What’s the hold up? The Patrick Eaves Edition

Throughout the week, I’ll be exploring a handful of upcoming free agents and trying my best to predict their chances of being re-signed, culminating with what I feel is a fairly accurate peek at the 2010-11 Red Wings. To the surprise of absolutely no one, I’ve already got my chart ready to go, have the numbers in a spreadsheet and it’s just about ready to share with you fine folks. 

As far as I’m concerned, re-signing Patrick Eaves is an absolute must. Have you ever seen a new player come in and immediately click with his linemates the way that Eaves has with Darren Helm and Kris Draper? Hint: the answer is no, no you haven’t. The de-facto third line has consistently been one of the most impressive for the Wings all season.

Aside from that, Eaves seems like a guy that wants to be in Motown. After being traded from Carolina to Boston, he was bought out by the Bruins. A few days later, the Wings swoop in and sign him to a league minimum contract for one season (not to mention, he’s the nephew of former Red Wing Murray Eaves, and we all know the Wings love bloodlines). Obviously, making $1.4M in seasons prior, he took a massive pay cut to join the Red Wings. He’s still getting paid by the Bruins (frolicking chumps), as the terms of a buyout dictate, so perhaps he was willing to take the haircut to prove he still belongs in the NHL and that he can contribute on a good team.

The scoring potential is there. As a rookie in Ottawa, Eaves scored twenty goals. I think the Senators (and subsequently the Hurricanes) lost patience with him and maybe couldn’t find an appropriate spot in the lineup for him. The two seasons prior to the current one, Eaves scored a total of eleven goals in 111 games. In 47 games with the Wings in 09-10, he has nine goals and 16 points. Both of those numbers are better than his 08-09.

I think he’s found his niche. The Wings have a history of finding gold in another man’s trash, as it were. Eaves, like Dan Cleary before him, was given a chance to prove to his former teams that they made a mistake by ridding themselves of him. And, also like Cleary, Eaves has been embraced and turned his career around wearing the winged wheel.

Frankly, I’m shocked the Wings haven’t already put pen to paper with Eaves, rewarding him for his hard work and good faith in taking a league minimum deal. Remember the Blackhawks game where Patrick Eaves dropped the gloves, took a gash under the eye, and came up smiling? If I’m Kenny Holland, I have the contract extension waiting for him in his locker after the game. Do I want him fighting? No — but I loved seeing his passion for the game, for his teammates, and making Brad May think “boy, am I jailsexed…”

Eaves’ salary with the Red Wings is $500,000. He will continue to earn about $250,000 from the Bruins until 2012-13. Will Patrick Eaves be willing to take another bargain contract to stay with the Wings — or will the Wings be willing to give him a contract based on his merits?

I think the two sides come to an accord on a four year deal. Part of me thinks that the Wings give Eaves a Bertuzzi/Williams-like $1.5M, but then I think of the Wings’ history of undercutting salaries. My official prediction is that the meet somewhere in the middle, thanks in part to the Bruins supplementing his salary, on a four-year pact, $1.2M per. Would he fetch more than that on the open market? Yeah, probably. But, again like Cleary, the Wings will be rewarded for their faith in him.