Welcome to another round of the joint TPL-WIIM series of pro/no profiles, giving you all the details you need to make an educated opinion about each of the upcoming free agents. At the bottom of the entry, you’ll find a voting form — please feel free to leave additional thoughts in the comments either here or at Winging it in Motown!
Kris Draper, center, #33
5’11 :: 185 lbs
17 NHL seasons (16 with Detroit)
Regular Season — 47 games, 6 goals, 5 assists, 12 penalty minutes, +1, 10:26 minutes per game.
Playoffs — 8 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes, +2, 9:19 minutes per game.
Kris Draper just played the final year of a three-year pact worth $4.75 million. The actual dollar salaries decreased each season, culminating with a $1,250,000 payday this past year. The cap hit, however, was an average of the three seasons, meaning he counted for $1,583,333 against the $59.4M salary cap. Nearly everyone thought that this number was too high for an aging role-player who was not a regular in the lineup for the last year. Since coming over from the Winnipeg Jets (for a dollar, I’m contractually obligated to remind you), he’s never entered free agency unsure that he’ll be a Red Wing the following October. We’ve come to that point now.
As of July 1st, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Draper missed the first 23 games of the season with a groin injury. Upon his return, on December 4th, he immediately entered a rotation with Drew Miller, Jiri Hudler, and occasionally Patrick Eaves. Even with another veteran center going down with an injury (Mike Modano), he couldn’t crack the permanent lineup until Pavel Datsyuk broke his hand in late December.
From December 23rd until the final game in February, Kris Draper played in thirty straight games — mostly on the fourth line and taking late-game faceoffs. With Modano and Datsyuk set to return, Kris Draper returned to a healthy scratch rotation (even with Patrick Eaves missing time with a leg injury).
In all, Draper played just over half of the Red Wings’ games, but did find himself in the lineup for 8 of the 11 post-season games.
CASE FOR DRAPER
1) There’s no question he’s still a reliable NHLer, and one of the best faceoff men in the game.
2) There aren’t many four-time Cup winners out there, and if he does make it to free agency, there will be a ton of teams interested in adding him to their locker room, a la Mark Recchi.
3) Earlier in the season, each of the Red Wings was asked who the biggest gym rat on the team was — and everyone that wasn’t Kris Draper said, “Kris Draper.” He’s in unbelievable shape and rivals Chris Chelios in cyborgness.
CASE AGAINST DRAPER
1) In short, his age is working against him. With all of the positives in Draper’s game, he is still 40-years-old and you may be able to find a younger, cheaper option either internally or on the market.
2) He doesn’t deserve to be a healthy scratch every other night — the man is a Hockeytown legend, and a Grind Line original. He knows his place, and I’m sure that’s a bit painful for him.
3) He’s never been a big scorer, and you shouldn’t expect him to be now — but is it unfair to want more than six goals from a fourth line center on the Red Wings?
WHAT HE’S SAYING
Just yesterday, the Detroit News caught up with Draper (as he was working out with the Lions, naturally) and asked his thoughts. He said that he knows he can still play, feels as good as he has in years, and just needs Ken Holland to believe in him. Drapes said that he should know within a week or two if he’ll be returning, but he absolutely hopes to be a member of the Red Wings as training camp rolls around — but not on a two-way contract like his buddy Kirk Maltby took last year. He has no interest in potentially being sent down to the Griffs.
If he were to be re-signed by the Red Wings, it’s a certainty that he’d have to take a pretty severe cut in the wallet. He could maybe get a few bucks more on the open market, but it’s not about that with Draper — and he made it clear that while he still wants to play, he’d be willing to listen to other opportunities within the organization, as well as opportunities to play elsewhere.
Internal :: Though they won’t be taking his place on the roster, since they’re already on it, guys like Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Patrick Eaves are poised to take over that grinder/leadership role.
External :: Upcoming free agents that make under a million dollars and bring a Draper-like swagger with them include Raffi Torres, Scott Nichol, and Craig Conroy. But this is one situation that can’t be “replaced,” and will only see a shift in personnel from the inside.
WHAT DO YOU THINK
Thank you for your votes! They are now being tabulated and we’ll have a recap post later in the summer with all of the results!
Photo Credit: Dave Reginek, Getty Images