The Detroit Red Wings will be faced with an offseason of change but perhaps not as much as fans would like. The recent Jimmy Howard deal combined with the lower salary cap for next season will put serious restrictions on the moves that they will be able to do.
Still, they will have some decisions to make. Damien Brunner, Drew Miller, Ian White, Valtteri Filppula and Danny Cleary will be unrestricted free agents. Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith will all be restricted free agents.
They should and will bring back all four of the unrestricted players. All four of them should be a regular part of the lineup next season.
Drew Miller will be gone. He has been one of only five Red Wings to play in all 42 games this year but has not been as effective as hoped. Andersson has played in 10 fewer games but has similar stats; Tomas Tatar has played in only 18 games but has the same production.
Miller is a very inexpensive role player, but that money will now go towards some of the younger players. More importantly, his roster spot will open up playing time for guys like Tatar, Nyquist and Andersson.
White has only played in 25 games this season due to coach’s decision. That does not bode well for the team pursuing him in the offseason. The team has several young players in the minors and—assuming they bring back Smith and Kindl—will have eight defensemen under contract for next season.
The team has been in contract talks with Brunner and Filppula. They will get Brunner re-signed. His early hot streak started to raise his cost, but the 15-game goalless streak brought the contract expectations back to earth.
Filppula will be another story. His asking price has been too high at a reported $5 million per season. After last season’s success, the higher contract demands are understandable. This season he has not played well, so those demands should drop. So far they have not.
He was injured during the lockout, then again early in the season, which forced him to miss seven games. Perhaps that has slowed him down or maybe last year was a fluke. Either way, he will not be getting that big of a raise from the team.
He will test the free-agent market and find some team willing to pay him too much. Unless he severely lowers his contracts demands, he will be gone. The prediction here is that he will go.
Filppula’s departure will be to Cleary’s benefit. While the team should let him go and start to move up their younger players, they will likely keep him once Filppula leaves. Of course, the team will need a little home team discount from Cleary, who makes $2.8 million but will turn 35 early next season. If they can get him in the $2.0-2.5 million range, then he will be back. If the team does come to terms with Filppula, then Cleary will not be re-signed.
Many fans have clamored for buyouts for players such as Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, Jonathan Ericsson and Mikael Samuelsson. The buyout terms, especially for players over 35, are not that favorable. For instance, per the CapGeek.com calculator, a Franzen buyout would cost the team $4.02 million in the final year of the deal (2019-20).
Of the three, don’t be surprised by a Bertuzzi retirement in the offseason. Last season it was painfully obvious that he was just too slow for the game. If not for shootouts, he would have had no purpose on the roster. This year, he has only played seven games due to injuries. The end is here; the only question is if will Bertuzzi accept it.
Despite moves that will need to be made in the offseason, the team will not have the maneuverability to make too many of them. Fans may be in for another mediocre team next season. The 2014 offseason will be very exciting, as eight players will be unrestricted and two more will be restricted. The list will include Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, Ericsson, Kyle Quincey and Pavel Datsyuk.
That is when the team will be able to make some serious moves to get back toward the top of the league. For more than 20 seasons, the team has been used to just reloading. While this is not a complete rebuild, it is far more then the team–and its fans– are used to.