If you haven't heard the news yet, or you just happen to live in a cave, the Red Wings made a pretty big deal on Friday.
Mike Modano--wait, make that All-Time American Scoring Leader Mike Modano--decided that he still had some hockey left in him and came home to Michigan, signing a one-year deal to chase another Cup with the Red Wings.
A couple weeks ago, I said that the Wings should pass on the 40-year-old Modano, saving their money (and roster space) for younger players Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. Now that Modano has come over to the dark side, it doesn't mean my opinion has changed. I still firmly believe they should have done so, as the Red Wings are now seriously bumping up against the salary cap.
That being said, I'm not mad that Modano is now a Red Wing.
Modano's presence on the team gives Detroit three solid scoring lines, as he's currently slated to center the third line with Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler. Not many of the other 29 NHL teams can say the same. Then throw in the fourth line which will feature a combination of Helm, Abdlekader, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Kris Draper and you're going to find a lot of teams struggling to stop the big red machine. Surrounded by hordes of veteran players, Modano won't have to be "the guy" like he was for so many years in Dallas.
And of course, there's the homecoming element. Modano grew up in Livionia and played for Mike Illitch's Little Cesars team when he was just a kid dreaming of skating on NHL ice.
But having Modano on this team does not equal Stanley Cup.
It improves their chances for sure, but the Western Conference didn't just magically get any worse. Chicago is undergoing an overhaul, but as long as there are names like Hossa, Toews, Kane and Keith on the roster, the Hawks are always going to be serious contenders in the Central. San Jose is short an Evgeni Nabokov, but their top two lines remain virtually unchanged. Then there's X-factors like the Phoenix Coyotes, (aka, the future Winnipeg Jets) who took the Red Wings to the limit in the first round.
The biggest drawback of having Mo on the team is the reduced playing time for the young guys. There's now essentially a five man battle for three spots on the fourth line. That means Kris Draper and Drew Miller are probably going to see a lot of games from the press box. Don't forget about Mattias Ritola either--he's out of minor league options, which means he'll have to clear waivers before going back to Grand Rapids.
And with virtually no cap space remaining, the Red Wings probably won't be able to afford another defenseman either. Most of the remaining money will go towards Abdelkader's deal, and that means that Jakub Kindl or, gulp, Derek Meech is going to have to do as the sixth defenseman.
But I'm not going to sit here and whine about Drew Miller not playing because we signed Mike Modano.
Modano, even at 40, brings a whole lot more to the table offensively than Draper and Miller have done in their careers combined. That's not a knock against Draper and Miller by any means; they fill completely different roles with the team. And if that means one of them not playing for a year (or two), so be it.
There's no denying that Modano will help this team. When very deserving guys are sitting out games, it's not necessarily a bad thing. That means you have tremendous depth, something the 2009-10 Red Wings probably could have used around mid-December.
Besides, Modano looks great in red.