Due to MLive.com's report on March 14 about the Detroit Red Wings and goalie Jimmy Howard getting closer to a long-term deal, news about forwards Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula's impending free agency at the end of the season got lost in the shuffle.
MLive.com's Ansar Khan said that the Red Wings were hopeful about Brunner agreeing to a new deal, but weren't as confident about Filppula:
The Red Wings are optimistic they can find common ground with Brunner, but they aren't anywhere close to signing Filppula, who is believed to seeking a contract worth more than $5 million a season.
Brunner started out this season extremely well by scoring three goals and an assist in six games in January and then followed it up with seven goals and five assists in 15 games. He's since cooled off in March with only three assists in six games, but more importantly, he hasn't seemed overwhelmed playing in the NHL.
For the season so far, Brunner has 19 points in 27 games and has shown he's as adept of a playmaker as he is a scorer. He's adapted to the NHL well, and at 27 years old, could be a part of the Red Wings' future.
While the sample size isn't that large for Brunner, he does have a track record of playing in Europe, where he led the Swiss league in scoring during the 2011-12 season. Brunner has developed great chemistry with Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg and has become reliable on the power play with two goals and five assists.
If there is one aspect of his game that observers could critique, it's on defense. He's currently a minus-four, but needs to put in as much effort in his own zone as he does in the opponent's zone.
On March 1, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke to the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James about how Brunner's work ethic will help him get better:
Brunner's weakness is his defensive-zone play, but "it's all part of the process," Babcock said. "He's smart and he's competitive and he's coachable, and he wants to get better. He's a heck of a player."
That is the No. 1 reason why Khan's reporting that the Red Wings are optimistic about Brunner sticking around Hockeytown is a positive thing.
Filppula, on the other hand, has struggled so far this season, and as he's approaching free agency, the Red Wings should let him walk. While playing in 20 games this season, Filppula has only scored 11 points (five goals, six assists). For all of the talent Filppula has, fans would like to see him generate more offense. However, his skills don't translate to production.
If Filppula's asking price—as Khan is reporting—is around $5 million a season, then the Red Wings would be better suited to reinvest his salary in a defenseman.
While the fans have been intrigued with Filppula's potential, he's turning 29 on March 20 and may never be a dependable offensive player.
If Brunner re-signs with the Red Wings and Filppula leaves, then fans should feel secure in knowing that the Red Wings' future outlook is bright.
*All statistics are as of March 13
**All statistics are from hockey-reference.com and espn.com
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