Detroit Red Wings: 10 Free Agents at the Top of GM Ken Holland's List

Isaac SmithAnalyst IMay 21, 2012

Detroit Red Wings: 10 Free Agents at the Top of GM Ken Holland's List

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    The Detroit Red Wings are going to be spending at the start of the NHL free agency period. The only questions are "who will they sign?" and "how much will they spend?"

    The Red Wings are sitting pretty with $20.7 million in cap space this offseason, and that will increase if the salary cap increases.

    Red Wings' GM Ken Holland will have his hands full while he assembles a list of players to pursue. Some big names have already been linked with Detroit.

    But as everyone knows, it's not about the big name players in the playoffs—it's about which third- and fourth-line players rise to the occasion.

    Here are 10 players that will be on Mr. Holland's list if they are not retained by their current teams.

1. Ryan Suter

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    As far as top-pairing defensemen that could be on the market, Ryan Suter remains the best available.

    Although Shea Weber will be available hypothetically as a restricted free agent, there is no team that will go out and give up four first-round picks (and the salary that Weber would command) to get him.

    Suter has been in Weber's shadow of sorts in Nashville. They've been arguably the top defensive pairing in the NHL during the regular season.

    But Suter needs a pay raise (making $3.5 million right now) and likely a change of scenery.

    According to Robby Stanley of, Suter stated that he would take time before meeting with Nashville, but that wherever he signs, he "wants to play there for the rest of [his] career."

    Well, Detroit is a very good place to play for the majority of your career. Just ask Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom, Kris Draper and others.

    Detroit is in need of a top-tier defenseman, and the fact that they can offer Suter a spot to play for the rest of his career will be a big selling point.

2. Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise is a gamer. He comes to play every game, and he usually has an impact on the score sheet in one way or another.

    Parise put up 31 goals and 69 points this year. Those 31 goals are more than any Red Wings player had this season.

    He doesn't just lead on the score sheet, though.

    Parise comes to play defensively, with a plus-30 takeaway advantage to go along with 65 hits and 39 blocked shots.

    He's a left wing, however, and the Red Wings are already fairly rich in that position. But he has an advantage on most Red Wings: he is a clutch player.

    Nine of his goals came while the Devils were tied.

    Parise would make a great addition as a shooting left winger if he could convince Zetterberg or Franzen to move over to the right wing.

    However, neither Zetterberg or Franzen would have to play right wing if....

3. Alexander Semin

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    ...if the Red Wings sign Alexander Semin.

    The Russian right winger is just a beast offensively, boasting one of the best shots in the league.

    Semin doesn't unload his slap shot a lot, but when he uses it, everyone takes notice.

    Having said that, all of Semin's shots can be dangerous, regardless of where the shot is taken.

    Semin won't necessarily bring it in the defensive stat column, and that has been a big criticism of him in the past.

    He didn't really fit in with the defensive system that the Washington Capitals switched to at the start of last season, but he managed to do a decent job in adapting.

    But decent won't cut it with Detroit. Luckily for Semin, the Wings are in need of a right-handed shooter to help them out on their power play.

    Ken Holland will definitely be interested come free agency.

    If Semin doesn't re-up with the Washington Capitals, that is.

4. Nick Lidstrom

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    What's wrong? You seemed surprised to find Nick Lidstrom on this list.

    Lidstrom is, after all, the Detroit captain, but he is (for the moment) a free agent.

    At 42 years of age, Lidstrom might retire before free agency starts, but then again if he feels that he can still play at an elite level, and that Detroit can win a cup, Lidstrom could come back.

    He's lost a bit of a step in his stride, but the captain is the smartest defenseman in the game as far as how he thinks a step ahead of where the play is at the time.

    If Lidstrom comes back for another season, he would likely take a big pay cut from his $6.2 million cap hit if Ken Holland asked him to, so that Holland could use the money to sign other free agents, most likely the ones in slides one, two or three.

5. John Mitchell

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    Bet you didn't expect to see John Mitchell on this list.

    But the picture above shows exactly why Detroit needs him as a fourth-line center.

