As the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has now come and gone, and with absolutely nothing resembling a major trade going down during the two-day event (the second of which resembled something a tad more lively than a narcolepsy convention), the countdown to free-agency (July 1) is now made all the more exciting.
Major names like Marty Turco, Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Kovalchuk remain unsigned and there are a slew of veteran impending UFA's and young RFA's similarly situated.
As such, we are no doubt going to have plenty of eye-popping deals coming down the pike in the next few days.
The Detroit Red Wings have already taken care of their highest profile free-agency needs, re-signing impending UFA's Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi weeks ago.
And while the increased salary cap ($59.4 million for 2010-11) will give Detroit roughly $6 million to fill out their roster, don't expect GM Ken Holland to dip in very deep to the UFA market to address the team's needs.
No, like they've done with their off-season signings to date, the Red Wings will set out to prove that, just like Dorothy said, "there's no place like home."
That Holland want to tender qualifying offers, if not extended contracts, to RFA's Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller is not news.
However, what those offers should and could be is yet to be determined.
Additionally, the Red Wings currently have just five defensemen on the payroll for next season.
They will need to lock up at least one more, if not two, before the season begins.
As a result, how much of that $6 million in cap space will be eaten up by the moves Detroit needs to make in free agency is up in the air.
Bleacher Report is here to bring it down to Earth!
What follows is not only a to-do list detailing which players Detroit needs to sign, but what numbers should go on the contracts/offers.
At one point, we'll take a breather to see where they'll be at money wise and then conclude with how much of it they need to put towards additional needs - even if that need is only cap space.
A few things to note before we get started.
*All RFA's must be tendered qualifying offers before July 1st or they will automatically become UFA's.
*As all of Detroit's UFA's made under $1million last year, an offer cannot qualify as a qualifying offer (yes, I said that) unless it is at least 110 percent of their previous salary.
That said, let's start spending Detroit's money.
His teammates call him "Danger" and they hope the rest of the league will soon start calling him by the same name.
Equipped with blinding speed and off-the-charts energy, Darren Helm is another late-round draft pick (drafted 132nd overall in 2005) that appears to be blooming into a solid-NHLer.
Some, including the 23-year-old forward himself, would say he took a bit of a backward step last year, his first full-regular season after two outstanding playoff campaigns.
But, like almost all the Red Wings of 2009-2010, he was battling through injuries and team-wide inconsistency for much of the season, so it does make his overall development a bit hard to judge.
Still, his development to date is reason enough to offer Helm a multi-year deal that, while only paying him on average $1.25 million per year, should still be enough to not only qualify his rights, but keep him in red and white this year.
At this point, you might wonder what difference exists between a "contract" and a "qualifying offer".
They are essentially the same thing, an offer of term and salary, but they carry with them slightly different intentions.
When a team offers a player a "contract", they are basically telling him that they are prepared to pay him x amount of y years to remain with the organization.
Additionally, contract offers may be the result of negotiations between a team and a player's agent, thus, carrying with them more probability of ratification.
This being the case, the player and/or his agent may want to start negotiating with the team for more money or longer term, something the team may be open to doing.
A "qualifying offer" is no less a contract, but, the intent behind it is slightly different.
Whatever that offer may be, it serves two purposes: one, it establishes the player's value to the team, two: it, retains the negotiating rights of that player.
Now, the player may chose not to accept the offer.
In this case, he will remain an RFA and be subject to offer sheets from other teams, or, he may sign the offer and request an increase in pay through salary arbitration.
Or, he could sign the offer, accept the terms and thank his lucky stars he's still got a job.
That being said, Patrick Eaves should still prove to be an asset to the Red Wings, but, if he chooses to believe he's worth more than $800k per year, he should be allowed to walk and try his luck with 29 other teams.
Did I say the Red Wings call Darren Helm "Danger"?
Well, that's true, but they also call him "Dumb" when referencing his friendship with Abdelkader, whom they of course call, "Dumber".
Joking aside, the two young forwards bring speed and grit to the Red Wings, with Abdelkader providing a heaping dose of the latter.
Though he played only 50 games last season, Abdelkader still lead the team in hits with 163.
