Detroit GM Ken Holland has some decisions to make.
The Detroit Red Wings are dealing with a myriad of issues resulting in a record of 5-7-2 in December.
Between injuries to key players like Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard and Darren Helm, and dealing with the spectacle from the upcoming 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, Detroit has managed to hold onto its wild-card spot.
Injuries have also allowed the Wings to use the injured reserve designation to tiptoe around their ongoing salary-cap issue. Zetterberg, Helm and Howard have all returned as of Monday, but Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss and Jonathan Ericsson have all landed on injured reserve.
Detroit needs to ensure it will possess the cap room to get healthy. It has time, as Weiss currently resides on the long-term injured reserve after undergoing sports hernia surgery, but when he returns after the Olympic break, so does his $4.9 million cap hit.
By the time the March 5 trade deadline rolls around, general manager Ken Holland’s hand will be forced and a move will have to be made. With seven roster players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the offseason, it would be a shame to see them all go without something in return.
Fans worship players but can turn on them at the drop of a hat. As is the business aspect, it’s the nature of the beast. Here are five Detroit Red Wings who should be on the trade block.
Jordin Tootoo is best suited for a team lacking the depth Detroit has.
Though he has only played 10 games this season, Jordin Tootoo is still a commodity in this league.
While not necessary a valuable one, he can bring speed and tenacity to a team looking for depth and physicality. Both are aspects that Detroit could use, but he can’t seem to crack the lineup, let alone stay on an NHL roster.
In two seasons with Detroit, Tootoo has played in 52 of a possible 89 games and tallied three goals, nine points and a minus-three rating. He was one of the pieces that Ken Holland attempted to move prior to the start of the season, but a deal never came to fruition.
Currently residing in Grand Rapids, Tootoo played just 11:45 of total ice time in two December games before being demoted again.
Tootoo has a cap hit of $1.9 million that can provide Detroit a little wiggle room. Since the Wings are forced to keep Gustav Nyquist on the roster, a departure would ease stress on the salary cap and the roster as Tootoo is under contract through the 2014-15 season.
While it would be a benefit for both parties, moving Tootoo wouldn’t stand as the be-all and end-all of Detroit’s cap and roster concerns. Should he be dealt, other chips would have to fall to give Detroit the necessary space it requires. Therefore, this list will continue onward.
Patrick Eaves has played in only 54 games over the last three seasons.
Patrick Eaves is a hard-nosed, blue-collar player that any coach would be happy to have rounding out his bottom-six.
Eaves was waived to provide minimal cap space and a roster spot when Jonathan Ericsson returned from a shoulder injury in November. He has played just 10 games this season but has appeared in seven since Dec. 14. He recorded his first point of the year with a power-play goal in Monday’s 6-4 loss at Nashville after Daniel Alfredsson was a late scratch with back spasms.
Eaves may remain valuable to Detroit because of his right-handed shot, but as an impending unrestricted free agent, he may be on his way out of Detroit. His skill set equipped with a $1.2 million cap hit could make him the easiest piece to move, especially as an expiring contract.
In his fifth season with Detroit, he has played just 182 games and dealt with numerous injuries that have limited his time and production. He is still a good penalty-killer and can provide the occasional offensive punch from a supporting role on any team.
At 29 years old, it is possible Detroit retains Eaves and moves one of its aging veterans with a higher salary. When it comes down to business, the simplicity in Eaves' contract could spell the end of his time in Detroit.
Detroit is hoping Dan Cleary can recapture his game from last year's postseason.
Daniel Cleary has been a frustrating situation for the fans as well as the club.
After going nearly the entire summer without a clue where he’d play this season, he was offered a reported three-year, $7.75 million contract by the Philadelphia Flyers. When all seemed to be complete, the deal hit a snag and Cleary wound up signing a one-year contract with Detroit for nearly $1 million less annually.
Cleary’s re-signing crowded Detroit’s already jam-packed stable of forwards, leaving little to no room for Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Injuries have provided Tatar and Nyquist consistent playing time, but it was the ineffective play of veterans, like Cleary, who have solidified their spot.
Cleary has registered three goals, six points and a minus-seven rating in 40 games this season. The only game he missed was as a healthy scratch in November to help motivate the veteran.
Consistently on the wing of the fourth line, he hovers around 13 minutes of ice time per game while seeing some on the second power-play unit.
Mike Babcock is a tremendous supporter of Dan Cleary, so it isn’t likely that he would be the one dealt. On the other hand, this is a business, these are professionals and Babcock will pencil in the lineup the players he feels will be most effective.
Mikael Samuelsson's contract has been a burden for Detroit.
It would take some magic, but Mikael Samuelsson is the player Detroit would prefer to move.
The frustration with Samuelsson stems from the contract signed in the summer of 2012. During last year’s lockout-shortened season, he played in just four games, posting one assist and a minus-three rating. This year he has one goal—the team’s very first of the season—three points and a minus-five rating in 21 games.
Detroit hoped he’d be an asset on the point for the second power-play unit but has only mustered two assists with the man advantage. Because he has been ineffective, Patrick Eaves has received time as the right-handed point man on the power play.
He is in the final year of his two-year, $6 million deal with a full no-trade clause.
Detroit considered using one of its two compliance buyouts on Samuelsson this offseason but was unable based on conditions under the new collective bargaining agreement. Because he is over the age of 35 (36) and suffered an injury before the season, he did not qualify for the buyout. His no-trade clause accompanied by a $3 million cap hit makes him quite undesirable for suitors.
Moving Samuelsson would be the perfect scenario for Detroit. The Wings would instantly gain $3 million in cap space and clear up a roster spot with capable talent ready to step in. There are certainly some difficult obstacles to overcome, but if there is a general manager who could do it, it’s Ken Holland.
Kyle Quincey's minus-14 is worst on the team.
Kyle Quincey is a bit of a double-edged sword.
In 95 games with Detroit, he has five goals, 13 points and a minus-seven rating. Quincey wasn’t intended to be an offensive force, but he hasn’t been responsible in his own end. He is minus-14 and ranks 275th among NHL defenseman—third worst in the league.
In the last year of his contract, Quincey makes just over $3.77 million against the cap. At 28 years old, he may still be a commodity for a club in need to defensive depth, and the space provided by a move would give Detroit plenty of breathing room.
Unfortunately, dealing Quincey leaves a hole in Detroit’s defensive lineup. The best time to make a deal would be when Jonathan Ericsson returns from injury; however, Detroit already lacks depth on the blue line, and a trade would leave the team paper thin. If the Wings had a better option than Quincey, they would’ve already gone in that direction.
The best-case scenario would be a lateral move to acquire a defenseman in return, but one with a much lower price tag and perhaps an expiring contract. It’s not difficult to imagine an incoming player equaling Quincey’s output, but the biggest concern for Detroit—other than health—is the salary cap.
Detroit will have to make a deal outside of the organization to ensure it remains cap compliant. These are most certainly moves it could, and perhaps should, make. Whether or not Ken Holland can make it happen remains to be seen.