I wrote a piece last week of what our defensive core would look like next year and the year after with (and without) the Danny Dekeyser signing. He was signed so, if Kindl is kept this offseason, we're in good shape to have consistency on the blue line. A valuable asset that should help for years to come. But I didn't address the forwards (or the money). I'll address both in this.
To start, the free agents:
Francis Pare (GR)
Jan Mursak (GR)
Nyquist and Andersson are locks to be resigned.
Mursak will likely be retained even though he isn't waiver exempt anymore. Pare is a Mursak clone. RH shot, but small at 5'10, 190. He piles on the points in GR, but hasn't been able to make it up to the Wings. Unless there's a depth issue, I don't see them keeping both Mursak and Pare and neither are a lock to make the club.
Cleary will be given a pat on the back and good job, well done but no contract. He'll get an appreciation day if he doesn't sign with anyone else.
Miller is a probably more simple than some might think. He's been a valuable PK'r for 2 years now. This season he's had a chance to play on the top line for a couple games. He's shown some amount of top 6 skill, but is really better suited to play bottom 6 where he can be more dominant. Here's the problem with Miller: He made $825k and $850k the last two season. He's due a raise. A substantial raise. In the $1-2M/year range. But as a LH shot PK expert with little upside and almost 30 years old, the Red Wings have more than enough depth to fill that role. Eaves, Emmerton, Helm, Abdelkader, and Andersson are all younger than he is and fully capable of providing similar scoring numbers and killing penalties.
Brunner is another simple solution. Sign him unless someone offers him an ungodly amount. Anything $3M and below. He's young still and shows enough ability to be able to play at this level. Yes, he's had a drop off, but this is his first season in the league and didn't have a training camp. He needs to learn to pace himself and a new shot, but his skill is there. No reason to let it walk if the price remains reasonable.
Which bring us to Filppula. In my current plan, he walks. He's a 2nd line LW and a 3rd line C with a strong defensive prowess and capable playmaking. But he still lacks the killer instinct. He can't finish another team off, he can't put the team on his back, he can't be "the guy." He made $3.5M the last 3 years. That's a fair value for him, especially since the cap is coming down. Rumor has that he's asking for $5M, but that could just to be for leverage in negotiations, not what he's actually expecting to get paid. If he was willing to take less than $4.5M, I'd strongly consider bringing him back. If he was willing to take $4M, I would probably sign him in a heartbeat.
So that's the Red Wings free agent forwards.
As for additions of UFAs in the offseason, if Filppula takes more money elsewhere and my other theories are applied, that would leave us with the following:
LW - C - RW
Nyquist - Zetterberg - ????
Franzen - Dastyuk - Brunner
Tatar - Andersson - Helm
Abdelkader - Emmerton - Tootoo
Eaves - Bertuzzi (IR)
You'll notice I'm missing someone. I do believe Samuelsson will be bought out. With this latest injury, I don't think Holland and Babcock are happy with him. I don't think Bertuzzi will be bought out but I do think he'll continue to struggle with his back (he has for the last 3 years) and will spend time on the IR making his money and then retiring.
So that leaves an empty spot on the top line next to Zetterberg. An empty RW spot. And I don't think Brunner is the right guy for the job. But there's an UFA who made $5.5M this year ($4M cap hit). He's 27 with a RH shot and at 6'2, 215 will provide plenty of size to help protect Zetterberg and Nyquist. His name....Nathan Horton. He's not a huge PP guy but Tatar could take his role on the PP. His concussion problem seems to be behind him. He's only missed 1 game this year. Going into this year, he's averaged 47.5 points per season.
I'd love to see Holland pursue Horton this off season. I'm hoping that he could be signed on a 5 year deal that would have a cap hit around $5.2M per year. And yes, that means I'd pay him more than I'd pay Filppula.
Gustav Nyquist ($1.100m) / Henrik Zetterberg ($6.083m) /Nathan Horton ($5.200m)
Johan Franzen ($3.955m) / Pavel Datsyuk ($6.700m) / Damien Brunner ($2.250m)
Tomas Tatar ($0.840m) / Joakim Andersson ($1.500m) / Darren Helm ($2.125m)
Justin Abdelkader ($1.800m) / Cory Emmerton ($0.533m) / Jordin Tootoo ($1.900m)
Patrick Eaves ($1.200m) / Todd Bertuzzi ($2.075m)
Brendan Smith ($1.900m) / Jonathan Ericsson ($3.250m)
Niklas Kronwall ($4.750m) / Brian Lashoff ($0.725m)
Jakub Kindl ($1.200m) / Kyle Quincey ($3.775m)
Danny DeKeyser ($1.350m) / Carlo Colaiacovo ($2.500m)
Jimmy Howard ($3.500m)
Jonas Gustavsson ($1.500m)
Buyout: Mikael Samuelsson ($0.000m)
SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $61,711,212; BONUSES: $1,010,000
CAP SPACE (24-man roster): $3,598,788
As for the future, after next season Datsyuk, Bertuzzi, and Eaves are UFA and Emmerton is a RFA (along with a couple of GR forwards). So by signing everyone I said for next season, Datsyuk is the only big re-signing the following season. Emmerton is likely to get a new contract as an RFA unless one of the young studs is ready. Eaves and Bertuzzi are allowed to walk.
The core is there. 5 years from now with the core still intact, all the praise Shero is getting right now will be heaped on the Red Wings FO once again for them having been contenders repeatedly and rebuilding on the fly with only 1 "down" season in which they still have an opportunity to make the playoffs. Even if Horton isn't signed, there are options out there. Yes, it could be Samuelsson. It's not my favorite idea. I don't think right now it's Babcock's favorite idea. But who knows what a real offseason can do for some of these guys. Regardless if you like my roster suggestions, I'll leave you with a final thought:
I believe in the core and I think you should too.