension with the Red Wings (assuming he gets some more playing time) should be 95 percent.
With tremendous offensive potential, the big thing for Brendan Smith will be following through on that potential.
As a restricted free agent, Smith is likely one of the cornerstones of the Red Wings' defense corps in the coming seasons.
Smith needs to maintain his composure and not take any dumb penalties at the NHL level (via youtube.com).
Smith has just 14 points in 27 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins this year, and would likely take some time to get going offensively in the NHL unless he was put on the top-pairing defensively.
That would be a huge gamble, but it could pay big dividends, depending on whether Smith takes a full-time NHL roll in stride or if he struggles.
Negatives aside however, the likelihood of re-signing the restricted free agent defenseman, Brendan Smith, should be 100 percent.
When I said Valtteri Filppula was the most important re-signing in the 2013 free agency period, I may have been exaggerating a little bit.
Jimmy Howard has been nothing short of impressive in his three years as a starting goaltender for the Red Wings in the regular season, winning 109 games in the past three years.
Howard's numbers have been solid in the regular season with a career 91.7 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA, but nothing really outstanding in the playoff department having never made it past the second round of the playoffs with a career 13-15 playoff record.
Two offseasons ago, Howard was re-signed for a relatively cheap amount of $2.25 million per year on a two-year deal (via CapGeek.com).
This time he promises to make a bit more.
Will other teams attempt to pursue Howard and poach him out of Detroit?
I think Detroit will match Howard's contract up to the neighborhood of $4.5 million a season.
Consider him a 98 percent chance to re-sign in Detroit.
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