5 Free Agents Detroit Red Wings Should Avoid
The Detroit Red Wings have certain characteristics they lack as well as positions at which they hope to upgrade.
There has been plenty of speculation as to how Detroit will fill those needs, and who that will be.
A right-handed defenseman has been made a priority, while a little extra scoring up front is always a welcomed addition.
The free-agent wire can provide just what the team needs, but Detroit is not the only one in the market for specific talents. Plenty of teams will be inquiring for similar impact players, so it is imperative that Detroit’s front office evaluates and pursues the right individuals.
Trading is always an option, and it may be the better option to fill the Red Wings’ requirements. If free agency is the route they choose, then they should beware of names that may not provide what they’re looking for.
These are a few free agents Detroit would be well-advised to avoid come July 1.
Thomas Vanek, LW
One of the biggest names available on the market, Thomas Vanek comes with a quality stat line over the course of his career, but there are some concerns as well.
Vanek’s determination to hit the open market is likely due to his interest in joining the Minnesota Wild. The team has $7 million off the books just from Dany Heatley, and as a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, Vanek could wish to return to familiar territory.
The 30-year-old Austrian has never failed to score 20 goals in his nine-year career, including two 40-goal campaigns.
He posted 68 points in 78 games in 2013-14 between Buffalo, the New York Islanders and Montreal, but he also showed periods of inconsistency. He had goals in consecutive games six times but never a streak longer than two.
He had 10 points in 17 playoff games, but his five goals came in three games. He registered just two assists and minus-four in Montreal’s six-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
The guy can score goals—there’s no arguing that. He is not going to bring it every night and has been known to take a game off here and there.
Detroit should avoid him at all cost, as he boasts an eerie similarity to Johan Franzen. Both are power forwards with a penchant for disappearing for long stretches, scoring in hordes, then returning from whence they came.
With the polarizing figure Franzen has become in recent years, another player cut from the same cloth at a significantly higher salary would simply be foolish.
Detroit has plenty of cap space to look elsewhere for help, and it would be better off doing so.
Ales Hemsky, RW
Probably the most overrated and overpaid player on this list, Ales Hemsky is a player who has shown flashes of brilliance, but nothing consistently.
The 11-year veteran has scored 20 goals just twice in his career, while playing in 70 or more games only five times. Not all too impressive for a player who averaged $4.32 million yearly over his last eight seasons.
Hemsky is still a good player. At 30 years old he has plenty left in the tank, but it’s not likely Detroit makes a play for his services—for good reason.
After a season in which Detroit experienced a laughable number of injuries, it would be silly to pursue a player with Hemsky’s history. He did play 75 games last season between Edmonton and Ottawa, but it’s not a risk Detroit should take.
He would be able to produce 20 goals alongside players like Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, but Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have already proved capable at a lesser price.
Hemsky could probably coax $4 million out of a team desperate for scoring that can’t draw an upper-echelon UFA. A return to Ottawa may not be out of the question, especially if it trades star center Jason Spezza.
Detroit doesn’t have a need for a scoring forward unless it is a top-line, impact winger. Hemsky does not have the ability to elevate an offense any more than the players Detroit already has within the organization.
In would be a lateral move at best, perhaps even a waste of money and roster space, to go with Hemsky over any young talent the team promoted last season.
Matt Niskanen, D
Now, bear with me for a second.
Rather than avoid completely, Matt Niskanen is a player Detroit needs to approach with caution.
He showed a lot of offensive prowess last season, and as a right-handed shot, he fits the position Detroit covets most. It’s important to consider a few things first.
As an advocate for Niskanen, it is imperative for this writer—and readers—to remember it was just one season. Ten goals, 46 points and plus-33 are all career highs, but it's only the second time in his career he’s displayed offense from the back end.
His career bests also came alongside four players with 60 or more points in Sidney Crosby (104), Evgeni Malkin (72), Chris Kunitz (68) and James Neal (61).
For Detroit, adding a 27-year-old with his kind of talent could make its power play significantly more dynamic. The largest concern comes at the asking price.
He made $2.3 million annually over his last two years and is likely to receive north of $5 million on the market. Detroit has the money to make a substantial bid, but it should remain cautious about the long-term financial investment after one big year.
Detroit was willing to go as high as $90 million over 13 years for Ryan Suter a few summers ago, but Niskanen has yet to prove himself as a shutdown blueliner of elite status.
He is still a player who would be welcomed by Hockeytown with open arms, but pending the price and contract length, Detroit may be better off weighing other options.
Radim Vrbata, RW
In a similar capacity to Hemsky, Radim Vrbata wouldn’t provide much of an upgrade to Detroit’s offense.
To clarify, Nyquist and Tatar had breakout years in 2013-14, and Detroit is going to offer them every opportunity to replicate their seasons.
Vrbata is a sound, responsible forward with a quick release and a good hockey IQ. He has scored 20 goals four times in his career—35 goals in 2011-12—in his 12 NHL seasons.
So what’s the problem?
In a career with five NHL teams (two stints with Phoenix), he has never scored 20 goals for anyone other than the Coyotes.
At 33 years old and 792 games into his NHL career, the Czech Republic native may not have the same success that he enjoyed in the desert.
Overall with Vrbata, a signing would appease the fans but not necessarily be an effective hockey move—the equivalent of wearing a neon-colored Band-Aid because it looks cool rather than heal a wound.
Detroit doesn’t need an added veteran up front unless he is a surefire 30-goal scorer. Otherwise, any acquisition in this regard is more aesthetic than an improvement.
Jarome Iginla, RW
It’s hard to ignore a free agent with over 500 career goals, but Jarome Iginla and the Detroit Red Wings are on different paths moving forward.
The Red Wings have their core of players still intact while ushering in the future. Iginla is still battling hard for his first Stanley Cup victory, which is not realistically going to be with Detroit next season.
Iginla made $1.8 million in NHL salary last season—before fans get excited about that number—his $4.2 million in performance bonuses did factor into the cap hit.
Should he test the market, Detroit isn’t the best fit for his services anymore. The Red Wings are ready to transition into a much younger direction, while Iginla’s window for victory is getting smaller.
The scorer is likely going to aim for a contract similar to what he made last season, which ultimately cost more than Daniel Alfredsson. For the extra half-million Iginla made against the salary cap last season, he averaged 0.78 points per game compared to Alfredsson’s 0.72.
If Detroit is willing to dedicate $6 million in cap space to another forward, it would be better served aiming for a young, more dynamic talent like Marian Gaborik or Paul Stastny. It also would only come if Alfredsson elects to retire.
Iginla showed he’s still an effective scorer, but considering Detroit’s big picture, Iginla just doesn’t fit.