Playing Fact or Fiction with Detroit Red Wings Free Agency Rumors
On the eve of NHL free agency, rumors are swirling around the hockey universe, and a flurry of late activity is sure to shake up the marketplace.
The Detroit Red Wings’ search for a right-handed defenseman is the worst-kept secret in the NHL, but the shallow free-agent pool makes their hole a difficult one to fill.
GM Ken Holland have shown interest in signing a top-six forward, but they’re not exactly a dime a dozen this summer.
As far as other additions to the club’s roster, that remains to be seen. If Detroit plans to acquire a forward, few names have surfaced.
Of the players that have been connected to Detroit, the likelihood of interest could be more fiction that fact.
Detroit made the postseason last year with help from some of the organization’s top prospects. However, the team is not willing to swap its young talent for short-term answers.
Some names associated with the Red Wings this offseason are nothing more than gossip, but some are, in fact, very possible options to improve the lineup.
With the biggest day in the NHL offseason fast approaching, here’s a fact-or-fiction take on some of the rumors surrounding free agents and the Detroit Red Wings.
Dan Boyle: Fact
Detroit’s interest in Dan Boyle has increased as teams recently experienced the free-agent pitch period, where clubs could speak with pending open-market players. The Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James reported that Detroit has spoken with Boyle's camp already.
Boyle is likely the best short-term fit for Detroit. The Wings would use him in their top four as well as the primary right-handed shot on the first power-play unit.
San Jose chose not to retain Boyle’s services after the team’s collapse in seven games to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference quarterfinals. They ultimately dealt his rights to the New York Islanders, where Boyle chose not to sign.
Detroit could offer a two-year deal between $5-$5.5 million annually. It seems steep, but with the few available players that fit Detroit’s need, it is a relatively reasonable asking price.
Boyle will turn 38 on July 12, but he still has the skill to contribute in the NHL. Last year he totaled 12 goals and 36 points in 75 games for San Jose. Six of his goals came with the man advantage, while Detroit’s entire defensive corps combined to tally seven.
He would buy time for Detroit’s talented young defensive prospects to flourish in the minors and be ready to make the jump to the NHL once Boyle is finished.
Should his asking price reach toward $6 million, Detroit may choose to pass. There is no guarantee that the Red Wings will stick to their guns in regards to signing a right-handed point man if they become too expensive.
Jarome Iginla: Fiction
If Detroit is looking in free agency for a top-six forward, it will not be Jarome Iginla.
The 17-year veteran has scored 560 career goals, is a right-handed shot and headed for unrestricted free agency. Unfortunately, he is requesting a two-year deal, and at 36 years old, might be too heavy of an investment.
The Red Wings are already in a similar predicament with an aging veteran. Daniel Alfredsson has yet to make a definitive decision on his future in hockey, but the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James tweeted Alfredsson would return to Detroit should he elect to continue.
Should Alfredsson return to Detroit, it’ll likely be another one-year deal similar to his last. With the growth of some of Detroit’s top prospects, any long-term venture with a veteran forward may be ill-advised.
The club showed its readiness for a youth infusion during the 2013-14 season, and adding another player over the age of 35 would contradict that recent trend.
Yes, adding a player coming off his 12th career 30-goal season would be exciting, but considering Detroit’s need on defense is its top priority, someone like Iginla is not plausible.
If the club chooses to add a forward, it would likely come through a trade or perhaps a lower-tier player.
Matt Niskanen: Fact
The majority of Detroit’s decisions regarding its defense will be determined by the price for Matt Niskanen.
The 27-year-old right-hander is high on Detroit’s wish list, and he would provide exactly what its looking for in a top-line pairing.
Niskanen fits the need, but not at the price he’ll command.
Coach Mike Babcock has made it clear he wants a righty-lefty pairing in his lineup, per Ansar Khan of MLive.com:
I just think it's so much easier when you have a right and lefty on every pair. All you got to do is look at L.A. (Stanley Cup champion Kings), a right and lefty on every pair. Makes it easier to get through the neutral zone, easier off D-zone faceoffs to execute. You have the puck more. You can get it off the wall and shoot it in the offensive zone. To me it just makes sense.
Niskanen will be looking for the maximum seven-year contract, which Detroit is willing to offer according to Khan. Unfortunately, he is likely to demand near $6 million annually, which could be too rich for the Red Wings’ blood.
He’s coming off one good season, but at his age and in Detroit’s system, he could experience the same success over the length of his career.
Detroit will have around $9-$10 million in cap space after re-signing restricted free agents Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Dan DeKeyser.
With the cap issue the club experienced last season, Detroit may be more willing to save the extra millions and pursue a cheaper option.
Anton Stralman: Fiction
Other than the obvious need for a right-handed defenseman, there has not been much other than minimal contact between the Detroit Red Wings and Anton Stralman, according to Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner.
After spending the last three seasons with the New York Rangers, talks between the two sides never gained much traction. It was reported by the New York Post that Stralman rejected the Rangers’ three-year, $9 million offer before the Olympic break.
With free agency looming, it becomes more and more likely that he’ll find a new home this summer. Detroit has been nothing more than marginal speculation as a place of residence.
It is not to say Stralman wouldn’t fit in Detroit. He’ll turn 28 on August 1 and would easily fit under the salary cap, but he does not play the offensive style Detroit is pursuing.
Mike Babcock would like to have a righty-lefty balance up and down his defensive lineup, but Stralman would be best suited as the stay-at-home type.
If Detroit hoped to acquire multiple d-men, he could find his way into the picture. With the substantial interest in both Dan Boyle and Christian Ehrhoff, Stralman wouldn’t be considered unless Detroit missed on both.
Christian Ehrhoff: Fiction
With seven years remaining on his contract and an average annual cap hit of $4 million, the Sabres chose to buy him out when a trade became improbable.
MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports the Wings have already expressed interest in Ehrhoff. They are only willing to offer a three-year deal, but 31-year-old defenseman is commanding a five-year pact, ultimately taking Detroit out of the running for his services.
Although a left-handed shot, Detroit was willing to re-shuffle its free-agent priorities in order to accommodate Ehrhoff, and perhaps, another defenseman.
He is asking between $4.5-$5.5 million annually, which Detroit could accommodate alongside another free agent should he budge on contract length.
He was not Detroit's primary target, as he is a left-handed shooter. As an additional top-four blueliner, Detroit’s back end would have received a significant boost.
Unless one of the sides are humble enough to renegotiate, Ehrhoff in Detroit has gone the way of fiction. However, anything can happen during the summer's free-agent frenzy.