July is almost upon us and, for the first time in ten years, the Wings are going to be players. It's not that we have the money (which we do), or the cap space (which we do), or even the draw for free agents (which we do), it's that we absolutely must be players and make gigantic acquisitions if we want any chance of making it anywhere.
There are issues with our top targets, however. It's not that they are also everyone else's top targets (which they are) or that a dozen other teams need them just as badly as we do (which there are) or that there is more money elsewhere (ask Ed Jovanovski... there is), it's that we are not in a great position to bargain with any of them.
Shea Weber - I'll start off with the easiest one. Shea Weber will absolutely not be a Wing this season. No way, no how. He's a restricted free agent making $7.5M. A perennial Norris Trophy candidate who happens to be in our division on a team that each year claims their goal is to beat us. Even if we signed him to a monster $8M for 10 years deal, I think the Predators would match us. The cheap owners in Nashville will do whatever it takes to keep him. If anything, Weber will sign another 1 year deal for similar money and become a free agent next year, if he is not ecstatic with the three and a half nights he spent playing with the Wonder Child that is Alexander Radulov, that is.
Ryan Suter - From one Predator to the next. The biggest difference between Weber and Suter, other than Suter's lack of instinctive head bashing, is that Suter is a UFA. Where he goes is his own choice, but don't think that automatically makes us front runners. Again, the Predators will do whatever they can to keep us from getting better. Many member of the media openly wondered if the Paul Gaustad acquisition was done solely to keep us from acquiring him that same day, for instance. I sincerely doubt they will try to get Suter to take a cheap deal here. They will throw everything they possibly can at him, even if it means some poor finances for a few seasons. Suter may have the final say here, but Nashville will definitely give him a strong second option to consider.
Alexander Semin - As I was discussing with Taylor last night, Semin is the player I am most curious about. He was downright amazing playing with Datsyuk at the Worlds and he is a Franzen-like diamond-in-the-rough. Unlike the first two in this list, the biggest reason we may not be able to sign Semin is not his current team. To be rather honest, I don't think the Capitals stand any chance at resigning him again. He wants playing time and to be a more central part of an offense. Which I suppose we could offer to him.
But the reason we may lose out on Semin is not the Capitals, but a player who formerly played for both the Wings and Capitals. Yes, Sergei Fedorov mentioned both Semin and the Wonder Child by name (or religious nickname, I suppose) in saying he wanted them to come back home and play for CSKA Moscow, the Red Freaking Army. Perhaps playing with Datsyuk (or even with Malkin on the Penguins) will be enough to keep him in the States, but I find it unlikely.
Zach Parise - Besides the absolutely need for Suter thanks to the loss of perfection itself, most Wings fans (and, frankly, fans of every team) agree that Parise is the absolute necessity for the team. A born leader, an offensive power house, and a potentially perfect linemate for Datsyuk. He's everything we could dream of. Problem is that, well, he's everything that everyone everywhere could dream of, especially in New Jersey. Parise is 3 games away from winning a Stanley Cup right now. An unlikely proposition (I've had Kings in 5 since the beginning, sticking to it. They win tomorrow), but I am sure he will see it as a good step.
Besides the Devils absolutely throwing as much as possible into resigning him (I doubt the Wings could make an offer they will not match, even with their financial troubles. Thankfully he is a UFA), there is one thing that no one seems to consider — Martin Brodeur. Yes, arguably the greatest goalie of all time (Sorry, Martin. I think Sawchuck, Esposito, Roy, and Hasek have you beat) is the biggest threat to the Wings signing Parise. Brodeur has played his entire career with the Devils and is very open about his dedication to the team, and I worry that it has rubbed off on Parise and other Devils. For those of you who don't think this matters, please look at what players like Lidstrom, Yzerman, and Holmstrom did for the current core of the Red Wings.
Now, I don't think we will be shut out here. I am personally pulling for the miracle and signing Parise, Suter, AND Semin. I mean, seriously, imagine a Top 6 that includes Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Semin, Franzen, and Parise with the 6th spot being Filppula or Nyquist. Unbeatable. But I'm also prepared to be disappointed. There are strong forces playing against us, and 29 other teams, on July 1. Hopefully we get three out of four and laugh as Wonder Child goes back to Soviet Russia. Hopefully.