Detroit Red Wings' Roster Status: Where the Wings Stand

We'll have a lot of season autopsy and free agency planning talk coming up in the next few months. To that purpose, I want to lay out the status of the Wings as of right now as the reference point for this talk. I'm hoping that by doing this, we can potentially avoid having to spend too much time figuring out what the Wings can and can't do this offseason.

Current Roster Under Contract

This is the entire list of Red Wings players who are under contract for next season AND who would have to pass through waivers in order to start next season in Grand Rapids. It's in rough line order, but don't put any stock into where specifically slotted, as they're all just placeholders.


Henrik Zetterberg Pavel Datsyuk Johan Franzen
Justin Abdelkader Stephen Weiss Gustav Nyquist
Joakim Andersson Darren Helm Drew Miller
Jordin Tootoo Luke Glendening


Niklas Kronwall Jonathan Ericsson
Brendan Smith Brian Lashoff
Jakub Kindl


Jimmy Howard

So that's 17 players who, barring waiver, trade or buyout will start next season on the Red Wings' roster. Obviously there are spots to fill, but before we go digging around in the free agency pool, let's take a look at the Wings' restricted free agents.

Waiver-eligible RFAs

The top three players on that list are going to be re-sign targets and they're going to be every day roster players for the Wings, bringing the known roster size to 20. Of the rest of them, the Wings have some interesting decisions to make. Here's how that works:

The Red Wings have the option to deliver each of their RFAs a qualifying offer. This means the Wings have to offer a one-year contract to each of these RFAs for a moderate raise (some of them 105% of current salary and some 110%). The players don't have to sign these, but if one does, then that puts that player on the Wings' training camp roster. Delivering these qualifying offers gives the Wings' the right to first refusal if the player tries to sign elsewhere.

There's a bit more at play here, but I'm going to be honest, I think a few of these guys don't get qualifying offers (and are made UFAs by this decision), and I think that any of them below DeKeyser on the list who do get QOs aren't going to get offer sheets that hit the $1.1M+ threshold for draft pick compensation for the Wings if they refuse to match such an offer sheet.

For reference on them, Michael Petrella wrote a piece last November laying out his thoughts on the future of these guys that's held up pretty well. I think a few get re-signed and clear waivers to make up the Griffins' next year.

The UFAs

These guys have their outright freedom to do whatever they want and sign with whomever they want. Ok, they're not technically free agents until July and the Wings retain exclusive negotiating rights with them until then, but for all intents and purposes, they're not on the Wings' roster for training camp next season.

Salary Cap Considerations

As of this writing, the Wings have a cap payroll of $52.6M (All 17 roster players plus the $2M worth of bonus carryover from the Daniel Alfredsson deal). As of April 22nd, the latest salary cap projection from Gary Bettman is "Between $69 and $70M."

So, if we worst-case it, the Red Wings will have about $16.4M to fill out 3 forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie. Two of those three forwards and one of those two defensemen are RFAs that I feel will be re-signed.

The Buyout

Coming out of the latest lockout, each team was given two compliance buyouts, which they could use to buy out a player at a reduced rate of his current salary and not have that money count against their salary cap. Detroit used one on Carlo Colaiacovo prior to this season, so they have one remaining. If this compliance buyout is not used this offseason, the Wings will lose it. There are no compliance buyouts permitted beyond this offseason.

The only additional limiting factor is that you cannot use a compliance buyout on a player who was signed after September 15, 2012, so Stephen Weiss, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, or Luke Glendening cannot be bought out using this benefit. Every other roster player is eligible to be bought out.

Cap Recaptures

If the Wings don't buy out certain players but instead decide to trade them this summer, they will be on the hook for potential cap recapture should that player decide to retire before his contract ends. The three players in question are Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Zetterberg. Here's where their recapture amount stands right now and how long it's "frozen" onto the Wings

Player Cap Recapture Amount Year Recapture Amount Begins to Diminish
Henrik Zetterberg $7.7M 2018-19
Johan Franzen $6.2M 2016-17
Niklas Kronwall $1M 2017-18

In the event of an early retirement, the recapture amount is divided by the number of years the player had left in the deal and charged against the Wings' cap. For example, if Johan Franzen is traded this summer, then retires in the summer of 2016 (before his cap hit starts exceeding his salary), the Wings will have a $1.55M cap hit count against their books for every season between 2016 and 2019-2020.

For more guidance, Capgeek has a great buyout calculator you can use to figure this kind of stuff.

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So that's where things stand. We'll get into details and analysis of a lot of this stuff later, but here's your handy guide. Live it, love it, bookmark it, print it off and rub it against your scalp, do whatever you like.