With the start of the buyout period seeing only Aaron Rome get placed on waivers by Dallas with the intent of buying him out, there's still lots of time and lots of movement to be had before we even get to the July 1st free agency period.
We already know from reports earlier in the summer that Jordin Tootoo is the most-likely buyout candidate for the Wings. After using one on Carlo Colaiacovo last season, Detroit has one remaining compliance buyout and very good reason to actually use it. While we've had our fun discussing the options, the smart money is on Tootoo.
Of course, Detroit has until June 30th to get this done and there's not necessarily a reason to rush him to waivers. Before that happens, Ken Holland is going to see if there's going to be any trade interest in the 31-year old grinder first. Tootoo's contract may actually be worth taking on for a team that could be looking to take on what is a slight overpayment on a guy who's a good teammate and a pain in the ass to play against.
If the Wings are going to find a trade partner, Ken Holland will need to find more than one team interested in Tootoo. If there's no demand for him, then a team can simply wait for him to become a UFA and sign him then. Holland's challenge will be to scare a GM into thinking that Tootoo would either demand more or would simply go play elsewhere. It's not the easiest sell, but it beats jumping the gun on the buyout.
Backup a Bit
The Freep's Helene St. James isn't mincing words with her reporting on Detroit's backup goaltending situation, stating flatly "The Detroit Red Wings are sticking with Jonas Gustavsson as their backup man" in her article today. The deal isn't done yet, but unless Gustavsson is crazy, I expect the'll come to the table.
Negotiations center on term - Gustavsson's camp wants two years, while the Wings would prefer a one-year extension. Gustavsson, 29, is coming off a two-year, $3 million contract.
I can't imagine that Jonas Gustavsson is going to look around the league and find that he's well-positioned to make demands on term. I'm resigned to Gustavsson being around through next season. At this point I can only hope that he doesn't somehow end up with either a 2-year deal or a gross overpayment (or both).
Final accounting on last year's expenditures or next year's cap hasn't yet finished, but we're close enough for curling here. The Cap will likely come in around $70-71M. There are older more-conservative estimates that say closer to $69M, but even then, we're within $2M here.
The question will be what Detroit's salary cap will be. We know that they'll carry over a $2M penalty thanks to the Daniel Alfredsson contract, but we don't know exactly how much money in bonuses the Wings paid out to guys on entry-level deals. The Globe & Mail's James Mirtle at least has an educated guess.
@capgeek Was told Detroit around $3.2-mil, for what it's worth.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 16, 2014
So if the cap lands at $70M, the Wings will only be allowed to spend $66.8M.
Where the Roster Stands
Honestly, even with the overages, Detroit's got plenty of space for what they need. Tootoo's buyout gives them a bit more space and a trade gives them the potential to perhaps realize even more. If we're assuming that Gustavsson is back, then we should probably assume that he's going to command a similar salary. Next up, we have the three roster regular RFAs to re-sign. Based on earlier reporting, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Danny DeKeyser are expected to come in near a combined $5M.
Based on all of this information, Detroit would have $11M to fill the remainder of the roster with two forwards and one defenseman if we include only waiver-eligible players. Recalling Tomas Jurco or starting the season with Anthony Mantha at the top club level takes up less than a million in space per person.
This does not include reclaiming cap space with things like trading Jakub Kindl or trading/waiving/demoting Brian Lashoff. It's not much, but Lashoff's entirely-buryable salary adds nearly another 3/4th of a million dollars in space. Replacing Lashoff with any of Sproul, Ouellet, Marchenko, or Backman takes up less cap space than Lashoff does (by between $7,500 and $105,000).
Bottom line is that, even with cap overage penalties, Detroit has enough cap space to make one big splash and a medium splash to fill out their roster. If we're looking at adding two highly-paid defenseman PLUS another highly-paid forward, then more creative means will be necessary to make space for that, but there's plenty of flexibility for a good wish-list.