Setting the Stage: NHL Free Agency 2011

The NHL’s annual grab for the cash is mere hours away, so that means it’s time to get everyone on the same page and up-to-speed for the impending live chat here at TPL. As we mentioned yesterday, we’ve been pretty quiet here on the home front during all of the goings-on in the run-up to free agent madness, so let’s take a second and make sure everyone knows where we stand on today’s biggest issues surrounding the Red Wings. Before we do that, Petrella asked me to give everyone his usual primer on the cap/space situation heading into today:

The Money
The Wings have $12,957,956 in cap space with 17 players signed (including Mursak and Emmerton)

The Needs

  • 1 backup goalie
  • 2 or 3 defensemen
  • 2 or 3 forwards

Got it? Good. Let’s get rolling on what to look for today…

The Jagr Saga
Fuck this clown. Seriously. The last week has done nothing but reaffirm exactly why the Red Wings should yank their offer straight off the table and get down to business putting together a team of guys who actually WANT to be in Detroit. Despite all the tire-spinning, Jagr is bound to end up in Pittsburgh, where he’ll play good hockey for the first two months of the season and then wallow through the rest of it at a craps table somewhere near Pittsburgh. Not interested. Thanks for playing. Next.

With all signs pointing to Patrick Eaves returning to the Wings, much of the focus will be on how much money Holland hands over to him once a deal is reached. Miller, on the other hand, has made no bones about wanting to test the free agent market, which makes sense for a guy in his situation. The best he will do is be a 3rd or 4th line player and regular PK contributor, but there are plenty of other destinations outside of Detroit that will allow him to do that without having to take regular spins through the press box along the way. Best guess says Miller ends up back in the Eastern Conference somewhere, getting right around $1 million to be someone’s 3rd line winger.

While their futures likely won’t be decided today, there could be plenty of telltale signs in the Wings’ actions that dictate the futures of these two. Obviously, if the Wings pick up a goaltender, you can forget seeing Chris Osgood in the Winged Wheel again. For Draper, he’ll be watching to see if the Wings make a play at more than one forward. With Emmerton and Mursak already in the fold – and Eaves likely to come back – every guy up front that the Wings scoop becomes one more nail in Draper’s playing career coffin. Speaking of goaltenders…

Between the Pipes
With no backup signed, the Wings will be scouring the market to secure someone capable of giving Jimmy Howard a rest during the regular season. There’s plenty of names to choose from, so don’t be surprised if the Wings stand pat on this issue today. That said, if they do make a move, names like Giguere, Conklin, Hedberg, Turco (lol), Budaj, Theodore, Auld, Boucher and Emery are out there for the taking. Petrella is high on Mike Smith for the job, while I’m dialing up the nostalgia quotient and pulling for Ty Conklin. Brian Boucher could be a steal at the right price as well.

Brad Richards
Yes, I know that Richards has a 0.001% chance of ending up in Detroit, but he’ll be a storyline throughout the day. That said, with cap room to play with, would it really be the worst thing in the world if the Wings went for a splash (the good kind) and made a play at him?

James Wisniewski
With the lovefest that went on in Columbus yesterday, you would have thought The Wiz and BJ’s were ready to throw parades for each other. Yet no deal was signed and Wisniewski is still on the market. Despite the GIGANTIC albatross that is Jonathan Ericsson’s contract hanging around their neck, the Red Wings may still try and find a way to make a play at Wisniewski. Although, at this rate, he’ll probably command somewhere in the neighborhood of $90 million per season.

The “Other” Defensive Options
If Wisniewski doesn’t pan out, the Wings will likely start scouring the market for a mid-level defenseman to come in and fill a void on the blue line. Names that have been floating around include Andy Greene, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White, Scott Hannan, Anton Babchuk, Jan Hejda, Ed Jovanovski, Sami Salo, Bryan McCabe, Sheldon Souray, Cam Barker and Mike Commodore.

What if…
There’s no doubt that there will be plenty of $hitbox talk during the chat today, but isn’t it fun to play the “what if” game and pretend that Ken Holland may pull a Devin Setoguchi and pawn Ericsson off in a sign-and-trade? Imagine the joy if we found out that Kenny Holland’s $9.75 million binge actually served another purpose besides causing bewilderment and almost starting a mass movement to Detroit Torch and Pitchfork. I’m not saying it’s going to happen…but what if? At any rate, the hotlines will be open during the entire live chat to bitch and moan about Ericsson’s deal. If Holland pulls off a move, I’ll start building a statue of his likeness in my front yard.

The Wild Card
Finally, Andreas Lilja is back on the open market, which means Todd Diamond will be actively pursuing a new home for his client. Take two shots if we read at any point during the day that Lilja wants more than $1.5 million next year. Close the laptop and head to the nearest bar if he winds up in Detroit somehow.

There you have it. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more story lines develop throughout the day, but that should get us pretty much caught up and ready to go. We’ll see you at 10:30 EDT for the live chat.