It's been over 2 months since we last saw the Red Wings play, and in that time we've all driven ourselves absolutely insane with ideas on how the team can improve and get better.
Today is finally the day that we see what the team's plans are compared to our ideas. At noon ET NHL free agency officially begins, and the hunt is on to add players that make the Red Wings better.
Yesterday saw the Red Wings tender qualifying offers to the following RFAs: Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser, Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan, Andrej Nestrasil and Adam Almquist. We won't know how much those player sign for tomorrow, but when calculating cap space, remember that Tatar, DK and Sheahan will eat up some of that space.
The Wings will enter today with around $14.7M in cap space and 4-5 roster spots to fill. They are set in goal with the re-signing of Jonas Gustavsson, but the Wings will be looking to add on defense and potentially at forward. For the past 2 months we've all heard the same thing: the Red Wings need to add a top-4 defenseman, preferably one who shoots right and has offensive upside to his game. Some of the names should be ingrained in your memory: Dan Boyle, Matt Niskanen, and Anton Stralman. However, some developments in the past few days have led to other names being added to that list, including a guy the Wings have coveted for a while in Christian Ehrhoff, Michael Del Zotto, Andrei Loktionov, and Ed Jovanovski.
There seems to be little doubt that the Wings will be attempting to land one of those players mentioned above. There's a report from Helene St. James that the Wings are prepared to offer Boyle a 2-year, $11M contract, and they have been linked to Niskanen and Ehrhoff. However, they're going to have competition for every single name on that list and anyone else they choose to target.
But the fact is that we all have a certain set of expectations, and if/when (and let's be honest here, we all know it's going to be "when") the Wings don't live up to those expectations, we're going to get pissed off. I know for a fact that every single person reading this is going to not like something that happens today, either a signing the Wings make or a move they didn't. Hell, I know I'm going to do it. In my mind I have an idea of what I want to see happen today, and if it doesn't go the way I think it should, I'm going to be mad and throw things and drink beer.
For me, what makes this day particularly anxious is knowing that we've been here before. 2 years ago the Wings had money to spend and a list of guys they were targeting. Then within a few hours of free agency opening, they had players like Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo signed to bad deals, and we were left wondering what the plan was for Detroit.
That's what concerns me the most. Last year we saw a youth movement begin, and with several contracts coming off the books, the Red Wings have an opportunity to build on the momentum generated by the performances of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and the rest of the young guys and add pieces that complement them, not hinder their development. Signing a player like Ehrhoff or Niskanen or even Boyle won't prevent the continuation of the young guys entering the lineup, but there is a possibility that other moves (Jarome Iginla, Daniel Alfredsson, Dan Cleary, any other forward) could do to the Wings what Samuelsson, Tootoo and Colaiacovo did in 2012.
At the same time, I think we all want to see Detroit do something. This is not a team that, as currently constructed, is good enough to get to the Conference Finals, let alone win a Cup. We all watched Steve Yzerman be aggressive and make difficult moves in order to position his team to land one of the better players today and contend for a Cup. Whether those moves pan out remains to be seen, but the fact that he's actively working to do something, anything, to improve his team is something I look at with envy.
Outside of a couple of teams, the majority of the Eastern Conference is not ahead of the Wings enough that a few moves can't close the gap and give the Wings a legitimate shot to make some noise in the playoffs. The question is which moves are the right ones, and is Ken Holland and company willing to make them?
It's going to be a hell of a ride.