Ken Holland is about to embark on arguably his toughest offseason as the Red Wings General Manager. It’s easy to be an armchair GM and say you know exactly what Ken Holland needs to do. We all know mostly what he needs to do. However, actually accomplishing all of it is no simple task.
He needs to unload Datsyuk’s cap hit to a team looking to get to the cap floor. He’ll likely have to lose a prospect or draft pick to accomplish this.
He needs to sort out the goaltending situation. Petr needs money. Jimmy needs to go but with his cap hit, that’s a tall order.
Many key players need new contracts. Along with Mrazek, Danny Dekeyser & Riley Sheahan are particularly important. Do they get bridge deals? Lock them in long-term?
The Wings defense is mediocre at best and in need of an upgrade. Easy enough right? Not really. The UFA market for defensemen is nightmare-inducing. This means he has to put on his big boy pants and start negotiating some trades.
Let’s not forget about that Steven Stamkos fella. Detroit is one of the top candidates to land him. This will be near the top of his to-do list but if he doesn’t get Stamkos, there are backup options out there.
We all have our critiques of Ken Holland as a GM but to say he has a difficult offseason would be a severe understatement. To address all of this teams’ needs this one offseason would be a minor miracle.
With that being said, here are 5 possible scenarios for Detroit’s offseason that should not surprise if they come to fruition:
Jimmy Howard is a Detroit Red Wing next season. Let’s face it, it’s a tough contract to move even for a stable goaltender, which Jimmy is not. The market will be flooded with serviceable goaltenders. Most of them UFA’s like James Reimer, Cam Ward, etc… There are also teams who might be trying to unload a goalie via trade as well. Frederick Anderson? Ondrej Pavelec? If we’re being honest, Jimmy’s not the most attractive option out there. If Holland is to move him, it’s likely for a nearly non-existent return.
The Red Wings trade their 1st Round Pick. When you look up and down the Red Wings depth chart you see a lot of high-potential, exciting forwards. Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Svechnikov, Tyler Bertuzzi, Martin Frk & company! That’s a few big swings that could be home runs if they pan out as projected. Then you look at their defensive prospects. Vili Saarijarvi looks like he will be a home run…… in about 3 years. Xavier Ouellet looks like he’s ready to step in this year. Nick Jensen might be something! Um…. Joe Hicketts, he seems alright. Oh, Ryan Sproul had a great start to the AHL playoffs. Sure these guys could pan out but are any of them sure thing? No. Outside of Saarijarvi, are any of them home run swings? Not really. It’s not an overly impressive crop. The bad news is that this upcoming draft looks to be one of the weaker drafts in recent years. The good news is that there are plenty of similarly skilled defensemen set to be drafted between picks 15-45. The Wings need to put stock into the back end this draft, it should not surprise to see the Wings move their 16th overall to nab a couple picks between 20-45 OR better yet, use it as bait as part of a package to acquire a top 4 defenseman via trade. Kevin Shattenkirk pretty, pretty please?
The Red Wings massively overpay for a Top-4 defenseman. We all know what this team’s biggest hole is. It’s a true top-2 defenseman. There are not many, if any at all, being shopped around by NHL GM’s. We’ve heard Shattenkirk’s name occasionally. Jacob Trouba’s contract negotiations with Winnipeg have stalled. Calgary has a surplus and many needs elsewhere. Anaheim might move one of their MANY defensemen, etc, etc, etc…. Detroit is not the only team looking. There are not many available. There are teams likely more desperate than the Wings. *Cough* Edmonton *Cough* This means that if a trade is to be made, it’s going to be at a steep price. Expect Detroit to lose their first round pick, a true top prospect and a roster player for this to be done.
Steven Stamkos signs elsewhere and Detroit signs a secondary option. Where the UFA market for defense is weak, the forward crop makes up for it. Steven Stamkos is the poster boy, the ultimate goal, the savior, the single player 30 NHL teams are at least kicking tires on. However, beyond him lies a secondary group of legitimately good top-6 forwards. If we’re being honest, no one is going to replace Datsyuk but that hole will need to be plugged somehow someway. Kyle Okposo, Loui Eriksson, Mikkel Boedker, David Backes, Andrew Ladd, Jiri Hudler (lol, could you imagine…), Frans Nielsen, the list goes on and on. All of whom would be a welcome addition to this team in the absence of Datsyuk. Not equal but definitely usable and affordable.
Steven Stamkos signs with the Detroit Red Wings. “Wait, didn’t you just say don’t be surprised if the Wings don’t get Stamkos?” Yes, yes I did. But it’s such an open market for him, this could still go a lot of ways and Detroit is a real possibility so as the title states, don’t be surprised if it happens. Now add in the possibility of freeing up 5.5 million dollars of Pavel Datsyuk’s cap hit. Freeing up 5.3 million of Howard’s cap hit. Freeing up the respective cap hits of Helm, Richards, Quincey, Andersson & Miller. Kenny has the ability to free up a lot of cap space and back up a dump truck full of money right into Stamkos’ driveway. It’s not a bad situation for him either, Detroit’s offense is young and promising, he gets to be the go to #1 Center that he’s always wanted to be in Tampa, the Wings have brand-spanking-new facilities on the way (The house that Stamkos built, has a nice ring to it) and it’s not far from home for him. It’s not a super strong possibility but it’s a legitimate possibility nonetheless.
In the end, I would expect Holland to, at the very least, address one of the three key issues. The three key issues being Jimmy Howard, adding a top-6 forward and adding a top 2 defenseman. If he manages to cross one off the list, I’ll consider it adequate. If he pulls off two, I’ll be beyond thrilled. If he pulls off all three, I’ll personally build a shrine of him in front of the new arena and petition to have it named the Ken Holland Arena.
We’ve all come to expect fairly quiet offseasons from the Wings brass in the cap era. This can not be one of those offseasons if the team looks to improve next year and moving forward.