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NHL Free Agency 2013: Plenty of Work Left for Red Wings

I could stand to see this picture re-created in the future.
I could stand to see this picture re-created in the future.
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday, the Wings made two notable free agent signings (and one important minor signing), when they brought in free agents Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfreddson; To round out the day, the Wings signed Luke Glendening signing to a one-year two-way deal to likely play in Grand Rapids all season.

The two big moves offered at least a one-year solution to two of the three team desires coming out of last season's Conference Semifinals Game 7 loss. The Wings added a 2nd-line center who gives them the flexibility to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together and they added a more-complete RW scorer who slots immediately into a top-six spot. The Wings' third desire for a top-pairing defenseman remains unfulfilled, but the likelihood of finding that piece in yesterday's UFA pool was slim.

With about ten more weeks worth of open season before crunch time for roster-trimming nears, the Red Wings have some moves to make yet.

For one, the Red Wings have 22 roster spots filled and have four outstanding RFAs in Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Thomas McCollum. As of right now, it's expected all four will re-sign, but there is some doubt on McCollum. Before we get to cap considerations, we have to deal with the reality that the roster limit is 23 men and re-signing all four of them would put the Wings over the limit with all but one of them (McCollum) having to pass through waivers before going to Grand Rapids.

As an important note the roster limit does not activate until the end of the preseason. The Wings may have any number of players on their roster as long as they continue to abide by the 50-contract limit (Currently at 46, so the presumed signings for the RFAs will fill them out to 50).

Assuming no other changes the Red Wings will have their two goaltenders and their seven defensemen, the problem comes with the count of 16 forwards. This problem is exacerbated by reports that the Red Wings are close to re-signing Dan Cleary to a three-year deal.

Something has to change, but not today.

Regardless of the Cleary situation, Detroit has to move two players. Now that the compliance buyout window is closed, it appears as though trades and/or waivers will be the way.

My concern is that there's not a lot of trade value in the extra pieces which are the easiest to part with.

  • Mikael Samuelsson likely remains on the roster by sole virtue of not being healthy enough for a buyout AND he has a no-trade clause. His $3M cap hit might also be hard for teams to swallow, although Detroit has the ability to retain some of that salary in a trade if the NTC issue can be solved.
  • Patrick Eaves may be the easiest to move as a versatile depth forward with a reasonable hit. His skillset isn't exactly rare in the NHL, though his likability is off the charts. I'd personally hate to see such a hard-worker vanish, but he might actually draw a return.
  • Cory Emmerton had a good season and can play as a PKing forward, but the status of Darren Helm makes it harder to part ways with the guy who would be the best fit on the fourth line if Joakim Andersson has to stay up on line 3.
  • Jordin Tootoo is a dogged and determined player who also has multiple years remaining under contract. He's not far removed from a 30-point season and has the kind of aggression that teams love. His $1.9M cap hit might also make him a candidate for a trade that involves the Wings keeping salary.
  • Todd Bertuzzi also has a modified no-trade clause and a bad back. He's well-liked in the locker room and I have to think that if he escaped a buyout, he's probably not going to be moved.

It's entirely possible that the Wings find takers for two or even three of these players. It seems as though there may be other assets in play though.

  • If we're talking trade value, this may be the absolute highest that Tomas Tatar's will be while his expendability is still actually arguable. Tatar won the Jack A. Butterfield trophy (The AHL's playoff MVP) during the Griffin's championship run and will come into this next season with only an $840,000 cap hit.
  • While a healthy Helm makes Emmerton the best target to move for depth considerations at center, Joakim Andersson is probably better than a 4th line center right now and the difference between his value and Emmerton's might be enough to fill in a need elsewhere.
  • I probably lack the objectivity required to fairly categorize Gustav Nyquist's trade value, but he's a consideration as well. His value would be easier to flesh out (like Andersson's) if he's actually signed before being moved, but he's currently the Wings' #1 prospect (so much so that it's arguable at this point to even call him a prospect).
  • I'd be completely shocked by this, but I suppose it's possible that the Wings part ways with Justin Abdelkader in a trade. Based on Mike Babcock's forward line philosophy, this move would just about have to be predicated on the Cleary re-signing.

I'm not entirely comfortable with getting rid of Tatar or (especially) Nyquist at this point, since the Wings are still searching for the players who will eventually take over the "core player" designation from Datsyuk and Zetterberg, but last season's success and the prospects still in the system make it more a gamble and less a suicidal promise to force the team into a full rebuild. I could stand to part ways with Tatar, but I could stand it a lot more if it involves immediately getting back an NHL-ready prospect rather than a pick or a rental.

There's a number of additional options at play, including moving two forwards and a defenseman for an available top-pairing guy on the other team. The Red Wings have been rumored to be interested in Vancouver's Alex Edler (who has a no-trade clause), but who may not be as expendable now that Vancouver has bought out Keith Ballard. There's also Phoenix's cap situation, which gives them under $10M for six roster spots. They were rumored to be looking to get some assets in return for Keith Yandle.

Those are just educated guesses based on random league scuttlebutt over the last year. I wouldn't be shocked by those moves, but I have no strong reason to believe anything that big is imminent either. I just know that the Wings already have too many forwards and are apparently in discussions to add another. If they're going to add one more player, they're going to have to eliminate one they currently have in order to have room under the 50-contract limit.

Something is going to have to change this summer. What do you think they'll do?