Red Wings offseason plans far from concrete, moves coming

After falling one win short of advancing to the Conference Finals for the second straight year, the Detroit Red Wings could be facing some roster shakeups in the offseason.

“We got to make some moves,” said Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. “We have to figure out a way to get on the other side and find a way to win by one instead of lose by one.”

Over the past few seasons the Red Wings have been relatively quiet during the offseason choosing to add depth talent that polishes off their roster instead of opting for major overhauls because of their strong nucleus of players. This year could mark something decidedly different for the Wings as the futures of many players are in doubt.

Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t the only veteran Red Wing contemplating his future. Kris Draper and Chris Osgood are both wondering if the Wings will have room on the roster for them next season. At 39-years-old, Draper may find himself displaced by youngsters like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader – valuable assets and role players that the Wings want to retain. Osgood, on the other hand, has been a solid mentor to Jimmy Howard, but injuries over the past two seasons have kept Ozzie largely ineffective as a backup goaltender. If the Wings can’t count on a healthy Osgood, they may seek a backup presence elsewhere in the offseason. Center Mike Modano, who missed half the season with a lacerated wrist, will likely retire this summer.

The Wings will also likely part ways with defenseman Ruslan Salei, offering Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith the chance to compete for the final defensive spot in training camp.

Opting not to re-sign Draper, Modano, Osgood and Salei would give the Wings roughly $5.8 million in cap space. The team will likely try to retain the services of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller. Ericsson could get a raise from $900,000 to anywhere between $1.5 and $2 million while Eaves should come in at roughly one million or less. Miller will likely sign for a similar deal to the $650,000 he made last season, leaving the Wings with $2-3 million in cap space for a free agent or two. If the cap goes up, as is expected, the Wings could have a cushion to bring in some suitable talent.

But the decision from Nick Lidstrom will largely be the key to the Red Wings’ offseason plans. If Lidstrom decides to return, the Wings will again boast one of the best blue lines in the NHL. If Lidstrom decides to retire, however, a good chunk of his $6.2 million cap hit will likely go toward finding a suitable replacement.

Andre Markov and Thomas Kaberle are both mobile, puck-moving defenseman that the Wings could target. James Wisniewski would also be a viable option as a steady defenseman who has an offensive upside, although not as striking as either of the players previously mentioned or Lidstrom himself. This year’s crop of free agent defenseman is fairly deep giving the Red Wings plenty of options if Lidstrom hangs up his skates.

After determining Lidstrom’s intentions, Holland will likely have his hands full deciding what to do with his abundance of forwards. The Wings have 10 forwards under contract for next season with Miller and Eaves likely to be re-signed, giving the team 12, and Jan Mursak penciled in to get a spot next season after impressing during call-up stints throughout the season leaving the Wings with little room to bring in free agent additions.

In a likely scenario, the Wings might move current roster players. Jiri Hudler has been the subject of trade rumors thanks to his lackluster production this past season. After returning from a season abroad in Russia, Hudler only managed 10 goals and 37 points – a far cry from the 20 goal, 50-60 point season the Wings expected and hardly worth the $2.8 million cap hit. It’s undetermined, however, if the Wings would try to bring in another roster player through trade or if they would look to get draft picks in an attempt to free up cap space to bring in a free agent forward.

The likelihood of the Red Wings bringing in a high-end free agent forward like Brad Richards is doubtful, unless Richards decides to take less money for a shot at winning the Stanley Cup– much like Marian Hossa did several years ago when he joined the Wings. Otherwise, the crop of forwards available this offseason lacks punch as several free agents are either 30+ or they carry injury concerns.

The Wings could take a chance on Alexei Kovalev or Simon Gagne for additional scoring depth, but it’s more likely the Wings would target Brooks Laich or Tomas Fleischmann, two players in their late-20’s capable of producing offensively and both could likely be had for $3 million or less. Fleischmann, after getting traded to Colorado mid-way through the season, posted 21 points in 22 games before going down with an injury. If he is healthy, he could certainly be on the Wings’ radar. Laich, on the other hand, is a solid point producer who works hard at both ends of the ice and could fit in well with the Wings’ system.

With over a month until the free agency period begins, the Wings have time to create a strategy and gauge the best options for the club moving forward. Still, their off-season game plan hinges almost entirely on whether Lidstrom retires or returns. Once a decision is made on Lidstrom’s part, Holland will surely act quickly getting the rest of the pieces in place.


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