Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Road to Repeat: Sign Sundin

There is no move the Wings could make that would better nail down a Stanley Cup victory than bringing Mats Sundin aboard. Dave at Gorilla Crouch has talked about this, and he rightly suggests that Sundin would be the ideal pick-up. Not only is Sundin probably looking for a one-year deal (given that he considers retirement after every season these days) but he is right in the Wings' price range. Actually, everyone is the Wings' price range. I keep reading all over the place about how the Wings could only spend ~5M on Sundin. I don't think that's true, at least if the Wings don't re-sign Brad Stuart and go with Jimmy Howard as the #2 netminder, which I think are both probable.

To sort it all out, let's consult the handy cap graph. Here is the Wings' current cap situation, assuming, as has been widely reported, a 56M cap, and taking a reasonable guess at what Ville Leino's salary would be if he makes the big club.

(full size chart)

Notice the Wings have a whopping $15M+ to work with. This is for a couple of reasons; one, the Wings were already under the cap by a significant amount. Two, Kris Draper and Nick Lidstrom's salaries went down while Zetterberg and Franzen continue to be dramatically underpaid. Finally the cap apparently will jump nearly 6M this season (it was 50.3M this past year.) Now, around the middle of the season I heard 53M (some article linked at Slapshots, don't recall which), then at the end of the year everyone started saying 56. So, I don't know how trustworthy 56 really is, but everyone is saying it. So if we assume that...

... and we assume a few other things: measly salaries for Chris Chelios, Andreas Lilja, and Darren McCarty, who figure to be part-time/role players, and peanuts as well for Kyle Quincey and Jimmy Howard, who are unproven. I also assume the Wings will at least start the season with Helm, Leino, and Ericsson in Grand Rapids (I don't think they will necessarily, but in order to have any of them on the big club, trades will have to be made, and I want to just paint a relatively simple picture here.) Finally, I have assumed below that Val Filppula will get 2.5M, which is maybe a little high but I'm playing it safe by assuming the upper bound on what he might get paid.

So how much does that leave for Mats Sundin, assuming the Wings want a 2M cushion as usual? It leaves eight million frigging dollars.

(full size chart)

I don't think Sundin deserves, or that any team will give him, 7.972M, I'm just proving a point. Look at the bottom - the Wings have 2M to spare still. I don't think any of the numbers for the other guys are lowballed, at least not by much. Now, to be fair, I am assuming the Wings don't bring back Stuart or sign a FA goalie. But really, what goalie is out there for much more than 900K who the Wings would be seriously interested in? Kolzig had a bad year by all accounts and wouldn't merit more than 2M, at the very most. And Stuart is a goner in my opinion. The Wings just simply can't devote any money to 09-10 and beyond without knowing how much the cap will go up that year. The cap's huge jump this year has been predicated on the strength of the Canadian dollar versus the American. Will it stay that way? I'm no economist, and I don't think Ken Holland is either.

So my point here is if the Wings make Sundin their only FA acquisition they can spend as much as I think any other team would be willing to. Sundin made 5.5M and I doubt he'll be looking for much of a raise at his age. The Wings could easily give him, say, 6M and 1M in playoff bonuses (which could potentially be deferred to next year if it's needed). I doubt any team could boast that kind of pay as well as a good shot to win the Stanley Cup. Throw in Little Sweden and the chance to not play against the team he has been so loyal to, and I don't see how Detroit isn't the best bet for Sundin.

And again, Sundin is the best bet for Detroit. He's probably the only player of his caliber looking for just a one-year deal right now. And he doesn't just give the Wings one more good offensive player, he makes them capable of rolling three scoring lines. Check it out:


If Sammy goes through one of his cold streaks, or gets traded as I hope, Leino could step in, or Kopecky could, playing Holmstrom to Fil's Zetterberg and Huds's Datsyuk. Now you have arguably the best line in hockey as your #1, a potential #1 line as your #2, and a potential #2 line as your #3, with a darn good checking line for your #4. And that's not even all Sundin brings. To me, the biggest thing he offers is this: hunger.

The Wings have just won a Cup and the hardest two things about repeating are: keeping a great team together given the cap (see: Pittsburgh's apparent loss of Malone, Roberts, and Hossa) and keeping players hungry. The Wings have no problem with the former, but will suffer with the latter. Gone is the Dallas-Drake-has-never-won-it story. Gone is the starvation for that first Cup among many of the young stars like Zetterberg, Kronwall, Filppula, Cleary, and Franzen.

Now, the Wings are a veteran team and so I like their odds of staying motivated. A this-could-be-Cheli's-last-season storyline would help as well, not that I'm hoping for that. But nothing would help more than bringing aboard a Hall of Famer who is late in his career and has never won. Not only will Sundin be individually motivated-as-hell (see: Drake's playoffs), but the team can rally around him.

Given all of this, I'm going to go out on a sensationalist limb here and say barring an injury shitstorm from hell, if Sundin signs here, the Wings will absolutely win the Cup and demolish everyone in their path.

-I think people are selling the Wings' cap space short
-the Wings can definitely afford to pay Sundin, unless he's looking for a HUGE raise, which would be undeserved by anyone's standard
-Sundin would keep the Wings from dreaded complacency
-wow, Pittsburgh is getting shit on by its UFAs, eh?
-if Sundin signs, I will be so happy I will light myself on fire