In a situation that's so frustratingly ambiguous, one becomes almost starved for anything resembling clarity.
No one really knows what Mike Modano will decide to do this summer.
He may retire, he may play on. If the latter, he may play for Detroit, or he may not. He may play for San Jose or Minnesota, or, another team may persuade him to sign on with them (Los Angeles hasn't been mentioned, but, they may be the best option when all is said and done).
Though Modano's future is a mystery, even to himself, one thing is absolutely certain: the Detroit Red Wings want him, and are willing to wait for him.
Modano says he'll begin skating sometime around August 5 and, sometime after that (just how long after is, of course, unknown) he'll make a decision regarding his future.
This time frame, nebulous as it is, is just fine for the Red Wings. They've said they're willing to give the 40-year-old legend the time he needs to decide on his future, even if that means it doesn't include playing in a red and white jersey.
This is a risky move as it could (negatively) impact the team's efforts to either land another free-agent player or re-sign their two remaining restricted free-agents, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.
Still, the Wings feel Modano is worth the risk.
Whether he is or not doesn't change the fact that the Red Wings still have some holes to fill in their roster and should be looking at a few options that could be used to fill them.
Ironically, the one place the Wings are stacked is down the middle. So, their insistence on waiting for Modano, a center, to decide on his future is a bit odd, but understandable given Modano's status and the Wings' history of winning with "over-the-hill" veterans.
Modano could definitely help Detroit, but, he's not the only player that can.
What follows is a list of five other free-agents that, in different ways, could contribute effectively as Detroit Red Wings.
Given Detroit's stated offer to Modano of a one-year deal worth $1.25-1.5 million, the players selected here should also be able to be had at the same price.
As always, please feel free to vent your derision or add your applause, just make sure to post it!
Assets: Tremendous speed, offensive acumen, above-average shiftiness
Liabilities: Offensive inconsistency, questionable hockey-sense, injury prone
This Russian-winger's career is in a strange place right now. A staple in Buffalo (the team that drafted him) since 1999, Afinogenov was considered expendable last summer as the Sabres elected not to re-sign him as an unrestricted free-agent. The emergence of offensive stars as Derek Roy and Tomas Vanek made waiving goodbye to the oft-injured, yet offensively gifted, Afinogenov an easy, if not emotional task.
At the time, the thinking was that the 29-year-old speedster would be snapped up quickly by one of the NHL's other 29 teams—so much for thinking. Afinogenov went unsigned through the summer and had to settle for a training camp invite, by the Atlanta Thrashers no less, for a shot at staying in the NHL. He predictably impressed in camp and was signed to a one-year, $800,000 deal.
The 2009-10 season proved to be quite a success for Maxim as he played an entire 82 game schedule for the first time in his career and had his second best offensive season with 61 points (24 G, 37 A). Nevertheless, Afinogenov finds himself where he was a year ago, smack-dab in the middle of summer without an NHL contract attached to his name.
As gifted as Afinogenov is, he lacks the consistency that a true top-six scorer needs to provide top value to his team. Like many such players, the offensive brilliance he exhibits in flashes leads to the expectation that he could and should provide that to a team all the time. Afinogenov just isn't that type of player. That's not to say he wouldn't be a great addition in Detroit.
With the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen on the roster, Detroit wouldn't need Afinogenov to be anything more than a decent secondary scorer. Additionally, as the Wings are woefully short on right-wing talent, Afinogenov could conceivably find his way on to one of the top lines should the need arise.
Assets: Huge, imposing frame, good mobility, physically aggressive
Liabilities: Poor hockey-sense, lacks goal-scoring ability
OK, just hear me out.
At 6' 5" and 254 lbs. Artyukhin would immediately add value to the Detroit Red Wings, if only by upping the team's overall size. Once a fan favorite in Tampa Bay, Artyukhin was traded by the Lightning last summer, to Anaheim. He was in and out of the line-up in Anaheim and was eventually traded to Atlanta to finish out his 2009-10 season.
Aside from his sheer size and strength, there's not a whole lot more Artyukhin brings to a team. However, size and grit is something the Red Wings could always use more of and, if immersed (really for the first time) in a first-class, championship-minded environment, he just might excel beyond the expectations of most.
Artyukhin would be a very un-Red Wing-like signing to be sure, however, he could provide an extra physical dimension to the team that might prove quite valuable in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Assets: Solid work ethic, physically engaged at all times, good along the boards
Liabilities: Limited offensive potential
Speaking of un-Red Wing-like signings, let's throw Arron Asham into the mix! Having just come off an impressive, if unexpected, run to the Stanley Cup Finals, all of Philadelphia's current UFA's are likely to garner attention from most teams looking to add to their roster. While the experience Asham gained through the 23 games he played in last year's playoffs is invaluable, it's his tenacity and physicality that should be of particular interest to the Red Wings.
Asham is a prototypical role player that understands his uses are few, but no less important to the success of a team. Be it crashing the net, punishing opponents along the boards or dropping the gloves to come to the aid of a teammate, Arron Asham is more than capable of adeptly providing these services.
Additionally, his positive attitude and exceptional work ethic is bound to please Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. If so, Asham could become an important part of Detroit's success in 2010-11.
Assets: Good mobility, good defensive instincts, comfortable in all situations
Liabilities: Very inconsistent, not physically engaging, prone to mistakes under pressure
Though we've been looking solely at forwards to this point, let's not forget that, as of now, the Red Wings have no one designated to take the sixth defenseman's spot on the blue line. As sixth defensemen go, Lukas Krajicek might be an outstanding option for Detroit, then again, he might not.
Through seven NHL seasons, Krajicek has yet to establish exactly what kind of player he is through stints with Florida, Vancouver, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Capable of moving the puck well and displaying solid defensive shut-down skills at some times, Krajicek has also proved just as capable of being out muscled by opposing forwards and coughing up the puck in his own zone at others.
Were he to come to Detroit, he'd likely be a "special project" for the Red Wings' coaching staff. Regardless, Krajicek seems like he maybe one of those players that would respond quite well to the structure and veteran-laden depth that the Red Wings would provide. Like Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Patrick Eaves before him, Krajicek might well be another in a long line of successful Detroit restoration projects.
Assets: Great size and speed, defensively responsible, physically aggressive
Liabilities: Poor offensive upside, could be meaner than he is
Through 418 games played with Boston and Washington over his seven year career, Shaone Morrisonn is a plus-36. That might not seem like a big deal, but, considering his lack of offensive prowess and the fact he hasn't exactly been playing in front of stellar goal-tending through his NHL tenure, it speaks quite well of his defensive skills.
In Morrisonn, the Red Wings would be getting a ready-made fifth or six defenseman capable of taking care of his own end as well as putting the spurs to opposing forwards who might try taking a run at the goalie or a cheap shot to a skilled forward. As capable as Morrisonn is of using his size to his advantage, he doesn't do so nearly as much as he could. The rare times he engages in fisticuffs (he did so only once last year, and that with Colton Orr) he's usually down on the ice as soon as all the fans are out of their seats.
Having a large (Morrisonn is 6' 4", 215 lbs), mobile, defensively sound defenseman is an asset to any team and would certainly be to the Red Wings. However, Morrisonn's $1.975 million salary from last year may mean that his asking price is too steep for a Red Wings team that is, once again, in close proximity to the NHL salary cap. Were they to secure Morrisonn for $1.5 million (again, the amount they've earmarked for Modano, should he sign), Detroit would not only have filled, but upgraded their third defensive pairing, rounding out a duo that would include Jonathan Ericsson.