What went from what was to be a quiet free agency day for the Red Wings just a few weeks ago suddenly got very loud, as Ken Holland made his second signing of the day in announcing that the team was bringing in veteran center Brad Richards on a one-year $3M deal that can balloon to $3.25M if the Wings make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs and then up to $4M if Detroit makes the conference finals (per @TSNBobMcKenzie on twitter)
The knee-jerk on this deal is that it's twice what he made last year to put up fewer goals and just one more point than Riley Sheahan did last season while playing big chunks of minutes with guys like Patricks Sharp and Kane. Richards did put up dominant possession numbers on the Hawks (just like everybody on the Hawks), but I'm worried about the cap hit there.
Richards' Fit on the Roster
While Brad Richards' days as a 1C are behind him, he's still a capable 2C with a salary that wouldn't be offensive if he were bumped down to the third line. This should put him in direct competition with Riley Sheahan for the job and can help to shield Sheahan from tougher assignments as the kid continues to grow. Richards has lost a step from his younger days, but he's got good vision and two-way play. If the Wings were content to let Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk play more on the wing, Richards would fit in naturally with them as well.
The Wings' Cap Space
As of yesterday's buyout of Weiss, we said the Wings had about $14.4M to play with to fill four forward spots. Detroit has since spent $9M against the cap on one forward and one defenseman. After you add Richards and Green, then bump one of the defensemen, you're left with about $6.1M for three forward positions.
The Remaining RFAs
With that $6.1M or so in cap space, the Wings still have Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Gustav Nyquist to sign. Of the three, Nyquist will be the most expensive, as he's also the only of the group of RFAs who is arbitration eligible. Aside from these three, Detroit also has RFAs Mitch Callahan, Louis-Marc Aubry, and Landon Ferraro to re-sign. All six of these players will have to pass through waivers if they are going to be assigned to Grand Rapids at the start of the season. There's a good chance Callahan, Aubry, and Ferraro clear. There's almost no chance Jurco, Pulkkinen, or Nyquist do.
It's tough to say whether the Wings can fit the best three of those forwards into $6.1M in cap space, but that's the choice the Wings have to make if they're not going to make a trade. Speaking of which...
Mike Green already gave the Wings an eighth waiver-eligible defenseman and now Brad Richards gives them another center to deal with. The Wings probably can't afford to take on more salary than they dump in a deal, considering the need to sign the RFAs, but if you're looking at players who might find themselves dangled as trade bait, I might take a look at guys like Riley Sheahan or Darren Helm as players who could find themselves bumped out of usefulness who still have trade value, especially since none of this accounts for the potential that Dylan Larkin can win a spot out of training camp this season.
On the defensive end, I know a lot of people would like to see either Kyle Quincey or Jonathan Ericsson moved. Quincey makes sense as a guy on a decent deal who will be a UFA next season and who played well last year. Personally, I think the Wings are more likely to just hold pat at defense while putting Alexey Marchenko & Xavier Ouellet in the minors while Brian Lashoff will go through waivers to join Grand Rapids.
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The good news is that now we're pretty sure the #90 won't go to waste and we're even prettier surer that this means Dan Cleary isn't coming back.