All in a span of about 30 minutes today, the hockey world crossed over into some sort of alternate dimension and made three monumental moves that are still echoing all over. I know the Wings fan first response is to try to internalize that to a comparable deal, but I’m not sure we’re dealing with the prime reality right now so it may not be worth the time.
Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson straight up? Yikes. The Wings don’t really have a comparable defenseman to this and it’s rumored that the Islanders offered even more value, but that Chiarelli really really wanted Larsson.
PK Subban for Shea Weber straight up? We all know Detroit doesn’t have a guy comparable to either, but this one makes me happy because PK Subban is much better than Shea Weber and he just left the Atlantic.
Steven Stamkos re-signs in Tampa on June 29th? - This one stings, but it hurts a lot less knowing that Stamkos gave up on even going to July 1st before making the decision to take what is reported as 8 years and $8.5M AAV. Ken Holland couldn’t prevent Ryan Suter from going to Minnesota, but this Stamkos deal happened before Holland even had a chance to put a contract on the table. We may as well complain about not getting Anze Kopitar in free agency.
So What Now?
You can climb up and down our list of potential free agent targets for Plan B and come up with about a dozen items. Okposo and Nielsen? Lucic and Eriksson? Martin and Kleenex? Ladd? Brouwer? Boedker? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
Sure, why not.
The knee-jerk reaction is that with two days to go before free agency, the biggest hope for the Red Wings to land an impact true #1 center just went out the window and that the trade winds are blowing fairly hard and kind of stupid. The good news is that this happening prior to July 1st gives Ken Holland lots of time to ponder his plan B and avoid making a panic signing.
But that Cap Space
With a need to re-sign Danny Dekeyser, Teemu Pulkkinen, Alexey Marchenko, and Petr Mrazek, the Wings have about $23M in usable cap space and will still have one or two holes to fill at the forward spot by the time all is said and done. Realistically, we’re looking at well over $10M worth of remaining space once all the signings are done.
The most-popular hot take out right now is that the Stamkos signing means the Datsyuk trade was a mistake and that the Wings should have simply taken Jacob Chychrun at #16. I’m sure that will be a fun debate for years to come as we unfairly compare Chychrun to Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek. We were always destined to do that regardless anyway, so nothing changes on this term.
For people who didn't want a Stamkos signing because it'll be four years until the team around him is ready to contend for a Cup, this is good news, since the going thought is Stamkos won't be nearly this good in four years
Spend Big, Spend Short
We’ve seen a big trend in the NHL lately of GMs giving out long deals in which a good player is either slightly underpaid or well-paid for the beginning, but the deal is long enough that there’s significant concern over whether the player will be worth it by the end. Justin Abdelkader’s deal in Detroit fits that bill, as does the recent Keith Yandle signing in Florida.
Such a deal for the Red Wings at this juncture of their organizational reload cycle could be disastrous.
Instead, I think what makes more sense for the Wings as they’re built is to consider overpaying for some of that free agent help just to keep the term on such a deal short. David Backes at five or six years is terrifying for how he plays hockey, especially if he’s going to get $6M a year for doing that. Milan Lucic at 6 or 7 years for a decently high AAV is in the same boat. As these physical players wear down, their deals hang on for longer than is appropriate for a Wings team that needs to test out their youth.
However, perhaps giving a big physical forward a down payment on such a retirement deal would work out well for both sides? People would absolutely scoff at giving Milan Lucic $8M per season, but for two years, it gives the Wings that big presence they’re looking for without locking them in long term. Lucic knows his bargaining power will be lower two years from now, but he’ll also be $16M richer, and it kind of doesn’t matter how you get to $49M over seven years as long as you do.
The added bonus there is it gives the Wings the flexibility to test out the usage of such a player and his fit on the team. If he works out supremely well, it’s not like the Wings won’t have the inside track to re-sign him and the benefit of him liking it there enough to give them a discount on his next deal.
The NHL is Wide Open Now
Without the Wings landing a true impact #1 center, the plan has to change. The Red Wings wasting their extra salary cap space by not spending it wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing. In fact, the worst thing they can do is commit it long-term to guys who shouldn’t be around for the full reload. That’s why I say spend big and spend short. This way long-term mistakes won’t continue to hamper the Red Wings in their search for a path back to the top of the league.