A pair of back-to-back losses to the Blue Jackets still sting the hearts of Red Wing fans, but thankfully the Wings are done with Columbus for the season (roll that sentence around your brain for a second) and we can now turn our attention to the second half of the season.
The Wings currently sit 4th in the West just past the midway point, but the West is such a logjam cluster that a prolonged losing streak is a major problem. Conversely, a winning streak could solidify their hold on a playoff spot as they wait for players to get healthy. Unfortunately, consistency hasn't been one of the Wings' strong suits this year (up there with road PP scoring and beating the Blue Jackets).
The trade deadline is officially less than a month away, and I'll guarantee every single one of you has an idea in your head on what Ken Holland needs to do "or else he should be fired from a cannon into the sun". I will further guarantee that 95% of you are going to be disappointed when the biggest name moved is some dude from that team you never watch.
However, the Wings do have some decisions to make, because this off-season a few key players become free agents, and it's time for the team to decide whether to make a run with what they have or try to get something for them before they leave.
First up is Valtteri Filppula. Flip's been injured this season with a bad shoulder, and despite struggling to begin the season his absence has been noticeable. He's coming off career-highs in every offensive category a year ago, and is an unrestricted free agent next year. So what's he worth? Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal has an idea:
The Detroit Red Wings are in a pickle with Val Filppula, who has tons of ability but has never really broken through to star status. He makes $3 million US now, and sources say he’d like $4.5 million or so in a new deal when he’s an unrestricted free agent July 1. That’s too rich for Detroit, but what if Pavel Datsyuk, 34, returns to Russia after his contract ends in 2014? "They know that’s a possibility," said one NHL executive. Then, they need the Filppula, who’s 28.
Now, I'm a guy who loves me some Flip (that hair, those eyes, so dreamy), but I have a hard time justifying $4.5M per season for a 28 year old forward who has surpassed the 50-point mark exactly one time in his career. For comparison, here's a list of players with a cap hit around $4.5M:
|Player Name||Age||Team||Contract Length||Expires||Salary||Cap Hit|
Looking at that list (and taking out players like Whitney and Jagr), I can't definitively say that Filppula is better than everyone on that list, nor is he worse. If I'm Flip's agent, I let Holland know that Legwand, Erat and Malone make $4.5M a season, remind him that Filppula is younger and better defensively than all of them, and let him know that someone is going to pay him that much. I have no doubts that Flip would want to stay in Detroit, but the prospect of getting paid has to weigh on his mind.
Next up on the soon-to-be-free-agent-list? Jimmy Howard. Like Flip, he's a life-long Wing who has been very good without being elite, but he's also way more important than Flip has ever been. So what could he get? Let's see what our now good friend Matheson has to say:
The Detroit Red Wings will have to buck up for Jimmy Howard this summer when he’s an unrestricted free agent. Is he worth Kari Lehtonen’s $5.9 million, which starts next season? That’s an overpay by the Dallas Stars. But I’d say Howard should go from $2.25 million to $5 million. They don’t have a backup. He’s their guy. You have to temper Detroit’s excellent first half because they have 14 road games left in their final 22 games.
First things first: "excellent first half"? I guess if he's used to watching the Oilers anything less than not being in last is a great season. However, what Matheson forgets is that Detroit has never and probably will never overpay for goaltending, and $5M a season for Howard is overpaying. The Wings have Gustavsson for one more year as a backup before Petr Mrazek likely takes over that role (assuming he continues his upward trajectory).
So who makes $5M a season as a goalie? Let's see:
|Fleury, Marc-Andre "||28||PIT||7||2015||$5,500,000||$5,000,000|
|Thomas, Tim "||38||NYI||4||2013||$3,000,000||$5,000,000|
|Luongo, Roberto "||33||VAN||12||2022||$6,714,000||$5,333,333|
|Brodeur, Martin "||40||NJD||2||2014||$4,000,000||$4,500,000|
|Hiller, Jonas "||31||ANA||4||2014||$4,500,000||$4,500,000|
|DiPietro, Rick "||31||NYI||15||2021||$4,500,000||$4,500,000|
|Bryzgalov, Ilya "||32||PHI||9||2020||$6,500,000||$5,666,667|
|Kiprusoff, Miikka "||36||CGY||6||2014||$5,000,000||$5,833,333|
|Schneider, Cory "||26||VAN||3||2015||$3,500,000||$4,000,000|
|Backstrom, Niklas "||35||MIN||4||2013||$6,000,000||$6,000,000|
|Pavelec, Ondrej "||25||WIN||5||2017||$3,250,000||$3,900,000|
|Niemi, Antti "||29||SJS||4||2015||$4,000,000||$3,800,000|
|Halak, Jaroslav "||27||STL||4||2014||$4,250,000||$3,750,000|
|Khabibulin, Nikolai "||40||EDM||4||2013||$3,750,000||$3,750,000|
|Miller, Ryan "||32||BUF||5||2014||$6,250,000||$6,250,000|
|Ward, Cam "||29||CAR||6||2016||$6,400,000||$6,300,000|
|Lehtonen, Kari "||29||DAL||3||2013||$4,250,000||$3,550,000|
|Dubnyk, Devan "||26||EDM||2||2014||$3,250,000||$3,500,000|
|Price, Carey "||25||MTL||6||2018||$5,500,000||$6,500,000|
|Rask, Tuukka "||26||BOS||1||2013||$3,500,000||$3,500,000|
|Anderson, Craig "||31||OTT||4||2015||$3,000,000||$3,187,500|
Boy oh boy. A couple of things stand out: goalies are way over-paid, and no way does Howard get more than 5 years. Call me crazy, but I see the Wings looking to lock him up for 4 years in the $4M-$4.5M range. Jimmy has been a big reason the Wings have won more than they've lost the past few years, but his playoff numbers are pedestrian at best. I don't see him going anywhere else once this season is over.
Finally, we get to Ian White. Of the 3 players listed, he's the most likely to be moved. He just came off a stretch where he spent 6 games in the Leino Lounge while watching the team give up less than 2 goals per game. Then he came back because the team needed offense, and he was invisible. The Wings have shown they can function without him, and the emergence of Brian Lashoff coupled with too many defenseman makes White expendable.
White is an experienced puck-moving defenseman who could help a team's power play. The Wings won't trade him within the division, but potential teams who want/need him could include Carolina, Ottawa, or Philadelphia. Of course, with d-men always a premium, anyone could emerge as a team in need of his services.
What could the Wings get for him? Probably very little. On a team that had to sign Kent Huskins just to ice a full defense corps at one point, he failed to stick in the lineup, allowing Lashoff and Jakub Kindl to pass him on the depth chart. If the Wings do move him, I'd anticipate a very low-to-mid-level prospect (at best) or a draft pick.
One move that could be interesting for both teams: White to Edmonton for Linus Omark and a conditional pick. Edmonton could move a player who they're not playing but wants an NHL job and the Wings could get a skilled forward for very little. I don't see any way Edmonton makes that deal, but we are talking about the team that traded a pick for Mike Brown, so you never know.