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Scuttles Saga becomes Nick Narrative

It’s been a few days since the Red Wings season came crashing down, so we’re all sobering up a little bit. If it’s any consolation (and yes, yes it is), the Penguins lost last night. Mellon Arena was set to be demolished later in the summer, unless rioting Montreal Canadien fans get to it first…

Anyway, much has been made about our own little midget returning to the winged wheel for next season. Be honest, we were all expecting a long, drawn-out saga, filled with ‘will he won’t he’ and KHL presidents blabbering about God knows what. But, unceremoniously, it was revealed that Jiri Hudler will be returning to play for the Detroit Red Wings after his Russian team folded and amid rumors that he hasn’t seen a dime from his massive $5M tax-free “paycheck.” Obviously, $2.8M in the hand is more than five million theoretical dollars and freezing your nuts off.

Instead, it looks like the back and forth summer story is going to be about Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s an unrestricted free agent that’s just turned forty and while much has been made about his declining play, he’s still one of the best on the planet – hands down. He’s made no secret about the fact that he’d like to return to Sweden, and the same is said of Mrs. Lidstrom, but almost everyone seems to agree that he’ll be a Red Wing once again — and that he’ll take a pay cut to do it. Jamie Samuelsson tosses a little bit of water on that fire, saying that while Lidstrom’s likely aware that his “financial value has dropped,” he also knows that he’s the team’s most valuable player.

I don’t doubt for a second that Lidstrom will return next season. In the interest of fiscal responsibility, I hope he takes a salary somewhere around 5ish million. I’d do a backflip if he comes in under that figure, but considering the $7.45M salary he’s been making — is asking a man to take a 33% pay cut a bit dramatic? I know that if you asked me to, I’d kick you in the shins.

But there will be people out there who claim that he’s “made enough money” and “shouldn’t be greedy.” I never take it as athletes being greedy — they have a (relatively) short career and have to get all the dollars they can before their bodies are used up.

We’ll have a lot more about the salary cap situation as it unfolds, but a figure to wrap your brain around right now is 12.3. The Red Wings have about 12.3 million dollars in cap space, and have 8 spots to fill. The following is a list of UFAs and RFAs (that are likely to play on the Wings this upcoming season and their 09-10 salaries), so make of it what you will. We’ll address each hole later in the summer, so this isn’t a list of who NEEDS to be re-signed…simply a list of those that aren’t for next season.

Nicklas Lidstrom (7.45)
Tomas Holmstrom (2.25)
Todd Bertuzzi (1.5)
Jason Williams (1.5)
Andreas Lilja (1.25)
Kirk Maltby (833k)
Brett Lebda (650k)

Justin Abdelkader (850k) — my bad, thanks for the catch Misopogon
Darren Helm (599k)
Drew Miller (525k)
Mattias Ritola (512k)
Patrick Eaves (500k)
Derek Meech (483k)

Photo Credit: Christian Peterson, Getty Images

12 thoughts on “Scuttles Saga becomes Nick Narrative”

  1. I think the Red Wings have a pretty simple offseason. Nick will fit in with what's left after the Hudler bump. Williams (not going to mourn) and Lilja (small mourning) will not return. Homer gets 2 or 3 years at $2 million per. Bertuzzi? I haven't the faintest. Lebda neither.

    Ritola and Kindl have to be in the NHL next year. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that by Labor Day, we'll have one of those hateful camp stories where Kindl isn't performing nearly as well as Brendan Smith or Tomas Tatar, who will just HAVE to make the NHL team because of his sheer awesomeness, and thus some other useful part (Meech?) has to get waivered to a team where he will become their 4th best player while Kindl rides the Detroit bench. Because this always ffffing happens to the Red Wings!

    Are we on retirement watch for Malts, or aren't we? Did I miss something? I want to celebrate the shotblockinator, not watch him ride the bench next year. His skill set doesn't translate as well toward turning 38 as some other guys on the roster.

    Expect the RFAs to all get re-signed, some (Helm) for more substantial bumps than others (Meech). Isn't Abdelkader an RFA as well? And, though he's probably used up his chances, Ryno?

  2. J.J. from Kansas

    I'm absolutely PRAYING that Nick comes in at a low figure, but won't hold it against him if he demands more than Rafalski. Unfortunately, I think some people would.

    I'm not worrying about any math until after July 1st, but I'd say anything under $7M is worth it to have Nick Lidstrom back. He can still play 30 minutes a night and shut down a top scoring line, a top PP unit, and provide very good offensive jump. There are about three other guys in the league able to do that consistently well.

  3. Michael Petrella

    Miso, thanks for the Gator catch. I've edited the post.

    I'm with you about Holmstrom. I think he's the best in the world at what he does and he'll probably take a smaller paycheck to do it (like he always has). Williams and Lebda are gonzo, as far as I can tell. I hope every day that Todd Bertuzzi goes with them.

    For as much as I hear about Brendan Smith being NHL-ready, that's just not the Red Wings way. I feel like they'd put him in the AHL no matter what, because that's what they do. Not to mention the quasi-logjam on the blueline, which I think might force Lilja out. I bet Meech gets re-signed (or at least qualified) and used as a trade piece or the 7th defenseman again — because he's cheap and doesn't bitch about it.

