The Detroit Red Wings offseason rolls on with the 2013 NHL Draft less than a week away and free agency opening not long after that.
Detroit has plenty on the plate, but perhaps even more so after the Red Wings—and the rest of the NHL—found out how good Detroit was in the playoffs, as it came extremely close to eliminating the No. 1 seed Chicago Blackhawks from the playoffs.
Despite that success, teams can never be complacent in the offseason and Detroit must work harder than ever to get back to that place—and go further, ideally—next season.
Here is a complete guide to an ideal Detroit Red Wings offseason.
As per CapGeek, the Red Wings have $10.6 million in cap space for this coming season.
The Red Wings have 20 players signed to NHL contracts, but will struggle to make decisions regarding signing contracts as they already have 12 forwards, six defenseman and two goalies signed for the coming season. That is enough to make a starting lineup, but the NHL limit for roster size is 23 players.
That will make the battles even more competitive in the coming preseason and training camps.
The bottom line for the Red Wings is that not signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter gave them infinitely more cap space to pursue their own free agents and sign their big name players to longer-term contracts.
The Detroit Red Wings have embraced veteran players for the leadership and talent that they bring to their lineup over the past decade. The 2002 Stanley Cup was won by players such as Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and Dominik Hasek amongst others.
But the fact of the matter is that these veteran players need to live up to their potential to remain both in the lineup and on the team.
The Red Wings had a problem staying healthy this year, and while that seemed to be a team-wide issue, two of the players that played the least this year down the stretch and for the majority of the season were Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi.
If the Red Wings are interested in freeing up some more dollars (and they should be to pursue their younger free agents like Valtteri Filppula and possibly Damien Brunner) a cap compliance buyout might be in order for Samuelsson or Bertuzzi.
By no means is this potential cap compliance buyout a smack in the face of Samuelsson or Bertuzzi. All players who wear a Red Wings' uniform are loved by the fans, so it wouldn't be an easy thing to pull the trigger on a buyout of this sort.
But hockey is a business, first and foremost.
There are two cap compliance buyouts that are available to teams between this season and next season.
Buying out Bertuzzi and Samuelsson (who combined played just 11 regular season games this season) would save the Red Wings just over $5 million and provide two roster spots so that the Red Wings could re-sign some of their own key free agents (addressed on the next slide).
Hands down, the one player that is definitely not coming back to the Red Wings is defenseman Ian White. He was a healthy scratch in the playoffs and played just 25 of 48 games in the regular season with most of the games that he didn't play coming as a healthy scratch.
Then there's the case of Valtteri Filppula. Barring any of the previously mentioned buyouts happening, the Red Wings will lose a key member of their top-six forwards group in Filppula.
Filppula is reportedly seeking more than $5 million per year on his next deal, per Brendan Savage of MLive.com.
Filppula had a career year in 2011-12, but put up just 17 points in 41 games in the regular season.
The Red Wings have five free agents at forward in Damien Brunner, Daniel Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, and two restricted free agents on defense in Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith.
If no buyouts occur, Filppula would likely leave as well, as according to Brendan Savage of MLive, there hadn't been any contract talks between Filppula and the Red Wings for a couple months.
Damien Brunner could also find himself playing elsewhere if his agent and the Red Wings' brass cannot decide how much he is worth after playing just one season in Detroit with mediocre NHL numbers, via Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News.
The big news out of Detroit this offseason was the three-year extension of Pavel Datsyuk. The 34-year-old Russian center announced last week that he would be playing in Detroit for three more seasons after he was scheduled to be a free agent after next season.
That move put to rest any doubts about the Red Wings' status as perennial playoff contenders at least for the next few seasons. The Red Wings also got Drew Miller back at a bargain contract. Three years and $4.05 million total, as per Ansar Khan of MLive.
But after those two deals, the future in free agency around Detroit is a little bit muggy.
It would make sense to re-sign the team's four restricted free agents in Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist, but as the Red Wings have just $10.6 million in cap space (as was mentioned in the salary cap slide), this somewhat limits what Detroit can do in free agency.
Fans should know more in two weeks as to who has been re-signed and who is going to test free agency. But if Detroit has enough cap space and a deal is there to be made, Ken Holland will likely pull the trigger.
There have been speculations of sorts, with Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press thinking that Kris Letang is obviously out of the Red Wings' price range, but that David Clarkson might be a viable option as a top-six forward.
When looking at the Red Wings' lineup, it is abundantly clear that there are too many forwards in the Detroit pipeline for Detroit to get them all playing time in the NHL.
As such it is necessary to point out that the Red Wings could and likely would trade one of these skilled, smaller players along with a draft pick for a power forward or a shutdown defenseman.
While Red Wings' free agency rumors abound on the Internet, there aren't really any trade rumors involving the Red Wings at this time.
Expect that to change when and if Ken Holland starts shopping a roster player or a combination of prospects at the NHL draft.
Depending on what the definition of prospects would be, there might be a number of different answers to this question of who the rising prospects are in Detroit.
The Red Wings saw a number of players step up this past season including Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Dan DeKeyser.
Nyquist filled in admirably on whatever line he was put on this season. Despite putting up just six points in 22 regular season games, Nyquist put up five points in 14 playoff games, including an overtime, game-winning goal in Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.
Joakim Andersson really came into his own in the playoffs when he was put on the third line as a full-time position. The young Swedish center put all of his tools to work in the regular season and playoffs. Despite limited offensive numbers in the regular season (eight points in 38 games), Andersson went to work in the playoffs with five points in 14 games.
Dan DeKeyser was signed in March after his playoff run in the CCHA came to an end. He rewarded the Red Wings' trust in him by playing a solid, effective, fundamentals-based style of game. He wasn't the flashiest defenseman in the world, but his solid decision-making skills and puck-moving abilities were definitely missed when he broke his thumb in Game 2 against Anaheim.
Brendan Smith was exposed in the Chicago series as the true rookie defenseman that he is, but with a bit of offseason strength workouts and some work with the puck in his own zone, Smith could turn the corner next season.
Other Red Wings prospects are "in the pipeline" so to speak, but the more free agents the Red Wings retain on the current roster, the longer these prospects will have to wait.
While hockey pundits and fans alike seem content to write the Detroit Red Wings off every season, the fact remains that the Red Wings remain a threat not only to make the playoffs, but to contend for a Stanley Cup each season.
The Red Wings may have been the No. 7 seed this offseason, but the team wasted little time in dispelling myths that they were going down hill by defeated the Anaheim Ducks in seven games and pushing the Blackhawks to the brink of elimination before losing three straight and bowing out in the second round.
The 2013-14 season outlook is very bright, but even more so thanks to the efforts of the rookie talent that Red Wings' fans have started seeing in earnest for the first time this season.
Players like Nyquist, Andersson, DeKeyser and Smith have a lot of growing to do, but it doesn't really seem as though the Red Wings are going down hill, per se.
With the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk leading the Red Wings next season, combined with Jimmy Howard's coming out as a No. 1 goalie that doesn't need a fantastic defense to play in front of him in order to get wins, Detroit looks pretty good for next season.
The x-factor, of course, for next season, is how the Red Wings will handle a move to the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings will be in an eight-team division and have 16 teams in their conference instead of 15 like normal. This will obviously create some different dynamics in both the regular season and the postseason, assuming the Red Wings qualify for the 23rd straight year next season.
It is, however, nothing the Red Wings can't overcome in and of itself. Teams might be getting better, but the Red Wings have showed that they are also getting better and younger. Look for them again to be a playoff team come 2014.
All statistics courtesy of NHL.com and CapGeek.com.
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