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Nicklas Lidstrom Returning To The Red Wings Just First Step in Offseason Plan

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IJune 1, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 27:  Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings stands on the ice following Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 27, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 6-1 to win the series 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It's official.

Nicklas Lidstrom will return to the Red Wings next year for a 19th, and most likely, final season.

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland announced that he has signed a one-year deal with the iconic defenseman for $6.2 million.

On the face of it, signing a 40-year-old player to such a lucrative contract seems a bit foolhardy, if not down-right stupid.

However, there are but a handful of players in the entire history of the game as legendary and consistently excellent as Nicklas Lidstrom.

What's more, this shouldn't be looked upon as simply a "nostalgia signing", a way to honor a player who's done so much for your team in the past, but may not add much value to your team's present.

No, Nicklas Lidstrom, even at 40, is still the Red Wings best defenseman.

That isn't an indictment of how poor the Wings' defensive corps is, the Wings still boast one of the best Top Four units in the league. Rather, it exemplifies just how great a player Lidstrom is and has been for the Red Wings.

He's certainly not the same player he was five years ago, but he's still the best player on the ice more often than not.

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Aside from the stability this signing provides to Detroit's defense, it also serves a very valuable function in that it puts the Wings' cap situation in a much brighter light.

Based on the 2009-10 cap numbers, the Wings entered the offseason with $13.85 million coming off the books.

With Lidstrom's $6.2 million salary, the Wings will now have $7.55 million in cap space.

However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently stated that he expects the cap to rise by about $2 million in 2010-11.

If this is the case, the Wings' will have $9.55 million with which to sign or replace UFA's Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, and Andreas Lilja.

The Wings other UFA's, Jason Williams, Brett Lebda, Brad May and Kirk Maltby are all but guaranteed to not be offered contracts by Detroit.

Additionally, the Wings would like sign Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves, all RFA's, to new contracts.

In order of priority, it seems that Holland's first task, post-Lidstrom signing, will be to secure net-front nightmare Tomas Holmstrom to a new contract.

After that, locking up the four RFA's will likely be Holland's next move.

That may leave players like Todd Bertuzzi and Andreas Lilja, players Holland has expressed an interest in re-signing, on the outside looking in.

However, with Lidstrom secured for one more year, Holmstrom, Abdelkader, Miller, Helm and Eaves all coming back, as well as the return of Jiri Hudler, the Red Wings should be able to ice a very competitive team in 2010-11.