    Mitchell had 89 hits this season in 63 games played. With only 10 minutes of ice time per game, Mitchell is certainly making the most of what he has been given.

    He is a face-off artist and has been put on the ice in key situations to win these draws.

    Don't believe me? Try typing in the words "John Mitchell" and "faceoff" in Google and see what comes up.

    Michell will likely be re-signed by the Rangers for all the reasons I have laid out here, but if he isn't re-signed, Ken Holland should be making a phone call to Mitchell's agent.

    Oh, did I mention his cap hit is just $650,000?

    Not bad for a guy who put up 16 points.

6. P.A. Parenteau

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    P.A. Parenteau is due for a huge pay raise.

    Parenteau made just $1.25 million this past season and put up 18 goals and 67 points.

    So why would Detroit want to give Parenteau that raise?

    Secondary options.

    If Parise or Semin happen to be unavailable, Parenteau should be a top candidate for Ken Holland to sign to bolster the right wing position in Detroit.

    Parenteau was selected in the ninth round by Anaheim, 263 picks after Ilya Kovalchuk was selected first overall in 2001.

    Parenteau will likely command between $3.5 and $4 million a season, but Detroit would be wise to lock him up on July 1 because he has proven perfectly capable of being a top-six forward in this league, and Detroit seems to have a shortage of capable right wingers.

    Parenteau had six power-play goals this past season, and that was with the lowly New York Islanders.

    He'll need to cut down on his giveaways this season (56 in total) to be an effective forward in Detroit's puck-moving offense, but Parenteau has taken monumental strides offensively, and if his defensive game improves a bit, he could be looking at significant minutes.

7. Lee Stempniak

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    In his time in the league, Lee Stempniak has bounced around from the Blues to Maple Leafs to Coyotes and, this season, the Calgary Flames.

    Stempniak is a little bit undersized at 5'11" and 196 pounds, but he has a heck of a shot and a knack of getting open in the right places.

    Despite missing all but 18 games in 2009-10, Stempniak has 14 goals and 18 points.

    His defensive game is fairly solid, but if he isn't going to be playing on the top-six forwards for Detroit, Stempniak would have to get his hitting game going in order to see solid ice time.

    With a $1.9 million cap hit, and Stempniak's numbers not getting overly better, he could be signed for $2.2-$2.5 million to fill a void at right wing for Detroit.

8. Barret Jackman

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    Barret Jackman is a solid defender who can take over Brad Stuart's shot-blocking role on the second pairing if necessary.

    Jackman had 13 points with the Blues this past season, but he is more of a defensive defenseman than an offensive threat.

    Jackman had 153 blocked shots and 106 shots in 82 games this season.

    He logs over 20 minutes a game and plays substantial minutes (three minutes and 26 seconds) on the penalty kill, which is another area where Detroit will miss Brad Stuart.

    How good is Jackman defensively? A regular season plus-20. His playoff season was forgettable, going minus-8.

    Jackman's $3.625 cap hit is reasonable, but it depends whether Jackman has any interest in leaving the Blues or if Detroit will need another defenseman if Ryan Suter ends up signing elsewhere.

9. Justin Peters

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    Justin Peters is one of those goalies where you just shake your head because he deserved a better fate this season.

    Peters owned a 2.48 GAA and a 93.1 save percentage in seven games this season, but he had just a 2-3-2 record with one shutout.

    Time for a change of scenery and a possible position as a backup for the Detroit Red Wings.

    Peters is 25 years young, and he made just $525,000 last year. This could be a steal in the making for Detroit as far as backup goaltenders go.

    Keep an eye on this one to see where Peters signs.

10. Tomas Vokoun

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    Detroit needs a backup goalie. Everybody knows it.

    Tomas Vokoun is a great goalie, and if he wants a role as a backup, he would have to take a substantial pay cut from what he could get as a starter.

    Vokoun signed in Washington for just $1.5 million last summer but lost his job multiple times, ultimately not starting in the playoffs.

    For Detroit to sign Vokoun, it's a matter of money and a matter of taking a role as a backup.

    His numbers aren't bad at 25-17-2 record with four shutouts, a 91.7 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA.

    He needs a job, and his days in Washington are likely done.

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