    Kirk Maltby wants to play next year, and it's unlikely the Wings will tender an offer (a playing offer, anyway). If there's interest elsewhere in the league, we might see him suit up for another team, which would be hard to swallow, but the man has a right to play hockey.

    JJ, you and I are (SURPRISE) on the same page. There will be plenty of people who bitch about Lidstrom's salary if it becomes the highest on the blueline again, but they're the same idiots who scream about Chris Neil being the missing piece of the puzzle.

    I absolutely won't blame him for refusing to take too massive a cut, and he'd be worth every single penny. People are forgetting that he was VIOLENTLY underpaid in his role for nearly his entire career. A guy that can do the things you've listed and constantly wins Norris Trophies would command the league max on the open market that he's never tested.

  4. I would take Nick on the team for whatever salary he wants. Too long a list of players who are worth less but make more as it is; I read one goober saying that if he came back for about $4 to $4.5 million great, otherwise dump him and find replacements.

    I have rarely wanted so much to reach through the internet and stab someone in both eyeballs with a sharp stick.

    If he signs at around $6 million I will be both thrilled that he is coming back and impressed that he is taking a 20% paycut, because if you asked me to take that on the grounds that I had enough money already, I would beat you to death with pool noodles.

  5. Petrella,

    In a reversal of my mid-to-late season defense of all things Bert, I couldn't agree more with seeing him go. I thought he did very well in the regular season (and even the playoffs), especially considering he and Williams were the FA scraps that Holland had to pick up after waiting for Happy's situation to resolve. That said, I don't see how he fits in next year.

    After his December outburst, his production was mostly of the assist variety…which is ok, but not really what you expect from a slow, large bodied winger. Its difficult to judge his impact in his "net presence" role, but I'd have to say that Homer/Mule/Buckets are all better than he, despite his size advantage. Also, I don't think I've ever seen a guy who had a more difficult time remaining upright on the ice…well, ok there was Leino.

    Given how quickly the potential 3mil in savings to be had by not resigning him or Williams would be eaten up giving raises to the RFAs, I don't see how Bert comes back at last year's rate, let alone giving him a raise as I've heard mentioned other-wheres.

    Also, totally agree re: Nick naming his price. I tend to think though that one of the main reasons he'll come back is to wash the taste of last year out of his mouth. I've got to think that, to continue on at his age, Nick is aiming for nothing less than the Cup. To that end, I think he'll be realistic about what his contract means in terms of providing Holland the flexibility to build a contender. While it would absolutely be an injustice to see him not occupy the top spot on the payroll, I'm not discounting him offering to take less if he thinks it will put the team over the top.

  6. Andre, welcome aboard the Contuzzi Train. I've been engineering since Day 1 and there's always room for more.

  7. MP,

    This might put me in the minority, but I have nothing against him as a person, and under different cap-circumstances might have welcomed his extension. He would have also been my vote for the Wings Masterson nominee.

    I just can't see the Wings justify keeping him over calling up cheaper high-upside youth / potentially getting a better deal on the FA market.

  8. Yeah, I'm ready to see Shetuzzi move on to the next trick. On the one hand, his history means you get a player of high value for not much cap space, which in a cap world is a big deal. On the other hand, his history means Chicago fans get called on to do the Eulogy for Yahoo's blog, see he's on the roster, and make that the reason it's okay for atrociously one-sided officiating.

  9. I love King Lidas and would love to see him return at whatever number. However, before dismissing people who think he should take $6 mil or less as idiots, it might be worth noting that he has made nearly $89 million during his career, not including endorsements here and in Sweden.

    The massive paycut after the lockout is worth noting too.

    But, compared to most of us, that's a lot of accumulated money and, knowing Nick, he has invested quite smartly. More importantly, he is a living legend and can dictate his future. As I've said in other spaces, I can imagine an Olympic matchup between Team Canada and Team Sweden with Stevie and King Lidas as their respective GMs.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that there is some merit to the argument all things considered. Personally though, as much as I want to see Nick (relatively) shaft himself to help make a championship run, I wouldn't be bothered if he didn't.

    I've been a proTuzzi guy the whole season and think he has made a valuable contribution to the team. He was also really good in the playoffs aside from some undeserved reputation calls. I'd love to see him back and play with even more confidence and even more snarl as he grows to know and love this team. Actually, I think he's looking to end his career here and I'd love to see that happen.

  10. Datsyuk's gonna be the highest paid player on the team eventually, may as well start now. Every dollar Nick saves us is going to be crucial. I think Orst makes great points about how much money Nick's made in his career in hockey and elsewhwere. I'll obviously take him back happily at any price he wants, but if he takes ~$5M, I'll do fuching backflips. That would give us room to sign Homer (I think he'd take a 3 year, 1.8 mill contract). Then we just gotta figure out the best way to spend our remaining cap dollars towards our RFAs and maybe another bargain FA steal.

  11. I'm with the group that says pay the man whatever he wants to bring him back, but honestly I think he's hanging them up. The thought is depressing as hell, and I'd like to say it's just the paranoia or the crack talking, but this just seems to be how he'd choose to go out…as quietly as possible. Waiting until the season settles and people are starting to focus on other things before he makes his announcement.

  12. ^Damn smart comment man. But I can't let the idea of King Lidas retiring seep in; my head would explode.

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