Today, the Free Press' Helene St. James wrote a piece on Dan Cleary in which she discusses his contract situation.
The fact that Cleary is in the biggest contract year of his career is complicating things. St. James rightly notes that he'll be due a significant raise from his current $662,500 and uses Chicago's Patrick Sharp, who recently signed a four-year, $15.6 million deal ($3.9 million a year), as a point of comparison.
She suggests Cleary could command that much on the open market, though the Wings would like to sign him to a longer contract averaging around $2.5 million a season.
St. James pointed this out to Cleary. His response?
"That's a lot of money. That's something I would have to talk with my family about and make a decision about. It'd be a tough spot."
That is a lot of money. However, as St. James points out, the Wings may look to trade Cleary if they can't reach an agreement by the Feb. 26 deadline.
That way they'd get some return in case they cannot come to terms before or during the summer. Of course, if the Wings do make a trade with anybody, it's not going to be with a competitor. Cleary has to know this.
In that case, you would think the draw of a shot at the Stanley Cup would weigh more heavily in Dan's mind than the extra million and a half or so he could as a free agent.
I for one can't imagine this team without Cleary, who exemplifies the new Red Wings of the Mike Babcock era and who has become one of my favorite players. Hopefully he'll take the same route as so many of his teammates and accept a "hometown discount."