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Summer Free Agents, Part 1

Now that we've put 2009-10 behind us, the real work will begin General Manager Ken Holland's office.  Holland has already attended to some of that business, signing Mattias Ritola to a contract earlier this week.  Detroit will have several free agents this summer, including key veterans Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom.  Today will be the first part in a series looking at who should stay and who should go.

The Veterans: Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby, Todd Bertuzzi

Nicklas Lidstrom
Age: 40
Years with Detroit: 18
2010 Salary: $7.45M
Priority: Must sign 

There's not much to say here that hasn't been said already about Nick Lidstrom.  He's still the best defenseman on the team, if not the world, and the future of the Red Wings' blue line will hinge on if he retires or not.  There's seems to be a feeling around the locker room that he's coming back, but the captain himself has not sounded so sure.  He's enrolled his teenage son in a Swedish school in the event he does retire, but that does not cement anything in stone.  In an article by Ansar Khan of MLive, Lidstrom said he's "not sure" he's accomplished everything he wants to.  If he comes back, Detroit will most likely ask him to take a pay cut. 

Prediction:  I don't think Nick wants to give up on his career, especially after the second half he had.  He'll be back in Detroit.

Tomas Holmstrom
Age: 37
Years with Detroit: 13
2010 Salary: $2.25M
Priority: Must sign

Holmstrom's work on the ice goes far beyond the goals he scores, and that is why Homer is going to be a top priority for the Red Wings this summer.  He may not have the passing touch of say, Pavel Datsyuk, but he is second to none in digging pucks out from the boards and is a beast in front of the net.  Detroit is actually getting him for a bargain at $2.25 million, considering the effort he gives night in and night out.  If Holmstrom can't get a deal done however, not all is lost.  Dan Cleary has shown a willingness to stand in front of the net, and could take over that role if Homer bolts.

Prediction:  Even at 37, Holmstrom shows no signs of slowing down.  He battled through injuries and still produced 25 goals.  Homer will be re-signed for around the same salary, maybe a touch more.

Two more special guys after the jump....

Kirk Maltby
Age: 37
Years with Detroit: 13
2010 Salary: $883K
Priority:  Let him go

It's really painful to dump a guy that's been so loyal to Detroit in his tenure.  Maltby has put a lot of blood and sweat into this organization, but his season-ending shoulder surgery was probably the last nail in the coffin to his tenure in Detroit.  Maltby was an excellent penalty-killer and agitator as part of the Grind Line, but it seems the club has found much younger players like Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves to fill those roles.  Detroit just has too many young grinders for them to find a spot for Maltby, and it sounds like Malts himself is preparing for training camp somewhere else.

Prediction:  Thanks for the memories Malts, but you'll have to end your career somewhere else.

Todd Bertuzzi
Age: 35
Years with Detroit: 2
2010 Salary: $1.5 million
Priority:  Keep him, I guess

Bertuzzi actually played fairly decent this season, his first in Detroit after a two-year hiatus. The Red Wings were hoping to get 20-25 goals from Bertuzzi to account some of the offense they lost in the previous off-season, and Bertuzzi pretty much delivered that, generating 18 goals and 44 points.  Perhaps more importantly he was not injury prone like the entire Red Wings team, being one of the select few to play in all 82 games (only Lidstrom and Brad Stuart also accomplished this).  Red Wings fans have a love/hate relationship with Bert, as he'll make a sensational play one minute and a boneheaded one the next.  Detroit wants him back, and Bertuzzi seems fine with playing a third line role, although his production dropped heavily when he wasn't playing with one of the top units. Bertuzzi developed a knack for a Holmstrom-like net front presence, which could be a huge bargaining chip if Homer isn't re-signed.

Prediction:  Much of what the Wings do with free agency will depend on Lidstrom, but it looks like Detroit wants him back regardless of what Petrella says.  Expect a Winged Wheel on his chest next year.