5 Ideal Free-Agent Signings for Detroit Red Wings
The offseason blueprint for the Red Wings is not complete as of yet.
GM Ken Holland likely has a plan established on which unrestricted free agents will walk and which ones will stay. He will also be planning out which restricted free agents earn their first one-way contract.
But that process cannot be complete until the AHL season is complete.
Holland is currently watching some of his future stars playing in the Calder Cup Final against the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa's AHL affiliate.
Some of those future stars, like Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist, are expecting a new contract at the end of their series. The team also has the restricted rights to Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith.
It can be expected that Detroit will try signing all of their restricted free agents. They will also need to stay competitive by canvassing the free-agent market.
Here are five players, in no particular order, who could be targets for the Red Wings as the July 5 free-agency period quickly approaches.
The 2012-13 postseason has been a coming-out party for this gritty two-way player.
During the campaign, the native of Bowmanville, Ontario, has 13 points in 17 games with a plus-six rating. His eight goals in the postseason tie for second best in the NHL. Bickell also proved he can fill a top-six role in Chicago, as he scored 23 points in 48 games.
With more time being spent in a scoring role, it is clear that Bickell is going to be an agitator who can produce points for any team. Standing at 6'4" and just north of 230 pounds, he has the size to drive the net and also back up his game.
A huge concern for the Hawks is their cap situation. The team has about $2 million in cap space and will need to fill two roster spots. Unless the Hawks buy someone out, it seems likely that they will not bring him back.
In that case, there will be a waiting list of teams trying to pursue him. The Wings are devoid of a skilled forward who backs up his own words. They also have the cap flexibility to make a move on Bickell.
He will command a king's ransom, though. And that is a concern for a team that is trying to build for the future while not losing many key pieces.
In a weak free-agent class, there is a possibility that a proven forward like Horton will get overpaid.
A former 30-goal scorer, Horton rebounded well from his injury-shortened 2011-12 season. He posted 22 points in 43 games. In the playoffs, he has come through big time with 17 points in 16 games.
Playing with a talented group in Boston has helped him keep with his career pace. He averages around 55 points a season and would give the Red Wings another right-handed option in their top six.
His salary is more than fair for a player of his caliber. He made $4 million last season and should be expecting to see a slight raise in his next deal.
There will be some teams interested in this power forward who is just entering his prime. While the injuries may be a concern to some, there is the evidence to prove that he produces when he touches the ice.
Unless the Red Wings stand pat at free agency, there is a good possibility that this forward could land in Hockeytown.
David Clarkson could be the second major free agent to leave New Jersey in consecutive years.
Following a 30-goal season in 2011-12, Clarkson was only able to produce 24 points in 48 games. He scored 15 goals, which would average out to about 25 goals in a full season.
Numbers like this might suggest that this part-enforcer and part-goal scorer has become the complete package in the NHL.
Clarkson's style of play is perfect for what the Red Wings are seeking. They need a brutish forward who will back his teammates and provide a punch on the stat sheet.
His salary for the 2012-13 season was $2.66 million, and the Devils have ample cap space to bring this player back.
If the Devils do let Clarkson hit the open market, however, the Red Wings won't be shy about throwing an offer at him.
The biggest need for the Red Wings has been to find a second-line center who can score.
In the system, there are a few options. But those options are still a few years away from being ready for NHL competition.
Another option they have is Valtteri Filppula. The playmaking center has stepped up his game the past two seasons, but his price tag is concerning with the Red Wings' cap situation.
Throw in an ailing Darren Helm and the potential of Gustav Nyquist and the Red Wings, and there is some hope.
But the position is not being solidified with the current options in house.
GM Ken Holland could try to fill the position by bringing in a center like Tyler Bozak. He played first-line minutes many nights in Toronto en route to scoring 28 points in 46 games.
Bozak is a right-handed shooting center who wins faceoffs and is a great playmaker out on the ice. His cap hit was a mere $1.5 million, and he will look to see a substantial pay raise.
And the Red Wings may be interested. The Maple Leafs have the cap room to re-sign him, but free agents such as Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov and Carl Gunnarsson are restricted free agents and expecting big-league deals.
Toronto GM Dave Nonis may try to secure their goaltender James Reimer with a long-term contract. This could leave Bozak as the odd man in Toronto.
Signing Viktor Stalberg would mean bad news for the prognosis of Darren Helm's health.
The Blackhawks forward has a lot of speed and knows how to use it.
But the Swedish forward lacks scoring ability, something the Red Wings are in dire need of. His attitude is also a bit of an issue, as Helene St. James highlighted in her June 12 article for the Detroit Free Press.
He will likely be a second-tier in the free-agent market. In his four seasons, Stalberg has only eclipsed the 40-point plateau once.
The Red Wings also have a few players in the minors who have breakneck speed, Andreas Athanasiou in particular.
Investing in a guy like Stalberg even short term would not be a bad signing and would also fill some of the team needs.
The team needs to find the complete package in free agency.