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Detroit Red Wings Cap Space, Roster Spots, Recapture Penalties, and Buyouts for June 2017

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Time to take stock before the madness starts

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We’re less than a week away from the 2017 free agency period opening up and the next big hurdle for setting the roster from last year. I want to take a quick look at where the Wings stand as of right now in terms of how much space they have, who they have to sign, and what could still happen with some of the roster players.

The Cap Space

Provided no other moves are made between now and July 1st (which might be concerning considering the RFAs right now), you’re going to read all over that the Red Wings have about $8M in cap space. This is both technically correct and annoying inaccurate. Please don’t use that number.

The hitch is that anybody can (and should) go to Capfriendly and see the current cap numbers. What they’re overlooking is that $3.95M of that number is currently assigned to Johan Franzen, and we all know he’s going to spend this season on LTIR. While the way LTIR works is complicated and doesn’t technically give the Wings more cap space, it should essentially be considered extra room when the team is doling out contracts.

Also, prior to the season opening, all teams have an extra 10% cushion in which they can exceed the cap. While this means they could go up to $82.5, as long as their cap number stays below $79M, they’re right on track.

If you want to be super-specific, say that the Red Wings have $11,857,500 in cap space. If you want to discuss it, just say they have a hair under $12 million.

The Roster Spots/RFAs

As it stands, with players under contract and considered “up” with the organization, Detroit has 17 healthy players on their 23-man roster right now. This includes nine forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies. In terms of a “normal” roster look, that’s five forward spots and one defenseman short.

Already filling three of those holes are defenseman Xavier Ouellet and forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Tatar. These three are restricted free agents and among them, only Tatar and Ouellet are eligible for salary arbitration. While any of the three getting to July 1st without a new contract leaves them open to sign an offer sheet that would give Detroit the option to either match or accept draft pick compensation, it’s decently safe to pencil them for new contracts.

While I don’t have any detailed information on what their deals might look like, I think we could combine the three of them for somewhere in the neighborhood of a combined $8M (give or take a couple).

This leaves Detroit with the need to fill just three more forward spots

Red Wings June 2017 Forward Depth Chart

On the Team RFA Potential Callups Longer-Shot Callups
On the Team RFA Potential Callups Longer-Shot Callups
Henrik Zetterberg Andreas Athanasiou Evegeny Svechnikov Dylan Sadowy
Frans Nielsen Tomas Tatar Tyler Bertuzzi Christoffer Ehn
Gustav Nyquist Martin Frk (RFA) Givani Smith
Justin Abdelkader Axel Holmstrom
Darren Helm Dominic Turgeon
Riley Sheahan Eric Tangradi
Luke Glendening Zach Nastasiuk
Dylan Larkin Matt Lorito
Anthony Mantha Mitch Callahan (UFA)
Ben Street (UFA)

I didn’t mention Martin Frk above, but feel that his potential as a power play specialist could come in handy and it would be worth it for the organization to go ahead and give him another contract. However, looking at this list, it does seem like the biggest chunk of the leftover money after the bigger-named RFAs are signed is easiest-used on a depth forward, perhaps two.

2017 Red Wings Defense Depth Chart

On the Team RFA Potential Callups Longer-Shot Callups
On the Team RFA Potential Callups Longer-Shot Callups
Mike Green Xavier Ouellet Dan Renouf Dennis Cholowski
Danny DeKeyser Robbie Russo Joe Hicketts Libor Sulak
Niklas Kronwall Filip Hronek
Jonathan Ericsson Vili Saarijarvi
Nick Jensen Dylan McIlrath (UFA)
Ryan Sproul Brian Lashoff (RFA)

Defense gets a little more complex because Ouellet fills them up to seven players but two of those players are Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall while another is the potential trade deadline sell-off of Mike Green. It’s possible that the Wings go looking for more depth here instead of at forward, but with all the guys in the pipeline and more of them closer to NHL-readiness, it seems like they have more room to simply sign their RFAs and roll with the rotation as things progress.

Dylan McIlrath is an interesting case here of a guy who really helped the Griffins, but might be looking for more than just another year at the AHL level.

In terms of goalies, the Wings are still probably looking to move one, but if that happens, there’s an outside possibility of spending one of the millions of cap dollars saved on a backup while the rest goes to other depth signings. The organization seems to like Jared Coreau a lot though, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him become the full-time backup in the event a goalie is moved.


As we will have until the summer of 2021 (prior lockout notwithstanding), the Wings have three recapture-eligible contracts. Here’s how the cap punishment would break down if any of these three retired this summer:

Henrik Zetterberg: Hank enters his last year of having a salary higher than his cap hit this year, so a retirement after last season’s performance would seem really silly, but his total retirement recapture pool is currently $11.9M. Take that out on the Wings’ cap for the next four seasons and he’d bring a dead hit of $2.995M.

Johan Franzen: Mule has already started his salary decline, but with he concussion issues, it’s better for both Franzen and the team to simply pay his salary and give him full access to team doctors than take the recapture penalty and have him retire. His current remaining recapture pool is $7.9M, which would be spread over the next three seasons at a hit of $2.6M.

Niklas Kronwall: Kronner is the interesting case because he has just two years left, but every indication is he still wants to play hockey as much as he can despite the constant knee issues hindering him. Kronwall dropping the A and his retirement papers would bring a recapture pool of $4.25M on the Wings, which would hit them for $2.125M for each of the next two seasons.

Honestly, these are decently doable considering the Wings’ position right now as not one that should be spending to the cap to compete, but a team that should use its extra cap space both as a buffer against foolish free agency signings and also potentially as an asset to be used to gain more draft picks (by taking on a bad contract from elsewhere). But, the Wings aren’t dealing with a very sizable margin in terms of cap space and it might just be easier for Kronwall to hit LTIR than to create recapture.

Also of note on recaptures, each of these three amounts will go up next season, as the recapture for all three players is partially payed off at a lost time value against the end of the contract. If it waits until 2018, we have:

Hank: $4.3M/yr until 2021
Mule: $2.9M/yr until 2020
Kronner: $3M for 2018-19


In terms of buying out any of the recapture contracts, I wrote last year why that would be untenable (the tl;dr version is that recapture raises their cap hits significantly and also spreads them out longer). However, if you want to torture yourself on Capfriendly’s buyout calculator, here’s the link to do so with anybody. In general, there’s only one contract that makes decently reasonable sense in terms of utilizing a buyout and even then, it calls for a six-year period of dead space.

There’s not a wholly-untenable argument that spending $1.64M for the next six seasons to get rid of Jonathan Ericsson is worthwhile, but he’s also one year shy of an NTC turning into a 19-team no-trade NTC, which might give some more flexibility.

All-in-all, a lot of things can still change between now and opening day, but this is where the Red Wings stand as of right now. just remember if somebody tells you the Wings have $8M in cap space to work with right now, please gently remind them that they are forgetting something. Thank you.