5 Free Agents Who Should Be on Detroit Red Wings' Wish List
The Detroit Red Wings are gearing up for NHL free agency, which begins July 1. Despite a weaker crop of unrestricted free-agent defenseman, there are still quite a number of players who should be on the team's wish list.
These players will help Detroit going forward. They will hopefully aid the Red Wings in transitioning from life with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as leaders to the younger crop of players that started to make its mark last season.
But which forwards and defensemen should the Red Wings target?
Here are five free agents who should be on the Detroit Red Wings' wish list.
Note: All players listed can assist the Red Wings in the short term or long term in some scenarios.
All salary-cap numbers via CapGeek.com.
Brad Richards fell three wins shy of capturing his second career Stanley Cup, as his New York Rangers were eliminated in five games in the Stanley Cup Final.
Richards was bought out by the Rangers as New York has just six forwards and four defensemen signed for next season and needed to use his $6.66 million salary on retaining the services of its other players.
This leaves Richards, 34, as an unrestricted free agent, free to choose any team that he wishes to sign with for the 2014-15 season. He had 20 goals and 51 points in 82 regular-season games and 12 points in 25 postseason games.
The Detroit Red Wings could use Richards' services without a doubt, as there is no guarantee that regular second-line center Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) will be ready for training camp.
Weiss aside, however, the Red Wings struggled to get consistent offense out of players not named Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Richards, a streaky player, has the tools to bring out the best in a player like Franzen, should Franzen be on the second line.
Per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said: "It's hard to know where [Weiss is] going to be in September. A lot of where he's going to be in September is really going to be about, is he going to be able to ... have a June, July and August where he's able to hit the gym and come to camp healthy, fit, ready to go."
Richards would be the ideal second-line center fit for the Red Wings. Even if the Wings still have Weiss on the books, if Richards was signed, Weiss could be put on long-term injury reserve if necessary.
Putting Weiss on LTIR wouldn't really be necessary, as the Red Wings still have $17 million in cap space with just three restricted free agents to re-sign.
The bottom line for Detroit is that Richards won't be looking at dollars and cents (having just been paid almost $21 million from his buyout), he will be looking at contenders. If Detroit seems like a contender and it has the cap space to give him a reasonable deal, he would definitely be a solid fit with the team.
Unfortunately for Detroit, it will likely be one of 20-something teams submitting an offer for Richards' services.
Radim Vrbata plays a Detroit Red Wings style of hockey.
Vrbata, 33, put up 51 points this year and has put up at least 43 points in each of the last four seasons. He was also 11th in the entire NHL in shots on goal.
But his game is far more extensive than just offense, as he had 41 takeaways to just 20 giveaways last year to go along with 27 blocked shots and 68 hits.
Vrbata plays right wing and can man the power play, with 21 of his points last season coming on the man advantage, an area where the Red Wings need help.
Some writers like Ansar Khan of MLive.com hesitate to give him a deal due to his age, as Khan doesn't want "to make a three-year commitment to [Vrbata] if it diminishes Tomas Jurco's role or forces him to spend next season in Grand Rapids. I'd rather see them give Teemu Pulkkinen and/or Anthony Mantha a shot in 2015-16."
While that may be the case, I have previously expressed the view that Vrbata would fill Detroit's immediate need for a right-handed shooting right wing at a respectable level.
If anyone is worried about Vrbata taking away spots for players like Jurco, Pulkkinen or Mantha, they should only look to the past to figure out how Holland treats players younger than 25 years old.
Jurco has the skill to be good, but he is just 21 years old, and a three-year deal wouldn't kill his growth in Detroit. The Wings still need players for the coming season with just 11 forwards signed.
Don't fill all of them with rookie players, or the growth might be stunted further. Jurco is in the last year of his deal, so he doesn't necessarily need to play a bulk of the minutes and earn himself a hefty pay raise next offseason.
Vrbata can help the Wings on the power play, on offense and in his own end as well.
If Daniel Alfredsson wants to return to the NHL and play for the Detroit Red Wings for another year, the Wings would love to have him back.
St. James writes, "The Wings are waiting to hear whether the 41-year-old right wing wants to play another season. If he does, the Wings are interested in working out another contract."
Alfredsson led the Red Wings in offense last season with 49 points. That doesn't say much because of the injuries that plagued the Red Wings' leading scorers all season, but it still shows that he can contribute at age 41.
As stated previously, the Red Wings are drastically short on right-handed shooters in general. Alfredsson's potential return—assuming he can maintain a similar production to last season—would be very helpful for Detroit's offense and power play.
The Swedish veteran right wing could produce even more than last season if Zetterberg and Datsyuk can find a way to play more than 45 games apiece.
That is, if Alfredsson choose to play another season.
It is no secret that Andrei Markov is going to get paid this summer.
The question is: Who is going to pay him?
TSN's Bob McKenzie reported on Twitter last week that Markov was asking for three years and $6 million a season from the Montreal Canadiens, and it isn't difficult to see why. Markov is a minute-munching defenseman (over 25 minutes per game last season) who can tremendously help out a team in all areas of a game.
The 35-year-old Russian rearguard put up 43 points last season in 81 games played, with 21 of those points coming with the man advantage.
Disclaimer alert: Markov often teamed up with P.K. Subban on the power play to get primary and secondary assists. The Red Wings don't really have a defenseman of Subban's offensive prowess.
If one can get over that disclaimer, the fact that Markov could be available if he can't figure something out in Montreal is great news for Red Wings fans.
Markov will not provide the top-tier, right-handed defenseman that every team (the Red Wings included) wants from its back end, as he is left-handed. But he can get the job done and would be worth every penny of whatever contract the Red Wings offered him.
Anton Stralman is another defenseman whom Red Wings fans should hope seriously considers signing in Detroit.
Stralman is neither flashy nor an offensive juggernaut, but he has a right-handed shot and can log upward of 20 minutes of ice time per contest. He would fit in well on the second defensive pairing with a player like Brendan Smith, as both players can skate and move the puck well.
Coming off a two-year deal worth $3.4 million, Stralman is due for a bit of a raise. But the Red Wings have the cap space to sign him to a contract in the $3 million to $3.5 million range.
As the unrestricted free-agent defenseman market isn't that fantastic right now, Stralman will get paid more than he could otherwise. But if the Red Wings can sign him to a longer-term deal, it would pay off.
Stralman is just 27 years old, so a four- or five-year deal wouldn't be out of the question.
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