(Scroll to the bottom for the quick version...)
Ken Holland has been saying for a while now that he needs: one forward, two defensemen, and a goalie. Well, the goalie's Hasek, and the two defenseman are almost certain in my mind to come from the Wings' system, whether it's our UFAs or our kids or some combination. As I discussed earlier, the one forward is also very likely to come from the Wings 2006-2007 roster, in the person of Todd Bertuzzi. If Bert comes back, here's our lineup (my personal recommendations for lines):
In my mind that's a pretty potent lineup, although a lot depends on the kids on the projected 4th line taking another step forward. All this having been said though, this lineup could potentially be not that great, too. What if Bert doesn't work out? What if Franzen fails to build on an excellent post-season? What if Sammy can't stay healthy? What if Fil and Huds have sophomore slumps? Cleary? Kopecky? Grigorenko?
Lots of questions. I mean, potentially. Without a doubt someone in this lineup will disappoint, it's just impossible to hope everyone plays like you want them to. That being said there will be surprises too, so all around I'm not concerned. But say we wanted a stronger, veteran, more dependable presence up front? Maybe one with very close-together eyes?
Iwo at A2Y has taken up the cry of "Sign Ryan Smyth", an extreme, irrational response to an overall very successful season. But who can deny that such a signing would provide excitement in an offseason that could potentially see the Wings only return their own free agents and do literally nothing on the open market? And isn't that what sports is really about? Excitement in the offseason?
So let's see. How can the Wings sign Ryan Smyth? Reports are that he was looking for 5.5M in his extension with Edmonton. He didn't get it and who knows if he will on the open market. Let's just be conservative though and suppose he'd be willing to sign with the Wings for that amount. Let's take a look at all the other players the Wings have already comitted to, and then take a look at Smyth's effect.
On the left we have the current Wings' salary commitments, with estimations of 48.5M for the cap (owners have said that's as high as it will go) and a guess of 1.5M for Hasek. As you can see, it leaves the Wings a healthy 11.037M to work with. On the right, you see the Wings' picture with Smyth at 5.5M. If they want a 2M cushion, it leaves 3.5M available to bolster the blue line.
So really the question isn't "can the Wings afford Smyth?" it is, as with most free agents, a question of "what sacrifices must the Wings make?" In this case it is almost certainly Mathieu Schneider. Smyth's contract is a little more than the 5.25M roof Holland put on Schneider's contract, so he essentially would replace Schneids in the Wings cap situation. The Wings could definitely afford to bring back Danny Markov for around 3M and have 3M then left to save for various rainy days.
There is of course a very slight possibility that the Wings bring back Schneider at a heavy discount, like 4.5M. The Wings would then have to deal Andreas Lilja to maintain their 2M emergency fund. The odds Schneider takes probably about 1M less then he could get on the open market? Well, if it means the Wings get Ryan Smyth, I imagine he might be amenable. I'm not saying he would be, but the Wings could make that pitch.
Now here's the real question: what about the future? Smyth is almost certain to want a relatively long-term deal. I'd say the least the Wings could get away with would be 4 years. But the Wings must extend Cleary and Lidstrom next year, and likely will want to extend Zetterberg next year, one year before he hits UFA. Supposing Zetterberg settles for a mere 7M, a raise of 4.35M, and that Cleary takes a raise of just 1M, and that the cap rises by a modest 3M, the Wings would be forced to ask Nick Lidstrom for a cut of nearly 2.5M to a very modest 5M. Eeh. A more reasonable solution? Whichever D the Wings sign, Schneider or Markov, sign them to a one-year deal and kiss them goodbye at the end of next summer. Not that unreasonable given the wealth of young D talent the Wings possess.
To summarize, here's the How the Wings Can Get Ryan Smyth Battleplan (Whether Schneider Will Take A Discount or Not):
1. Sign Ryan Smyth, 5.5M/4 yrs.
2a. If Schneider will take 4.5M/1 yr, sign him.
3a. Trade Andreas Lilja. Quincey and Meech are both on the NHL roster.
4a. Release Schneider in the summer of '08 and use his money to extend Zetterberg.
2b. If Schneider won't take 4.5M/1 yr, sign Markov at 3M/1 yr.
3b. Keep Lilja; him and one of Quincey/Meech are on the NHL roster.
4b. Release Markov in the summer of '08 and put his money toward extending Zetterberg.
5a/b. Celebrate your record-breaking 07-08 season and 16-game Stanley Cup sweep.