Detroit Red Wings sign Frans Nielsen

The Red Wings went shopping in the free agent forward market, and came back with a two-way center.

The Detroit Red Wings have signed center Frans Nielsen to a six year deal, at $5.25 million AAV.

The 32 year old, 6'1" Dane has played his entire 10 season career with the New York Islanders, scoring 119 goals and adding 230 assists in 606 games.

As I noted in my free agent profile of him, Nielsen is easily a solid third line center, who could reasonably play on the second line. He plays a strong, two-way game, and adds value on the power play and penalty kill. He can both start and finish a rush, and and he is someone who can be relied on with the game on the line.

While Nielsen should help the Wings, GM Ken Holland overpaid, giving Nielsen too much money for way too long of a term. The former is better than the latter, but both factors combine to make this a bad signing financially.

An issue with the signing, barring future developments, is that it doesn't address the need for a top-line center. Nielsen should not be counted on to be on the team's first line, so who plays there? An aging Henrik Zetterberg? A young Dylan Larkin? The team's long term best interest is to have both Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou gain experience at center, but how does that work?

Larkin is expected to be the team's top center in the future, but this season seems too early. But if Nielsen is at 2C, where he should be, then does Larkin drop to 3C? Where does Zetterberg play? Athanasiou? Riley Sheahan?

This issue was further complicated by today's re-signing of Darren Helm for 5 more years.

In a bubble, Nielsen is a good second or third line center. But his signing only adds to the number of middle-six centers the team has, without solving the need a first-liner. Of course, other moves could be coming to address this need.

Hopefully the team can find roles for all its centers, and the team can get balanced production from each line next season.