The Red Wings' Free Agency Plan

Tomorrow marks the beginning of NHL free agency, and along with it, the mania that ensues

The Detroit Red Wings sit at an interesting point in the team's history. If the right moves are made, the Wings have the ability to be a contender next season. But if the team stays idle, or if it reacts to rashly and make the incorrect decision, us fans may find ourselves biting our nails off as the Wings fight for the final wild card spot in our conference next season.

I am not saying that tomorrow is do-or-die, but the implications of the Wings' actions (or inaction) in the following days will have a long-lasting effect on this organization.

What Have We Done So Far?

Although the big signing period begins tomorrow, the Wings have already been fairly active this offseason.

Here is a basic rundown of the moves that the Wings have already made:

The Wings are still waiting to hear if Daniel Alfredsson wants to play another season in the NHL or not. He has indicated to the Wings that he will make his decision in August. Based off everything I have heard, the Wings are willing to wait until then to hear if Alfredsson will return.

The reason behind that decision? Alfredsson did co-lead this team in scoring last season, let's not forget that fact.

What We Need

The Wings have one blatant issue that needs correcting: its lackluster defense.

Holland and Babcock have clearly soured on Kindl and Lashoff, and would certainly not mind finding an upgrade for either one of those two. Throw in the fact that Kyle Quincey will most likely not be re-signed, and the Wings find themselves in a dire need of a defenseman. Specifically, the Wings want a top-4, right-hand shooting defenseman with a decent amount of experience that will not cost the Wings too much money.

Due to the Wings' phenomenal prospect depth at the defensive position, with the likes of Sproul, Marchenko, Bäckman, and Ouellet all ready for NHL play, the upgrades for Kindl and Lashoff can be found internally, and can be allowed to gradually take the step into the NHL. As a result, the Wings only need one defenseman from free agency.

As I previously mentioned, Daniel Alfredsson is still debating whether or not he wants to play another season in the NHL. If he does not, the Wings need to find a replacement for him. This need is not as pressing as our need for a defenseman, but it needs to be addressed.

Who We Can Get?

On the defensive side of things, the Wings have a number of options:

  1. Christian Ehrhoff - Ehrhoff was bought out by Buffalo yesterday, to the surprise of many, and is one of the best players available in this free agent class. Ehrhoff is 6'2", and is turning 32-years-old in a week. The only downside is that Ehrhoff shoots left.
  2. Daniel Boyle - Boyle is a veteran defenseman who has spent the last six seasons of his career with the San Jose Sharks. Boyle is 5'11", shoots right, but is turning 38-years-old in two weeks. Boyle is only seeking a two-year contract.
  3. Matt Niskanen - Niskanen may be the flashiest name out of these four players. The former Penguin is 6'0". shoots right, and is only 27 years old. The problem with Niskanen is that he will almost surely receive a seven-year contract, in addition to a sizable cap hit.
  4. Anton Strålman - Strålman is arguably the weakest player in this group, but will still receive numerous offers from teams. The ex-Ranger is 6'1", shoots right, and is only 27 years old. And he is Swedish.

Out of these four, my personal preference is either Ehrhoff or Boyle, due to the relatively massive contract that Niskanen will most likely receive. Strålman is not a terrible option, but I do not view him as being that much of an upgrade over Kyle Quincey.

On the offensive side of the matter, there are a couple of players who fit the gap that could potentially be left by Alfredsson:

  1. Jarome Iginla - The former Flames captain has spent the last season with the Bruins after a short stint in Pittsburgh. Iggy turns 37-years-old tomorrow, but still has enough left in his tank to be a productive player on an NHL team. Iggy is 6'1", and he shoots right.
  2. Ales Hemsky - While Hemsky's time with the Oilers always left things to ask for, the Czech forward was extremely productive in his twenty game stint with the Senators after being traded there in March. During those twenty games, Hemsky scored 4 goals and 17 points. Hemsky will be 31-years-old by the start of the next season, and like Iginla, he does shoot right.

If the Wings cannot sign one of these two, I hope that the Wings just choose to internally promote one of their own players. The point of signing Alfredsson was to have an star player that could help ease players like Nyquist, Tatar, and Jurco into the squad. Iginla, and to a lesser extent Hemsky, fits this criteria. This is why the Wings should not even consider going after a player such as Tomas Vanek.

Can We Afford It?

According to Capgeek, the Wings currently have $14,720,455 in cap space for next season. If you remove $7 million, which is about what the Wings will pay RFA's Sheahan, Tatar, and DeKeyser combined, the Wings have $7,720,455 left in cap space.

Assuming that Alfredsson, or Iginla, signs a bonus-laden contract, their cap hit may only be in the $3 million range, giving the Wings roughly $4.5-6.5 million to work with in free agency.

This would be enough to sign one free agent, with the key word being one. The Wings have plenty of room to fill their holes, but they do not have sufficient cap space to go beyond that.

What To Expect

I think it is fair to expect the Wings to sign a defenseman. Based off of all of the reports and comments from Babcock and Holland, the Wings want to upgrade their defense. But, which one of the defenseman they will sign is anyone's guess.

Also, if the Wings do not feel confident that Alfredsson will return, there is a chance that they sign his replacement now. With a player like Iginla hitting the market, finding a player who could provide what Alfredsson did last season is a feasible wish.

Outside of these two moves, any moves that the Wings make will most likely either be minor moves, or trades, which are harder to predict.

Regardless, this next week will either be an exciting one, or a dreadful one. Hopefully the former is the case.