In exploring the means by which the Red Wings will have to re-sign their two RFAs and become compliant with both the roster and salary cap limits, we've already looked at potential destinations for traded players based on roster and cap space and we've looked into the value that Cory Emmerton brings to the table. Today we'll look at the one guy that I think most fans want to see leave the organization before everybody.
Mikael Samuelsson rejoined the Wings in July 2012 after a whirlwind tour of Vancouver and Florida from 2009-2012. On a two-year deal for the over-35 player paying him $3M per season, Samuelsson managed to play in just four regular season and five playoff games thanks to various injuries. Rumor has it that the most-recent injury was what kept him from being bought out by the Red Wings during the late June compliance buyout period.
Samuelsson is a player whose value is hard to pin down. Injuries over the last two seasons are part of the consideration of the risk associated with him, but they also skew the potential reward. With that in mind, here are three factors which may keep Samuelsson on the Wings' roster come October.
1. His Versatile Skillset
A right-shooting winger who can fill minutes on the top lines as well as in the bottom six? Well hell, sign me up! Wait... that's Patrick Eaves isn't it? Well at least he can kill penalti...fuck.
Of all the players competing to make the roster Samuelsson is the only one to ever have a 30-goal season in the NHL. Of course, that was four years ago when then just a young flower, Samuelsson bloomed alongside Ryan Kesler with the Canucks. Statistics don't lie though, they only terribly bend the truth for convenience. Samuelsson actually CAN score 30...maybe.
Being entirely serious for a moment, Samuelsson is both tougher to knock off the puck AND a better scorer than Patrick Eaves. Reading that pissed you off, didn't it? It's ok, it pissed me off to type it. The thing is that as far as the more grinding-type forwards who have the skill to keep up on the top six in case of injuries, Samuelsson is one of very few options.
Eaves missed a year with concussion problems and I trust him 10 times more to stay healthy. I'm also not sure I trust Samuelsson to regularly outscore other options given similar linemates at this age.
2. He's Fueled by Rage
I don't know if any other Red Wing can make this claim as well as Samuelsson can. Let's go back to the 2009-10 NHL season, the last time there was an Olympic break. Let's break down the season by two time periods, separating them by midnight on December 27th.
Period 1: 38 games 10 goals 13 Assists (23 points)
Period 2: 36 Games 20 goals 10 Assists (30 points)
What happened on the 27th of December? Team Sweden officially announced their Olympic roster, which didn't include Mikael Samuelsson; this famously incited his invitation for them to go eff themselves. If this isn't clear-cut proof that Samuelsson plays better when he's mad, then you simply can't be convinced. Fortunately, Sammy has lots to be mad about (especially if he reads Twitter).
Very few longitudinal studies have been done on the effectiveness or repeatability of Cerranoism (named after the best player in any sport with such a unique talent). I don't know that Sammy can keep a year-long rage priapism without hurting himself.
3. Three Important Words
Say it with me now: NO. TRADE. CLAUSE.
Mikael Samuelsson has the authority to casually point to his contract and say no if Ken Holland tells him he'd like to send him anywhere else in the NHL. That might make him a bit harder to trade than some other guys, believe it or not. Granted, he doesn't have a no-movement clause, so he can't prevent himself being placed on waivers and loaned to the AHL (or potentially grabbed by any team off the waiver wire), but this little movement only clears $925,000 of his $3M salary off the cap. The Red Wings may be forced to move more-movable assets just in case and then risk that Sammy can be both healthy and productive.
It's not unheard of to see a player waive a NTC, especially if he can be convinced he's going to a better place as far as what kind of opportunity he's going to get to prove himself in what's now a contract year for him.
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So does Samuelsson stay with the Wings? Sadly, I think there may be a better chance of this than others because of a combination of factors 1 and 3 above, but I'm still about 50/50 on it. If you're asking if I think he should, then I'd refer to point 2 where I struggled so mightily with taking this seriously that I basically called him the Swedish Goal Hulk as a positive.
Make no mistake, if Samuelsson stays, I'll be rooting my ass off for him every game he plays.