One of the questions the Detroit Red Wings were facing heading into the offseason was whether or not Daniel Alfredsson would be interested in returning to the team in 2014-15.
That question now appears to have been answered.
As Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News reports, Alfredsson has informed general manager Ken Holland that he is interested in returning to the Red Wings next season. However, as Holland explains, there will be more conversations to be had before both sides decide if and how Alfredsson comes back to Detroit.
I talked to him; we're gonna talk again before Monday. Basically his message to me was he feels good. He's not 100 percent. He'd like to feel a little bit better but he feels good. He's not ready to make a decision right now that he's gonna retire. He wanted (to) just kind of pass that news on to me and get my thoughts.
Though recurring back pain limited Alfredsson to 68 games last season, the 41-year-old still led the team in scoring with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) and proved to be a perfect fit for the team, both on and off the ice. Finding a way to bring a player like Alfredsson back to the Red Wings would appear to be a foregone conclusion.
However, it is the issue of Alfredsson’s age and injury history that will likely be the most serious element to weigh when considering bringing the Swedish forward back for a second year in Detroit.
For a team that is clearly moving forward on the strength of younger players in Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, the idea of handing what would most likely be a top-six forward spot to a quadragenarian with a wonky back is risky, at best.
As effective as Alfredsson still is at 41, there’s no denying his skill set is waning and any playing time he’s given will likely be at the expense of that which could be offered to a much younger player.
If healthy, there’s little doubt Alfredsson would be an effective player for the Red Wings next season, but even then, how much is a potential 40- to 50-point season from an aging player worth to Detroit?
The Red Wings have stated a desire for a scoring winger, and if they were to re-sign Alfredsson, they could technically cross that off their wish list. Still, it might be better to explore younger options via trade or free agency before Detroit makes any kind of commitment to Alfredsson.
Looking at the free-agent pool of wingers listed on CapGeek, one sees that younger, scoring wingers abound this summer. Mike Cammalleri, Ales Hemsky, Radim Vrbata and Jussi Jokinen are just a few of the players that could likely be had by Detroit this summer. All are in their early 30's and likely could be at least as effective as Alfredsson next season and likely beyond.
Would investing in one of these wingers be a wiser move than pulling the trigger on a new deal for Alfredsson?
Well, considering all of the factors involved, answering this question will likely come down to dollars.
Of the aforementioned free agents, Jokinen was the cheapest of the bunch last season, earning $3 million annually. However, Jokinen is entering free agency after completing the second-best regular season of his career. Jokinen tallied 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 81 games and led the Pittsburgh Penguins in playoff goal-scoring with seven goals in 13 games. There’s no doubt he will be seeking and likely get a hefty raise from whichever team ends up securing his services this summer.
Should the Red Wings be among the teams seeking Jokinen’s services, they should be prepared to offer a multi-year contract in excess of the $3 million he earned in Pittsburgh last season.
As such, the Red Wings may likely seek to secure Alfredsson to a less-expensive, one-year contract and take the risk associated with making such a move.
How much it would take to secure Alfredsson for one more year isn’t entirely clear, but a $2 million, one-year deal certainly seems to resemble a reasonable offer.
The Red Wings now know that Alfredsson is interested in returning to Detroit next season. However, considering his age, injury history and free-agent players available this summer, they should merely consider re-signing Alfredsson a viable option, not a priority.
*All data courtesy of NHL.com and CapGeek.com unless otherwise noted.