NHL Free Agents 2010: Detroit Red Wings Should Cool Pursuit of Mike Modano

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IJuly 6, 2010

What was it that Ace Ventura said?

"Man, I'm tired of being right!"

On June 29, the day the Dallas Stars made it official that they would not be making an offer to franchise icon Mike Modano, I wrote this piece.

You see, even though free agency had yet to begin and Mike Modano himself was still (and still is) unsure about whether he'd want to play another year for any team, I knew the Detroit Red Wings would be quick to pursue the veteran center once free agency began.

Man, I'm tired of being right.

Though, at the time, it was only speculation, I figured it wouldn't be long before the Red Wings turned their efforts toward convincing the Livonia, MI native that, if he wasn't able to end his playing days as a Star, doing so as a Red Wing would be the next best thing.

Well, as of July 6, the Red Wings have stated that not only are they interested in Modano, they "want him badly" and have begun wooing him with lunch with GM Ken Holland and a trip to a Tigers game.

Lunch and a ball game, not a bad first date by any measure.

But, like many first dates, one often gets to the middle of it only to discover that the whole thing was a bad idea in the first place.

Sure, you see it through to a respectable end, but you sure as hell don't talk about taking things any further than they've gone.

You say your goodbyes, and hope to hell they never call you again.

There's no telling if that will be the case with Modano's outing with Detroit, but for many reasons it should be.

While one could do the math, look at the numbers, and decide how much the Wings could actually put towards such a deal, arguing for or against the move on numbers alone is the wrong way to look at this scenario.

Suffice to say that if he does indeed decide to play one more year, it won't take a fortune to secure Modano's services in Detroit.

If the Wings want him, and he wants them, they'll work out a very cap-friendly deal that won't jeopardize the team's finances moving forward.

However, even if Modano was willing to become a Red Wing pro bono, the decision to add him to the roster is still one that could impact the team, even after he does eventually retire.

The Red Wings currently have five dedicated centers on their roster, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, and Kris Draper.

Now, according to head coach Mike Babcock, he'd like to reunite "Euro Twins" Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the Wings' top line next season.

With Zetterberg moving to the wing, Detroit would then have the requisite four centers they need to roll the same number of lines.

However, though Filppula, Helm, and Draper would likely center lines two through four, respectively, they also have Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader to sub or replace as necessary, as Franzen is a natural center to begin with and Abdelkader has already filled in nicely in that capacity during his brief time in Detroit.

The point is, the Red Wings do not need another center.

However, would Modano be an upgrade over any one of Filppula, Helm, or Draper?


Though Modano is without a doubt one of the best centers to play in the NHL over the past 20 years, the days of him dominating games with any regularity are well past him.

However, Valtteri Filppula and Darren Helm are just beginning to realize their potential in the NHL and this year in particular is going to be huge for both of them.

Filppula has shown undeniable brilliance in executing a two-way game both in the regular season and the playoffs.

The only problem is he hasn't shown it often enough.

At the end of the playoffs, both Filppula and Mike Babcock said that 2010-11 was going to have to be a breakout year for the Finnish center to avoid being looked at as an underachiever.

Putting Datsyuk and Zetterberg together is just the move that needs to be made to give Filppula a shot at regular second-line pivot duties.

Should he make the most of his opportunity, we just might see the 26-year-old fully blossom into the consistently dynamic, dominating forward that his talent and work ethic suggest he's capable of being.

Regarding Darren Helm, he is essentially the heir apparent to Kris Draper in Detroit.

A lightning fast skater, aggressive fore-checker and above average hitter, Helm has, like Filppula, shown extended flashes of brilliance in his time in Detroit.

However, he is expected to take the next step towards becoming a more well-rounded contributor and getting dedicated third-line duties is just what he needs.

That brings us to Kris Draper.

At 39, the veteran center is in the last year of his contract and, almost assuredly, his last year in the league.

While he is far from the player he was 10 years ago, he can still out-skate many of his opponents and contribute on the score sheet every now and again.

Still, replacing him with Mike Modano would be a big enough upgrade if it weren't for one thing—Mike Modano is not a fourth line player.

If Modano continues his NHL career into the 2010-11 season, he should take nothing less than a third line role with whatever club he signs with.

In the case of Detroit, that means he'd be replacing not Draper, but Helm or Filppula on one of the middle lines.

And there, as they say, is the rub.

Is displacing the team's future embodied by Helm and Filppula worth whatever benefit Mike Modano could provide the team as a second or third line center?

I don't think so.

At 26 and 23, respectively, Filppula and Helm still have a shot at becoming major pieces of Detroit's future success while Modano would be little more than a nostalgic add-on with limited shelf life.

Detroit needs to get younger, not older.

Its young players need more playing time and responsibility, not less.

As such, they should thank Mike Modano for his time, wish him well, and hope he doesn't call.


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