My basement renovations are finally at a point where I can rejoin society, having started the day after Game 7 against the Blackhawks and continuing until yesterday.
That means 2 weeks of hockey news to catch up on as I have been away from the internet, and a whole offseason to figure out what the hell the Red Wings are going to do with all these free agents.
If you've been around here in the past, you know that we take each of the Wings' upcoming free agents and try to make the case for keeping them or allowing them to walk. The Wings' biggest headache was taken care of when Jimmy Howard signed his 6-year extension late in the season, so today we take a look at the next best player talent-wise in Valtteri Filppula.
As always, a little background information before we start breaking down the case for/against Flip: The Red Wings currently have 19 players under contract for the 2013-14 season with a total $53.3M committed to that group. For the first time since being instituted, the salary cap is actually going to go down thanks to the players caving in the lockout, with a new total of $64.3M. That means the Wings have a shade under $12M in cap space before any compliance buyouts (of which the Wings have 2). Detroit has a lot of needs, and should be using that cap space to get the best available players regardless of position.
Having said all that, let's take a look at the enigma that is Valtteri Filppula.
Valtteri Filppula, #51
29 years old (March 20, 1984)
6'0", 195 lbs
7 full NHL seasons (483 regular season games - all with Detroit)
Born in Vantaa, Finland; Drafted 95th overall in 2002
Regular season: 41 games played, 9 goals, 8 assists, 17 points, 6 PIM, -4
Playoffs: 14 games played, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, 4 PIM, -4
Flip cashed in after an injury-shortened but productive 2009-10 season and signed a 3 year deal worth $3.5M per season. He is an unrestricted free agent.
Coming off a career year in 2011-12 in which he finally cracked the 60-point plateau, big things were expected of Filppula heading into 2013. However, Flip struggled out of the gate as he recovered from a sprained MCL sufferend in Europe during the lockout and was once again pegged to center the second line, this time between Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi. Injury problems for those two resulted in Flip being shuffled to many different lines, and he struggled to regain any of the form he displayed last season. 6 points in 14 playoff games wasn't bad, but overall this was a disappointing season for the Finn.
CASE FOR FILPPULA
1) He's a 29 year old forward who can play in all situations. He can play on the power play, kill penalties, and is strong in his own end. He's also a very good skater.
2) He has the ability to play either center or on the wing, and gives the Wings some versatility in case injuries decimate the lineup as they have the past few seasons.
3) He's a better-than-average faceoff guy who can play over 17 minutes a night while being familiar with the Wings' system.
CASE AGAINST FILPPULA
1) He has never lived up to the promise of being the #2 center that everyone thought he would be. He's only scored over 50 points once in his career, and did so as a winger on Henrik Zetterberg's line.
2) His size does not make him an effective player against bigger teams, and he's not fast or talented enough to overcome that lack of size like Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk.
3) With the salary cap going down and younger players looking ready to assume bigger roles on the top-6, Flip could be too expensive for Detroit.
WHAT HE'S SAYING
Flip sounds pretty pragmatic about what his future holds. "Obviously, it's a possibility that could happen. It'd be tough. It's been a really great place to be. I've been so happy here. We'll see if we go ... if that's what's going to happen. I'm sure it would be (strange playing elsewhere). It would be different I'm sure. It would be weird at first. I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
We've made jokes all season about what Flip thinks he's worth, but the reports continue to swirl that he is looking for between $4.5M-$5M per season on a multi-year deal. At 29 and with his skills, he will be one of the jewels of a very thin UFA class (pending compliance buyouts).
Internal: Take your pick. Gustav Nyquist immediately springs to mind as the likeliest candidate given his performance in the playoffs and his natural position as a centerman. If the Wings choose to go replace him with a winger, Tomas Tatar could also slide up into the top-6 while other forward shift around.
External: If the Wings want to dip into the UFA pool and find an underachieving forward under 30, Tyler Bozak could be a good fit, except he is likely to command around the same salary as Flip. Otherwise you'd be looking at a player like Mike Ribeiro or Derek Roy, players who will likely want bigger paydays on longer deals.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
We want to know what you think. Should the Red Wings open up the vault for Filppula or allow him to go elsewhere and maybe develop into the player we all thought he could be?