Why Detroit Red Wings Should Offer Bridge Contract to Danny DeKeyser

Matt HutterAnalyst IJune 3, 2014

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser (65) is seen during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Detroit, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

That the Detroit Red Wings will surely seek to have defenseman Danny DeKeyser on the roster next season is beyond question.

However, the method via which his services should be secured, well, that’s a topic worthy of some debate.

DeKeyser, along with forwards Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan, are all restricted free agents this summer, and as such, all will require qualifying offers in order for Detroit to retain their negotiating rights.

Calculating the dollar amount of these offers requires a few different data points, and for those so inclined, feel free to scroll through the current collective bargaining agreement and examine Section 10.2(a), pages 30 through 31, and work out how much DeKeyser is due.

Or, simply thank the good people at CapGeek for taking the guess work out of it by telling us that DeKeyser’s offer should be exactly $874,125 (not including any additional signing or performance bonuses) to stay on Detroit’s blue line for the 2014-15 season.

In a perfect world, DeKeyser is tendered the offer, thanks his lucky stars he gets paid over $800,000 per year to play hockey, signs the contract and takes his buddies out for a beer to celebrate.

However, retaining a player of DeKeyser’s skill set for under $1million per year is quite a deal if you’re Detroit general manager Ken Holland—and DeKeyser might want to bring that to Kenny’s attention.

After all, Detroit need only extend the qualifying offer to DeKeyser to retain his negotiating rights; there’s no obligation for him to accept it.

So, say DeKeyser decides to shove the offer back across the table to Holland and tells him it’s simply not good enough. The two sides are still free to negotiate, as DeKeyser will remain a restricted free agent. However, should another team enter the mix via one of those pesky offer sheets and should DeKeyser sign it, Detroit would still retain its right of first refusal and thus have the option of matching the offer.

Still, even if no offer sheet emerges and the two sides are still at an impasse prior to the deadline to file for salary arbitration, one of either the team or the player could opt to have DeKesyer’s value to Detroit set via an arbitrator.

Does this all sound a bit boring, if not a little ridiculous relative to what it will take to retain a highly skilled player on his hometown team that clearly values his services?

Well, if it does, then maybe the best option for keeping DeKeyser on the roster next season is to sign him via a so-called “bridge contract.”

While you won’t find that term anywhere in the pages of the CBA, a bridge contract has become a popular option to use when signing an RFA who is clearly worth more than what a qualifying offer requires but still too young to determine his true long-term value.

Perhaps the most famous example of this is the two-year, $5.75 million contract P.K. Subban signed with the Montreal Canadiens in January 2013 prior to the start of the lockout-shortened season.

One Norris Trophy and two seasons later, Subban again finds himself a restricted free agent but now with an established value somewhere in the stratosphere above his previous salary.

While Danny DeKeyser is no P.K. Subban, the idea of securing him through a short-term yet more lucrative contract than what is required via a qualifying offer applies in the same way.

Just as Subban did in Montreal two seasons ago, DeKeyser has squarely established himself as a top-four defender in Detroit. Just how much better DeKeyser can get remains to be seen—that he should seek to improve upon the 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) earned this season in order to more firmly establish his value seems beyond question.

DeKeyser’s defensive instincts and superb mobility make him a valuable asset. However, upping his point production could very well make him indispensable.

Regardless, going through the process of a qualifying offer at this point seems a bit too pedantic for a player like DeKeyser. As such, a two-year contract worth around $2 million per year should be enough to retain DeKeyser as well as give him an opportunity to demonstrate he’s worth considerably more over the next two seasons.


All statistics courtesy of NHL.com and CapGeek unless otherwise noted.