Welp, with the awards all wrapped up, on to the offseason. Most predictions are that the Wings will be relatively conservative, trying to retain as many players from the 06-07 squad. The biggest questions are whether Hasek and Bertuzzi will return. And the biggest names being thrown out include JS. Giguere, Ryan Smyth, and Slava Kozlov. Plenty of speculation and analysis has already gone on, so of course now I will present mine, so I can glean what I like from everyone else!
Before doing anything, of course, we must consult the almighty cap:
Asterisked players are those who are free agents, but who I am sure will sign. Their contract numbers are estimates. Otherwise, this is the list of only players under contract - i.e., this is how the Wings would come to camp if they followed an ultra-conservative gameplan for doing their offseason shopping. As you can see, it leaves them 11.44M in spare change. Now this roster also features a number of players who will not be on the team if the Wings go for any UFAs, so the 11M figure is not a total indicator of how much they have to spend, since the contracts of the players who will be in GR will be taken off the books.
I'll start with the most obvious moves I'm sure the Wings will make, and that I think they should make:
Jiri Hudler - W/C - RFA
As I said in my post on Wednesday, Jiri is facing an uphill battle. As it is, Hudler is already the Wings' 11th or 12th forward, and likely is slotted behind both Tomas Kopecky and Igor Grigorenko. If the Wings make any moves, such as re-signing Todd Bertuzzi as expected, Hudler will already be fighting for playing time, and with Mike Babcock's obsession with size... er, height, Hudler is likely the odd man out. The Wings could carry him as the 13th forward and play him sparingly, but if he is not garnering playing time the most sensible move might be to trade him. Analysis: Re-sign, 600K/1yr. Prediction: It'll happen for around that number, unless the Wings deal him.
Derek Meech - D - RFA
Word on the street is Meech cannot be sent to GR without clearing waivers, so much like Hudler and Kopecky last year, Meech is basically guaranteed a roster spot. The big question is whether he'll get any PT. I think that regardless of the situation, Meecher will be the 7th D, but if the 6th D is Kyle Quincey, he's likely to play a lot, perhaps alternating with Quince, like Hudler and Kopecky did early in 06. Meech could help to soften the potential blow of losing Mat Schneider, as he was a PP QB with the Griffins last year. However, if the Wings are more aggressive in retaining their D corps, and Quincey is in GR next year, Meech will not likely outplay any Wings veterans. Analysis: Re-sign, 450K/1 yr. Prediction: Don't see any reason why not.
Chris Chelios - D - YFA
Chris is what I call an "Yzerman Free Agent", or a UFA who is all but guaranteed to return to the Wings. Ken Holland has said he wants Cheli back, and Chelios has said he expects to come back. He'll be expected to play a 5/6 D role, mentor a young D-man or three, be the Wings top PK D-man, and step up to a leading role in injury time. As Miah at All Things Red Wings recounts, Chelios had a rough season but played his heart out. His biggest contribution this season was his leadership, and that will continue in 07-08. I can't imagine he gets more than one million, given the huge hometown discounts he's been giving the Wings for the past few years. Bonuses may increase the total value of the contract, but those can be counted against next year's cap. Analysis: Re-sign, 900K/1 yr. Prediction: Duh. He may get more if he asks for it, but he won't break the Wings' bank.
Robert Lang - C - UFA
Robert "Captain Hook" Lang (see below) led the Wings in penalty minutes, despite not being a D-man or an enforcer. He put in a decent 20-30-50 season, but the Wings expected far more out of the actually talented center. The one theoretical argument in favor of Lang, and his apologists' battle cry all throughout the regular season, was that he was a playoff performer, and despite some statistical evidence in favor of this, most observational judgements of Lang were that he was terrible. In my mind, it is time to split up the Eurotwins and spread the wealth as it were, which means the Wings' 1-2 centers are set. Draper and Filppula round out the 3-4. There is no place for Lang, and I would not take him for the minimum. Analysis: Peace, bitch. Prediction: Very likely.
Starting tomorrow I'll take a look at the Wings' D situation, considering the D-men already on the roster as well as Wings UFAs and UFAs from other teams.