Is Signing Stamkos Even Feasible?

The Red Wings struggled for much of the season and has the fanbase nervous like they’ve never been in the last two-and-a-half decades. The streak was in jeopardy. The coaches are ticked. The players are frustrated. Ken Holland even seems upset and is claiming bold moves ahead which is very much out of character. Seems like everyone in the organization is on the edge of their seats wondering if something dramatic needs to change?

The obvious answer is yes. It’s very easy to see what this team needs fixed but it’s going to be very difficult to actually repair those problems. They (likely) need a top-6 forward to replace Datsyuk’s spot. They desperately need a top-2 defenseman (top-4 at worst), they need to unload Datsyuk’s cap hit & they need to clear up their goaltending situation which is likely done by trading Jimmy Howard.

There are many options available at forward, there are less options available for a top 4 defenseman and there are very limited options when looking for a team willing to take on a starting goaltender with Jimmy’s cap hit. The most obvious target is Steven Stamkos, however is that even feasible? Is there a scenario where the Wings accomplish ALL of their needs? The sad reality is, two of the problems rely on solving the two other problems first. The Wings have little to no cap space so in order to acquire the player(s) they need, they’ll need Datsyuk and Howard’s cap hits off the books.

The NHLPA has not yet decided if they’re going to use the escalator to bump the salary cap to $74-ish million dollars for next season so this entire article I’m going to ball park. We don’t yet know the cap ceiling, we don’t yet know the cap floor, we don’t know what each RFA is going to get per season so I’m going to ball park each RFA’s salary based on similar players in similar situations and assume the cap ceiling will be between 71 & 75 million dollars. The purpose of this article is to show what moves the Wings would have to make and what the roster might look like in order to acquire the pieces they need. This is not definitive by any measure

Here’s how the Wings forward crop might look next season, with cap hits in millions, if they do win the Stamkos sweepstakes, via NHLNumbers:

Line 1:

  • LW Henrik Zetterberg, $6.09

  • C Steven Stamkos, $10.5 (Estimate)

  • RW Tomas Tatar, $2.75

Line 2:

  • LW Andreas Athanasiou, $0.63

  • C Dylan Larkin, $0.93

  • RW Gustav Nyquist, $4.75

Line 3:

  • LW Justin Abdelkader $4.25

  • C Riley Sheahan, $2.5 (Estimate)

  • RW Anthony Mantha, $0.84

Line 4:

  • LW Tomas Jurco, $0.9

  • C Luke Glendening, $0.63

  • Teemu Pulkkinen, $1.5 (Estimate)

Nightly Scratch:

  • Eric Tangradi, $0.6

Buyout:

  • Stephen Weiss, $1.07

Retained:

  • Pavel Datsyuk, $2.0

A few quick notes from this. Johan Franzen would have to stay on LTIR. All pending UFA’s would be let go (Brad Richards, Darren Helm & Drew Miller). Stephen Weiss’ minuscule buyout number seems much more daunting. There’s still nowhere to fit Pulkkinen or Jurco outside of the 4th line. This doesn’t even include the rumor that Detroit is one of the favorites for Alex Radulov. However, if that does happen I’d fully expect someone to be moved to free up some space.

The good news is that this group of forwards would be among the best in the NHL. Now for the bane of this teams current existence. The defense:

Pair 1:

  • LD Danny Dekeyser, $4.75 (Estimate)

  • Acquired Defenseman, $6.5 (Estimate)

Pair 2:

  • LD Brendan Smith, $2.75

  • RD Mike Green, $6

Pair 3:

  • LD Niklas Kronwall, $4.75

  • RD Alexey Marchenko, $0.9 (Estimate)

Scratch:

  • LD Jonathan Ericsson, $4.25

The Wings have three defensemen in the AHL who are no longer waiver eligible: Ouellet, Sproul & Jensen. This is a big hole Holland has dug for himself. There is no one currently in the organization who immediately improves the group and there is no room for any of those three. Outside help is needed however that creates a log jam that will require Holland to have to find a way to move multiple players. Most of whom have little trade value. This a case of classic mismanagement and yet another reason as to why Jonathan Ericsson’s contract might actually be the worst in the entire league. At this point, a buyout might almost be needed.

The deeper St. Louis goes into the playoffs the less and less likely the Blues are to move Shattenkirk. He’s arguably the best player rumored to being floated on the trade market right now but I’m not even sure he’s what the Wings should be targeting given that he’s only got one more year on his contract before becoming a UFA. The Wings are likely better off looking at a younger player where they’ve got a few years before Unrestricted Free Agency (Trouba, Vatanen, Lindholm…) or a current UFA where they’d control the term (Alex Goligoski, Keith Yandle…). For the time being I just put a rough estimate on what type of contract a Goligoski or Trouba might command to fill out the roster numbers. Trouba would obviously need to come via trade but he is a Restricted Free Agent currently and in need of a new deal. Same with Vatanen and Lindholm.

Goaltenders:

  • Starter Petr Mrazek, $5 (Estimate)

  • Free Agent, $1.5 (Estimate)

Goaltending notes: For this to work, Ken Holland would likely have to get Petr to agree on a very friendly deal for the team, likely at lower cap hit but with significant term (I actually would prefer this over a bridge deal). It also means Holland would have to move Jimmy Howard no matter what, there is almost literally no way around it. With Jimmy being gone and Jared Coreau being at least one more year away it means the Wings need to find a backup on the cheap. There’s lots of options out there thankfully. I’m thinking along the lines of a Kari Ramo or Jhonas Enroth.

Now for the math. At that estimated roster cost,  it brings the Red Wings to a total cap hit of $77.07 million before this year’s bonuses are added. Which means either Holland needs to be a wizard with the RFA’s, shed a couple players, shed one player with a bigger contract or convince Stamkos to come for a lot less (lol).  The most likely scenario is that we see a few players traded for picks/prospects or by some stroke of absolute luck, they buyout Ericsson.

The Wings are in cap hell and need to work some minor miracles to address every issue this team has. While adding Stamkos would be a dream, I think the far more probable scenario is the Wings focus on adding a defenseman and then supplement their offense with one of the many secondary forwards available via free agency, Eriksson, Okposo, Boedker, Nielsen, Backes, Ladd, Radulov, etc…

Good luck Kenny, you’re going to need it.