by Chris Zadorozny (@Zads07)
It’s that time of year again; the 4th of July. That means fireworks, great food, fun times with family and NHL free agent signings. The NHL isn’t for everyone, especially in the heat of summer, but the diehards, they live for this time of year.
It’s officially open season for NHL free agents, and the Red Wings could be in the hunt.
For starters, Pavel Datsyuk signed an extension for another four years, keeping him here until 2016-2017, when he will be 38 years old. Surprisingly, for his age, he’s one of the top players in the game. He’ll make $6.7 million this year, and then $7.5 million the following three years.
The Red Wings also made their first buyout move of the offseason. With the logjam on the backend, the Red Wings bought out oft-injured veteran defenseman, Carlo Colaiacovo, who only played six regular season and nine playoff games for the Winged Wheel this season. He was once again hampered by injuries. With the exception of one season, he’s missed 15 games or more in every year of his career.
With Colaiacovo’s $2.5 million off the books, the Red Wings cap is back at about $10.7 million. They have 20 players under contract (12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders).
Forwards Valterri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Damien Brunner (UFA’s) Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist (RFA’s) are still unsigned with Filppula heading to free agency to test the market. It’s likely Filppula will sign with a team that will give him the money he thinks he deserves ($4 million per season). The Wings still have to re-sign Brendan Smith, while Ian White will not be re-signed.
Cleary is asking for a three-year deal, worth $3 million per year, while Brunner is looking for something along the lines of $2.5 million per year.
With Filppula more than likely gone, the Wings are more than likely going to need to replace him on the second line. One viable option is Florida Panthers forward and former Plymouth Whalers standout, Stephen Weiss.
Weiss has played for the Panthers his entire career. In 10 season’s, he’s played 654 games, and has 145 goals and 249 assists. In four of the 10 seasons, he’s scored more than 20 goals. Only four other seasons, he has had less than 10 goals, including this past season.
Weiss is the Wings top target and can provide a solid veteran presence, along with some decent scoring.
One other player the Wings should and probably will look at is former Cup winner, Michael Ryder. He’s a pure scoring talent, something the Red Wings currently lack since Marian Hossa left for the Blackhawks in 2010.
In eight NHL seasons, with three different teams (Canadiens, Bruins and Stars), Ryder has had three, 30-goal seasons. He’s only had on season where he’s scored less than 15 goals, (only 14 goals). He won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011 and provided a veteran presence in the locker room with Boston and Montreal, where he returned to this past season.
The only problem here is that he made $3.1 million last season, something the Red Wings may not want to give him. If he’s willing to take a pay cut, which is possible, he could be a great fit for a team lacking a pure goal scoring talent.
Other than those two players, the pickings become slim. The talent goes down hill, unless the Red Wings are willing to pay. It’s likely they aren’t as they walked on Vincent Lecavlier, who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There are two players who could be dark horses for the Red Wings to sign. The Flyers recently bought out former scoring standout, Danny Briere, while Canucks third-line center, Mason Raymond could be looking for a new team to reside with.
Briere is coming off of a $6.5 million per year cap hit, which is way too much for the Wings. If he’s willing to take a major pay cut, which is very unlikely, he could be a welcome addition to the Red Wings.
Raymond has spent his entire 6-year career with the Vancouver Canucks. He’s straddled between the second and third lines as the center, but since the Canucks have slid downhill since their Cup Finals appearance three years ago, he hasn’t been in the best position with the team.
He’s scored at least 10 goals in every season except for his first one, with only one of the seasons having more than 20 goals. He’d be a much cheaper option than Weiss or Ryder, but could see his production return in a new city, much like Cleary.
A fan can dream about Briere or even Ryder, but you never know what could happen in a free agent market with the salary cap. Check back early next week for updates on the Red Wings signings with analysis.
To read the original post that appeared on Sports Radio Detroit on July 3, 2013, go to www.sportsradiodetroit.com