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Red Wings plan to be over the cap at the start of the season

Minnesota Wild v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It sounds like the Red Wings cap situation won’t be sorted out until the very last minute. MLive’s Ansar Khan penned an article Monday, shedding some light on General Manager Ken Holland’s plan to address the elephant in the room that is the organization’s salary cap woes.

With both Robbie Russo and Andreas Athanasiou yet to be signed, the team is set to go over the cap, which means unless a player goes down with an injury, someone will need to be moved via trade or waivers. The team has a handful of players who are currently nursing injuries, but all of them are expected to be ready for training camp and/or the start of the season.

Contract talks withs Athanasiou ongoing

It sounds like the Red Wings have tabled multiple offers to Athanasiou’s camp — and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up on some sort of bridge deal. The Wings have always used the bridging option with their RFAs, and according to Khan, it could likely end up as a two-year deal.

Preparing to make a move

If the Red Wings are forced to make a move to get cap compliant, that’s where things may get tricky. Holland sounds as if he’ll wait until just before the clock strikes on the regular season to make the call, if that’s the case then it’s very likely a player ends up on waivers. Since we don’t know how much Athanasiou will be paid, it’s uncertain how much cap will need to be cleared to make way for compliance. A dark horse candidate to be moved via waivers could be a player like Luke Glendening, who carries a cap hit of $1.8 million. That could be unlikely as the Red Wings highly value what Glendening brings to the table. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Petr Mrazek is in play here. It’s clear that the team does not value him as the starter of the future after electing to protect Jimmy Howard in the expansion draft, and while I think Mrazek should have some value on the trade market, part of me worries that they may try and move him via waivers, which would be another showing of poor asset management.

Injured reserve could provide a solution

There are multiple players recovering from offseason surgeries/injuries, Khan points out:

Holland said players who underwent surgery - Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Tomas Tatar (shoulder) and Luke Glendening (ankle) - are expected to be ready for the season opener Oct. 5. He wasn't as certain about Ryan Sproul (ACL) being able to go at the start.

Khan continued to talk about players nursing injuries by bringing up Niklas Kronwall, and his untreatable knee injury — while he’s expected to be ready for camp, there’s a real good chance he provides the short-term solution the Wings need. We all know the story with Kronwall’s knee being held together with paperclips and already-chewed bubblegum, so the possibility of his nagging injury flaring up during camp or preseason is high, meaning the Wings could clear the cap space they need to start the season. The team has a glut of older players on the roster, so if I was a betting man, I’d say additional injured reserve candidates (outside of Johan Franzen) will play a factor in their cap compliance.

Bertuzzi providing flexibility

Tyler Bertuzzi had himself one hell of a Calder Cup run. The reigning MVP and former 2nd round pick was a point-per-game during the Griffins run to clinch the Calder Cup. With that, he’s clearly the next young player to make the step into a full-time role with the Red Wings. However, since he’s still within his entry-level term, he is waiver-exempt. The Red Wings can use him as a depth forward without fear of losing him. There’s no doubt that Bertuzzi deserves to be an NHLer, but the Red Wings situation makes it difficult, skill and success aside. According to Khan, the Wings plan to roll with 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders, but may have to cut one short due to their cap conundrum. Bertuzzi would likely be the one left out.

There’s a lot of work to be done for Ken Holland. If he is to avoid losing a player on waivers, he’ll need to make quick work before the regular season — and if he’s planning on all of his players being healthy, it would be wise to do his due-diligence and test the market to see if any of his players may have value going into the regular season.

I digress, I believe the Wings will likely end up utilizing waivers for cap relief if injured reserve cannot award them with compliance. The downside to that, obviously, is they may lose a player of high value for nothing in return.