However, his six points and minus-11 rating still leave a lot to be desired beyond his physical contributions and he's shown flashes of ample ability to improve his offensive numbers.
Abdelkader is still a bit more of a wild card than is his buddy Helm, but, the Wings will do well to make him an offer he shouldn't refuse.
For those of you keeping track at home, we've got about $3.4 million left to spend and at least two more roster spots to fill.
The Red Wings should take $900k of that and offer it to Drew Miller for the 2010-11 season.
Perhaps the best waiver wire pick-up of last season, Drew Miller, a Michigan native, found quick comfort in Detroit scoring 10 goals (three of them game-winners), adding nine assists and a plus-two rating through 80 games played.
With Kirk Maltby set to test his luck via free-agency (and Kirk, if I may, call it a career buddy, we'd love to see you hang 'em up as a Red Wing), Drew Miller is more than able to fill his spot on a checking line as well as add a bit more offense to boot.
$900k per year may be a tad low ball for Miller, but, he clearly loves playing for his hometown (OK, he's from East Lansing but you get my point) Red Wings, which should be enough for him to accept the $375k pay increase from last season's salary.
Alright, so these first four items on the to-do list were easy enough.
The Wings wanted to keep all four and these offers should be able to do the trick, barring a slight revision or two.
But, with nearly $3 million left to spend and a defenseman or two to secure, how would this money best be spent?
Sure, signing Anton Volchenkov would be nice, but he's going to come at a much steeper price than $3 million a year.
The Wings could simply stop now and bank that $2.6 million as "rainy-day" funds should they be plagued with injuries once again (oh God, please don't let that happen again).
They've got Jakub Kindl coming up who should provide solid minutes on the blue-line if he develops as planned, but, is it smart to go with him as a de facto sixth d-man?
Well, it's not sexy and it might cheese a few fans off, but, the next thing on Ken Holland's to do list is to secure a known quantity that can effectively and cheaply provide some size and experience on the blue-line.
Yep, you guessed it...
Unless you're a Lilja fan (don't laugh, there may be one or two out there), this item is liable to piss you off for a couple reasons.
First, it essentially completes the unglamorous task of guaranteeing that the 2010-11 Red Wings will look virtually identical to the 2009-10 Red Wings.
Aside from Jiri Hudler, there won't be any flashy new additions, no big, tough defenders we hope will pummel opponents, just the same ol' Wings we knew from last year.
Second, you might notice that the $1.5 million Lilja could get is actually a raise over the $1.25 million he got last year!
Are you kidding me?
As boring and turn-over prone (though not nearly as bad as most think) as Lilja is, there's not another 6'3", shot-blocking, penalty-killing defenseman available for $1.5 million.
Lilja is still an above average penalty-killer and the only true, stay-at-home defenseman Detroit has (this is perhaps the most under appreciated role played in the NHL, but it is very valuable).
As for the raise, even though he's 35, there's still a chance Lilja would much prefer a longer term (say two to three years) deal to stay with the Wings.
He's not worth that risk, at any price.
By offering him a slight raise, it should help convince him that his best option, from a financial as well as a hockey perspective, is to stay in Detroit.
If he balks at this offer, let him walk and start penning a new to-do list.
If he does what he should and jumps at it, it could provide Detroit with a solid and experienced defensive corps that few teams would be able to emulate.
This takes care of the roster needs, but there's one thing left to do on this list...
Think about it, $1 million in cap space!
This is more than enough to make moves during the season should the need arise.
It could buy you a veteran forward or defenseman for depth.
It could help to facilitate a key trade at the deadline.
Or, should Jimmy Howard falter in his second year as a starter, and Chris Osgood prove unable to pick up the slack (come on, stop laughing, that's not nice), having $1.035 million in cap space might be just enough to pick up an unsigned goal-tender via free agency after the season starts.
With the glut of goalies available this summer, supply is almost assuredly going to outpace demand, thus, bringing the price of goalies down and almost certainly leaving a few of them on the outside looking in once the season starts.
The options this $1.035 million in cap space will give Detroit once the season starts are many. And with the roster complete, sitting on this cash is a luxury few teams, certainly the Red Wings, have been able to enjoy the past few years.