Don’t Expect Help from Free Agency

The Wings are on the brink of another early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the post-mortems will begin shortly, and we might be saying goodbye to Pavel Datsyuk as he heads back to Russia a year early – stiffing the Wings with a $7.5m cap hit. We’re going to hear a lot about how the Wings have to find a way of moving Datsyuk’s cap hit off of the books, but I disagree with that. We’re also going to see every half-way decent UFA rumored for us, like most summers. I don’t think we’re going to be casting that wide of a net in free agency, though, and the chances of us getting an upgrade are pretty slim.

So, what do we need? I think it’s clear we need a blueline that is better with the puck. Looking at the UFA list, though, and I see only three guys who really stand out as players who would be worth the money and term to sign: Brian Campbell, Keith Yandle, and Alex Goligoski. None of these guys are true #1s, but I think all three are capable of first pair minutes. All there could/should come in and be able to put up at least 30 points and knock half of our blueline down a spot the moment they are signed. There are some other guys like Dan Hamhuis and Jason Demers who would provide upgrades, but I don’t see either as a significant upgrade worth the money and term over just promoting a XO/Jensen/Sproul or even just sending Smith out there again.

Up front, we need a quality top6 center. I think we are clearly seeing Zetterberg on the downside of his career, he’s taking a lot of flak from fans, but he’s being overused and overexposed because our depth is so mediocre outside of Larkin (and Datsyuk, though he’s also shown his age/injury shortcomings) – who we haven’t even been using as a center. While Andrew Ladd and Milan Lucic would be really nice adds, providing us with some needed size and snarl, it’s far easier for us to fill spots along the wings. And without quality centers driving our game and putting those wings to good use, while winning defensive match-ups against the opposition, blowing a big chunk of cash on a wing just doesn’t make a lot of sense. The problem here is the same as the problem on the blueline, a lack of options. There’s the obvious, Stamkos, but why would he sign here? He’s 26, likely looking for the best place to land for the next seven years, and I have to believe he’ll likely find better options if he’s not artificially limited by refusing to play in different geographical areas. Assuming Stamkos is a non-starter, who is left that would be a viable top6 center? At that point, we’re looking at Frans Nielsen, David Backes, and Eric Staal. If Nielsen is leaving NYI, I think he’s looking for his first (only?) big contract of his career. He hasn’t been seriously paid yet, and I think he’s got to be looking for it. If St. Louis doesn’t win the cup (again), I think Backes is going to go Cup shopping, looking to land somewhere that guarantees him at least a decent shot at the cup, which means not here. We could have a shot at Staal, but there are legitimate concerns of his game slipping and injuries being an increasing problem. Also, all three of these guys are on the wrong side of thirty, so going four or five years on them should be a proposition that causes some pause among fans.

Rather than spending money and term on a moderate upgrade, I think we’ll probably be better off just going with the kids in significantly bigger roles. Let Larkin and Athanasiou center the top2 lines, shift Z to wing, bump up the ice times for Nyquist and Tatar, have Mantha up, etc. and let the pins fall where they may. On the blueline, let Quincey walk, and go with something like:

Dekeyser-Green

Kronwall-Marchenko

XO-Ericsson

Smith, Jensen/Sproul

 

Next season will likely be pretty ugly, but we’re to a point where easy answers just are not plentiful. Our best bet might be just taking solace in (hopefully) seeing the kids mature and become better players.

 

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One Response to “Don’t Expect Help from Free Agency”

  1. fruscianteredwing Says:

    Aside from letting people walk, the best cap shedding option would be to trade Howard and absorb some of his salary…there are plenty of backup goalies at a cheaper option. But I don’t think we should lose a 1st/2nd pick or prospect to free up 1 year of datsyuk cap either. Like you said, next year should be a trial run with younger players leading the way…we can’t afford to milk Zetterberg anymore. He should be 2c next year and eventually 3rd until he retires. Free agency hasn’t been good to us the past few years, getting help that way could have us in another weiss scenario. Signing green for 6m a year only to use him on the 3rd pairing wasn’t fun to watch this year either…needs to shoot more and improve his game along the boards. I liked the idea of him with dekeyser,

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