We're back in our Pro/No series where we take a look at the Wings upcoming free agents and try to determine if they're worthy of wearing the Winged Wheel next season.
A few days ago Graham tried to figure out what to do with Valtteri Filppula and today I'll take a look at veteran Daniel Cleary.
#11 / Right Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Dec 18, 1978
|2012 - Daniel Cleary||48||9||6||15||-6||40||5||1||0||93|
1) Cleary is a guy that can score goals. Sure, he's not a 50-goal scorer but he has the natural instincts that allow him to score. Since joining the Wings in 2005, Cleary has scored 20 goals three times with the most recent being the 2010-2011 season where he scored a career high 26 goals.
2) Cleary is no doubt considered a leader on this team. He's not at the Zetterberg level but the players and coaches respect him. Leadership is something that can't be bought. Remember that.
3) Daniel Cleary has grit. Not Tootoo grit but more like Abdelkader grit (without the fighting). Cleary can go to the net and I once considered him the natural successor to Holmström on the PP. Although he's not at Homer level in terms of redirecting shots, he can still get the job done.
4) Cleary can play on any line on the team and be effective. He can be the gritty depth guy and he can also be a power forward on the first line (not a good one, but he can be one).
1) Bertuzzi and Samuelsson. But I will get to that in a bit.
2) Cleary has been having some huge problems with his knees during the past few seasons. During the 2011-2012 season, Cleary posted a unusually low 33 points in 75 games. Many blamed this lack of production on his failing knees and said that a long offseason would remedy the issue. I don't think the issue has been fixed.
3) As I mentioned, Cleary is regressing more than any player on this team. His knees aren't helping his cause and unless he can assure that he can play at a much higher level next season, I don't know if I want the Wings to bring him back.
4) Cleary had a cap hit of $2.8 million on his last contract. If he wants to return then he can't be asking for that amount of money this time around.
What Will Happen?
No one knows. 4 players currently on the Wings affect Cleary's future with the team. Filppula, Miller, Bertuzzi, and Samuelsson all play a key role in the Cleary case. If Filppula returns at $5 million per season then the Wings will have just under 7 million dollars left in cap space. Assuming that the Wings re-sign Kindl, Smith, Nyquist, and Andersson for around $1 million a piece, they will have about $2.2 million left in cap space.
With that amount the Wings could afford to re-sign either Cleary or Miller but then they wouldn't have any money left to go after another UFA. If Filppula doesn't re-sign then the issue shifts from a money game to a numbers game. The Wings will simply have too many forwards on their roster. To be exact, they will have 16 with both Miller and Cleary back and Tomas Tatar up from Grand Rapids.
Then there is the whole compliance buyout situation. Bertuzzi and Samuelsson are both considered candidates. First of all, I always lump Bert, Sammy, and Cleary together in the same category. They are extremely similar players and they make similar paychecks. The thing is, you can (or should) only have 2 of the 3 aforementioned players. Assuming that Bert is healthy I don't see a scenario where he is bought out. Then it comes down to whether the Wings like the more offensive Samuelsson or if they want to stick with Cleary.
Due to all of this it is simply to hard to tell what will happen.
I love Cleary as a player. But if you ask me, his days as a Wings are numbered. Just based off of what Holland has been saying so far, I don't think he wants to buyout Samuelsson, at least if Filppula walks. Speaking of Filppula, he's gone too. Miller returns. Not only is he younger than Cleary but he can play on the PK and will most likely demand a smaller paycheck.
What do you think? Should he be re-signed or is Cleary gone?