Potential RFA Targets for the Red Wings
This season was anything but pretty for the Detroit Red Wings, managing a measly 39 points and finishing in the basement. When your season goes that poorly, a lot of self reflection takes place, and a new strategy is generally put in place to get the franchise back on track.
Well, in the case of the Red Wings, there is some good news on the horizon in the form of more than $27-million in cap space, plus a cupboard stocked full of draft picks (20 draft picks combined over the next two years). It’s safe to say that Steve Yzerman has assets to play with. He has to do some work in-house, with the two most important players to sign this offseason in Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha.
That raises the question: Should Yzerman focus his attention elsewhere and be looking to make an offer sheet for another impactful player? The Wings’ struggles on defense are well documented, and this team struggled to put the puck in the net all year—a league worst 142 goals.
Yzerman wants to rebuild this team through the draft and with 20 picks over the next couple of years he has a great opportunity to do so. However, this draft capital may also allow him to be a major player in the RFA market right now. Let’s dive into which RFA’s would be good targets for the Wings’ general manager.
Sam Reinhart, C/RW (Buffalo Sabres)
2019-20 Cap Hit: 3.65M
Evolving Wild Contract Projection (Signing with New Team): 5/6 years: $6.97M AAV
2019-20 Stats: 69 GP / 22 G / 28 A / 50 P
Reinhart has spent the past five seasons in Buffalo, which is essentially NHL purgatory considering the Sabres haven’t made a playoff appearance since 2011. He notched 50 points for the second time in the last three years, and he’s been a 20 goal scorer four times in his career.
At just 24, Reinhart could step into the lineup for the Wings and make an immediate impact while maintaining that youth movement for Yzerman. The fact that he can slide over to the right side instead of playing at center also makes him a versatile option for their top six.
On the surface, the Sabres have roughly $33-million in salary cap space, but there has been talk about GM Kevyn Adams working with an internal cap. Rumour has it that the front office wants to keep things around the $70-million mark, so this could affect their ability to match a strong offer sheet to Reinhart. The Sabres do have 25M committed to Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo already, would the front office pay top dollar to keep him? Ideally, it would probably take an offer in the 5-6M AAV range to pluck Reinhart out of Buffalo, but that will cost the team a 2020 first and third round pick.
Matt Murray, G (Pittsburgh Penguins)
2019-20 Cap Hit: 3.75M
Evolving Wild Contract Projection (Signing with New Team): N/A (no goalies)
2019-20 Stats: 38 GP / 20-11-5 / 2.87 GAA / .899 SV% / 1 SO / -1 SPAR / -13.98 GSAx
After Jimmy Howard announced he likely won’t be back in a Red Wings jersey, the team is left with Jonathan Bernier as their only netminder. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when you consider Bernier was the unsung hero on a dismal squad last season.
But, there have been rumors floating around that Yzerman wants to make a strong run at UFA Jacob Markstrom (presuming the Vancouver Canucks move on from him). And, those numbers could have a decent price tag attached on a long term deal for a goalie that is 30 — not ideal for the Wings. Also, reporting on Friday indicated that Markstrom is not looking to sign with a team in Detroit’s current position.
The Wings don’t have any immediate goalie prospects, and I’ve written before about bringing in a veteran goalie on a short term deal to push Bernier, but adding a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Murray could be a nice addition. He’s still just 26 and I would feel more comfortable paying him the term and money that Markstrom could command. What does that look like? I think the Wings could lure Murray away from the Pens on a deal in the 5-6M AAV range. The term doesn’t have to be crazy (four or five years) and Murray could hit the market as a UFA again when he’s 30 himself.
UPDATE: With Tristan Jarry signing a 3 year deal on Saturday, it appears more likely that Pittsburgh tries to move Murray, although their GM said they may keep both.
Mikhail Sergachev, D (Tampa Bay Lightning)
2019-20 Cap Hit: <1M
Evolving Wild Contract Projection (Signing with New Team): 6 Years: $5.8M AAV
2019-20 Stats: 70 GP / 10 G / 24 A / 34 P
This might be a popular offer sheet for some as Yzerman has direct ties to Sergachev from his time in Tampa. After all, he did trade for the 22-year-old in 2017, sending Jonathan Drouin packing to the Montreal Canadiens in the deal.
Sergachev is a highly-skilled defenseman with three 30-point seasons, and he seems primed to step out of the shadow that is Victor Hedman. The one advantage for Yzerman in this situation would be Tampa’s cap situation. The Bolts have 5.33M available to re-sign RFA’s Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. Plus, you have to wonder if they’re considering bringing UFA’s Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Patrick Maroon back after a Stanley Cup win.
The Lightning are pressed against the cap, and an offer sheet for Sergachev may not cost as much draft pick compensation as you would think. A deal in the 3-4M AAV range would yield just a second round pick by the Wings.
Those are a few of the options out there for Yzerman and to be frank, I’d rather see him hold onto his ten draft picks to use them on the current draft class. That being said, the idea of adding Sergachev to the blueline is very enticing. Now it’s time for your say, should Yzerman make a move or stand pat?
Which RFA should the Wings offer sheet?