Now that we know Steve Yzerman is headed to Toronto as the newest member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with former teammates Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, we can finally settle in and get back to the business at hand: who's going to be suiting up for the Wings next season?
The picture looks to be clearing up a bit, but is still incredibly hazy. Here's what we know so far:
- Multiple sources have confirmed that Chris Chelios will not be offered a playing contract for the Red Wings this upcoming season. Cheli is scheduled to meet with the media today to discuss his own future, and he still believes he can contribute big minutes for someone in the league. In terms of immediate impact: everyone knew this was coming. The blue-line is pretty much set for next season with Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Brad Stuart, Andreas Lilja and Derek Meech. Obviously, Lilja's health is still a VERY big question, so a move to shore up the blue line even more may not be out of the question.
- With every passing day, it looks more and more like Ty Conklin will probably find his way out of Detroit in favor of giving Jimmy Howard a shot at being Chris Osgood's backup. From Rachel Lenzi/Portland (Maine) Press-Herald:
"Jimmy's earned a chance to get to the top," said Jim Nill, the assistant general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. "We have full confidence that Jimmy Howard's going to come in and be a goalie for the Red Wings, but he has to come in and earn that, and there's an opportunity for him to do that. It's up to him. Is there a job for him? He has to earn that."
Lenzi also talked with Howard about his situation:
"The Red Wings like how I've progressed," said Howard, the 64th selection in the 2003 NHL Draft. "They like how I've gotten rid of the inconsistency bug, and this season, I was a lot more consistent. Next year, I"m going to get my shot and I have to take full advantage of it."
Ken Holland and Jim Nill seem pretty confident in Howard, and now is as good of time as any to give him a shot at competing. The Wings have some good prospects behind Howard, so that should provide motivation for the kid to step it up. This also (theoretically) frees up some additional money for the Wings, as they won't have to shell out to keep Conklin on the roster.
- As many folks pointed out this week, Eklund from over at HockeyBuzz laid out a claim that Detroit had all but locked up Marian Hossa for the long term. That's a bit difficult to believe right now, especially considering that, as Ken Holland has repeatedly said, he won't know what he can offer until he gets a solid salary cap figure for the upcoming season. Does this mean Hossa isn't staying? Absolutely not. Ted Kulfan/Detroit News makes a great point:
Hossa is expected to receive an offer in the range of $4 million to $5 million from the Wings, but for anywhere from 8-10 years. Many teams, especially teams contending for the Stanley Cup, won't be able to offer similar lengthy deals.
So what does it come down to? The same thing it has from the beginning: is Hossa serious about putting a long-term deal over making more money. If yes, he's back. If not, he's not. Holland has already said he will meet with Hossa's agent, Ritch Winter, during the draft this weekend, so we should have a better idea of where things stand early next week.
- Take this one for what it's worth, but according to Kulfan, Mikael Samuelsson has put his house up for sale.
Samuelsson, incidentally, has put his house up for sale according to several residents in his Novi neighborhood.
No surprise here, as it's been pretty much assumed from the get-go that Samuelsson would be odd man out after this season was over. Barring a major surprise, Sammy's services will be with another NHL franchise next season.
- Finally, we know that Holland has made qualifying offers to both Jiri Hudler and Ville Leino, both restricted free agents, in an attempt to keep their rights. Holland has also said that he is currently undecided on offering two-way contracts to veterans Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey. Leino will stick around, as his role should increase this season with the Wings. I would also expect Holland to offer both McCarty and Downey deals, as long as he has the money to do so. As far as Hudler goes, his presence in Detroit is an incredible long shot for next season. Even if he re-signs, he will be one of Detroit's biggest trade pieces, and will likely get moved.
Like I said, it's still hazy, but it should really start to clear up next week once the draft is over with and the free agent market opens up.