Daniel Alfredsson isn’t a problem, exactly. He tied for the team lead in scoring with 49 points in his first season in Detroit, and the Red Wings clearly like him. The trouble is that in bringing him back for another season, Detroit would further complicate an already difficult situation up front.
General manager Ken Holland seems committed to keeping Alfredsson anyway, as he revealed to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan on Monday.
“My take is we're probably going to try to do something with Alfie,” Holland told Khan. “He had a good year, 19 goals. When he was healthy, he was valuable.”
Holland added that he doesn't expect Alfredsson to appear in all 82 games for Detroit, owing to the team’s wealth of young talent, and that he isn't interested in bringing aboard any other free agents. Still, as Khan notes, the addition of Alfredsson will give the team far too many forwards on one-way deals:
If Alfredsson returns, the team will have 15 forwards on one-way contracts, one more than it intends to carry. Jurco is the only one of the group who can be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins without going through waivers. In addition, prospects Landon Ferraro and Mitch Callahan must clear waivers to be sent back to the AHL.
Including Alfredsson, that gives Detroit 17 forwards that it will need to seriously consider for roster spots out of training camp in 2014-15. The figure balloons to 19 if one includes prospects Teemu Pulkkinen (2010 draft pick led Detroit’s AHL team in scoring) and Anthony Mantha (first-round pick in 2013 scored a goal per game in the QMJHL last year).
Is Alfredsson worth creating that kind of mess?
Yes, probably. The 41-year-old proved himself still capable of scoring in a supporting role last season and, more importantly, of keeping his head above water in five-on-five play. Because he’d be signing a 35-plus contract, the Red Wings have the option of giving him a big games-played bonus that could be deferred to 2015-16 if necessary. He’d also be a veteran on a (surprisingly) young Detroit team that loves its old warhorses.
So how does Detroit knock that list of 19 players down to 14?
For starters, the Red Wings could send down everyone who can be sent down without clearing waivers. Detroit’s management group loves making its prospects wait, so while nixing Jurco, Pulkkinen and Mantha may not be an easy decision, it’s one that fits in with organizational history. Given the number of veterans with possible health problems on the roster, Jurco’s bound to be recalled for good in the not-too-distant future anyway.
Landon Ferraro and Mitch Callahan are tougher choices since they’d be exposed to waivers, but the Red Wings have also done that before. Ferraro has draft pedigree but only scored 31 points in 70 AHL games last season.
Callahan, a sixth-round pick in 2009, might be in more danger; he scored 26 goals in 2013-14 and is a grinding, checking winger who doesn’t need a pile of offence to survive in the majors. Still, both guys have a fair-to-middling chance of sneaking through the waiver wire.
Alternatively, the Red Wings could make a trade. Joakim Andersson, the cheap two-way centre who will have difficulty getting minutes in 2014-15, seems like a logical candidate for that, but there are other possibilities, too. A subtraction would allow Detroit to keep Jurco, Mantha or Callahan out of training camp.
It’s a situation that would be made a lot easier if Detroit hadn’t decided to re-up Danny Cleary in July. If the Red Wings end up losing a pretty good young prospect to waivers, it will be that decision and not the choice to re-sign Alfredsson that deserves attention.