Hey, have you heard the Red Wings are pretty tight against the cap?
Depending on a few factors like Andreas Lilja’s ability to start the season, the impending defenseman trade, and what route the Abdelkader Express takes, the Wings will have somewhere between $1.7 and $4.4M to play with. Ken Holland has said that he has no problem going over the salary cap (which, before the start of the season, you’re allowed to do – up to 10%) during training camp and let things work themselves out.
By my count, there are at least two forward slots available – and that’s if they want to carry only 12 on the big squad again, which isn’t ideal. For the sake of penny-pinching, let’s assume they need to fill those two spots with about $3M – meaning Abdelkader starts in Grand Rapids, as was the plan last month; and either Lebda or Meech is traded.
One of those slots is on the fourth line, flanking 2/3 of the Grind Line. One can reasonably assume that this player will have to come in pretty near the league minimum, and while I haven’t ruled out someone within the system jumps up and takes that spot, some of the names on the following list are guys that would be able to fill that role at that price.
The other slot is potentially a top-six situation, depending on how the lines are juggled. It’ll be very difficult to find a good, reliable top-six guy in the $1-2M range, but taking a lower salary to join the Red Wings wouldn’t exactly be a novel idea.
And everyone calling for Todd Bertuzzi and dosen’t remember as far back as 2007 should go away. Forever.
The list — in reverse order of their 08-09 cap hit:
1. Blair Betts – an unrestricted free agent that played on Broadway last season, who couldn’t be blamed for looking for a modest raise on his $615,000 cap hit from a year ago. He gets a lot of praise for his penalty killing (which the Wings drastically need to improve) and Pierre Maguire (the last time you’ll ever see me quote Pierre Maguire) called him the most underrated player in the league.
2. Marcel Goc – a former first round draft pick that never quite rounded into the form that the Sharks hoped for him, and GM Doug Wilson promised a swift round of roster changes after another disappointing playoff. Goc’s $775,000 salary might have been a tad unreasonable for a two-goal scorer, but it wouldn’t be the first reclamation project the Wings have taken on.
3. Brendan Shanahan – tell me welcoming Shanny back to Detroit isn’t a classic Red Wings move. Granted, he left on his own accord, when it became apparent that the Wings were looking toward youth and the powers were shifting. But, here’s a guy that made $800,000 last season, knows the system, and would be the best fourth liner in the history of the NHL. (RE-SIGNED WITH NEW JERSEY)
4. Dominic Moore – aside from the potential of being the only Harvard-educated Red Wing, the Motown brass might be wary of a guy that’s jumped around so much in his young career. After breaking into the league in 2003-04 with the Rangers, he’s seen time with the Penguins, Wild, Leafs, and Sabres. His expired contract was worth $900,000.
5. Dan Hinote – remember him? He may have missed the Avalanche/Red Wings rivalry during its peak, but Wings fans should have plenty of Ghosts of Hinote Past. The only player ever to be drafted out of West Point, the 32-year-old may be willing to take a haircut on his $1M salary from a year ago to join a former enemy. Maybe not, though…
6. Jeremy “it’s not so much me as it is” Roenick – I dare you to tell me you couldn’t see him in a Winged Wheel. He’s a bit of a — shall we say — “character” for the Red Wings liking, and he was relegated to spot duty in San Jose, but in the twilight of his wonderful career, I’m sure he’d be willing to take less than $1.1M for a very real chance to win his first Cup. (SET TO RETIRE) 7. Manny Malhotra – a top ten pick in ’98, he’s become a very steady 8-12 goal scorer. And while his pricetag of $1.2M might be a bit lofty for that statistic, he’s not that far off from a season on the first line with Rick Nash. Would he occupy that role in Detroit? Absolutely not, but he’s a perfectly capable hockey player with a lot of upside. (PITCHED TO WINGS, DID NOT BITE).
8. Mike Peca – here’s a guy whose career has been almost completely derailed due to injury (and contract hold-outs), but there’s no denying his defensive ability and his faceoff prowess. 35-years-old and cut loose by the Blue Jackets, it’s completely fair to assume he’ll be paid less than the $1.315M he made last season.
9. PJ Axelsson – one of the better free agents left on the market, his price tag is going the wrong way for the Red Wings. There are plenty of teams that could use a player of Axelsson’s calibre, and his experience on winning teams is an attractive prospect to many of those same teams. He made $1.85M in 08-09. (SIGNED TO PLAY IN SWEDEN)
10. Alex Tanguay – the best free agent available, according to Mirtle, has plenty of suitors right now, and judging by his $5.25M contract from a year ago, I’m willing to bet the Red Wings aren’t one of them. However, his skillset is a perfect match for the top-nine scorer void.