What once looked like a sure thing has now become a lingering question that Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has yet to find an answer for.
Detroit wants Todd Bertuzzi back next season, and we were told he wants to come back. But we've heard nothing since Bertuzzi was offered a two-year deal last week, which was likely at a reduced salary on average than he made last season. It looks like Bertuzzi isn't so sure he wants to take a pay cut to stay in Detroit, and is leaning toward testing the free agent market that opens on July 1.
Holland now must come up with a contingency plan should Bertuzzi walk on July 1. The Red Wings only have so much cap room to spend, and will need to find someone that makes around the same salary to replace him if he leaves the Red Wings. After the jump, we'll look at possible replacements for Bertuzzi should he look elsewhere for work next year.
Free Agents (Position, Team, 2009-10 Salary)
Brendan Morrison (F-WAS, $1.5M)-- The former University of Michigan product made the same $1.5 million salary Bertuzzi made, and put up similar numbers (12 goals, 30 assists). Morrison has never put up more than 25 goals in a season at the NHL level however, and has only hit 20 once since the lockout.
Mike Comrie (F-EDM, $1.25M)-- It probably wouldn't be too hard to convince Comrie to join the Red Wings after playing with last-place Edmonton last season. Another former Michigan scoring wizard, Comrie only played 43 games last year due to injury, but still put up a respectable 13 goals. At 29, he's on the right side of 30 and only made $1.25 million last season. Coming off an injury-plagued season, he won't be in much of a position to demand a pay raise, and could take a deal similar to what Bertuzzi made this season.
Owen Nolan (F-MIN, $2.75M)-- He made more than $2 million last season, but at 38 years old there's no way anyone is going to pay that much for a guy that's only going to give you 15-20 goals. Nolan falls under the "quick fix" category, giving Detroit's younger prospects some time to develop.
Miroslav Satan (F-BOS, $700K)-- A former 40-goal scorer with the Buffalo Sabres, Satan has been up-and-down in the post-lockout era. He scored 35 goals in 2005-06 for the New York Islanders, but has been in steady decline since then. He won't be putting up those kinds of numbers again, but he is a proven goal scorer and could produce the 15-20 goals the Wings are looking for. The biggest upside to Satan is money--he made less than $1 million last season for Boston.
Arron Asham (F-PHI, $640K)-- He probably won't score 20 goals--he's never had more than 15 in any NHL season--but he'll definitely fight you for it. Asham would bring a physical presence to the team with a little scoring touch, something Brad May was unable to give the team last season.
Mattias Ritola-- Ritola took Jason Williams' spot on the roster during the San Jose series when coach Mike Babcock realized he was relying on Jason Williams to produce a secondary scoring punch. Ritola has an inside track at a roster spot next year anyways, as he can't be sent to the minors again without clearing waivers first. It doesn't guarantee a spot by any means, but if Bertuzzi leaves his chances will increase significantly.
Tomas Tatar-- Tatar has been the most talked about Red Wings prospect this past season. Tatar scored 16 goals and 16 assists with Grand Rapids last season and is expected to be a top contributor to the Griffins next year. But if Detroit can't get Bertuzzi signed, they may have to accelerate his progress to the NHL. He's only 19, so there's definitely a concern of rushing him into producing right away, much like what happened with Ville Leino.