Heard on Episode 3.40 of AFITC
While many viewed the Pittsburgh Penguins as the understudy to the Detroit Red Wings on the NHL’s biggest stage this season, paying their dues before eventually rising to the top for years to come, do not expect this year’s big stars to just step aside next season, out of the way of the march of the Penguins.
Unlike the Penguins who have several key players without contracts for next season and an even bigger problem a year from now when the contracts of Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal run out, the Red Wings have all their cornerstone players locked up.
Up front, only Dallas Drake, Darren McCarty, Aaron Downey and Mark Hartigan are facing a summer of unrestricted free agency. With all due respect none of these players would present a significant loss for the Red Wings should they not be resigned. Valtteri Filppula is a restricted free agent but should not be a problem for GM Ken Holland to get under contract.
On defense, Brad Stuart is the only significant rear-guard in need of a contract. Andres Lilja and Chris Chelios are also unrestricted free agents but neither are integral pieces of Detroit’s puzzle.
Dominik Hasek’s $2 million salary will be off the books next year as he is not likely to return leaving Holland with money for a more inexpensive backup netminder and extra to allocate where he sees fit.
A year from now, the only players who will likely see significant pay raises will be Hendrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Other key members of the 2008 champs including Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Darren Helm, Nik Lidstrom, Nik Kronwall, Bryan Rafalski and Chris Osgood are all locked up as a group at least until the 2009-2010 campaign.
So while the Pittsburgh Penguins, with their staggering collection of young talent, may yet begin a Cup collection down the road, they may have to wait a few more years for the Detroit Red Wings to complete a Cup collection of their own. But hey, all that was just rigamarole.