As of right now, the Red Wings aren’t salary cap compliant.
With their expected 23-man roster, they’re roughly $3 million over the $75 million upper limit set for the 2017-18 and, to make matters worse, RFA Andreas Athanasiou has yet to be signed. Some cap relief will come in the form of Johan Franzen being placed on the long-term injured reserve once the season begins, but it appears that Ken Holland is going to have to make a move to shed some salary.
Holland spoke with Ansar Kahn earlier, finally discussing the issue that’s been on the mind of puzzled Wings fans this summer. He says that the Wings, if fully healthy at the beginning of the season, will be over the salary cap, and, as a result, would need to make a move.
“If everybody is healthy when we get to opening day, we’ll probably have to make a move,” Holland said. “I’m anticipating we’ll be over by a little bit.”
He’s talking about Jonathan Ericsson, Tomas Tatar, and Luke Glendening, all of whom underwent surgery this offseason. Those three are expected to be ready to go come October, but Ryan Sproul, who suffered an ACL injury, isn’t as certain.
Holland went on to suggest that the Wings could go with a 21-man roster of 13 forwards, seven defencemen, and two goalies to squeeze under the cap, which obviously wouldn’t be ideal.
As previously mentioned, a large amount of cap relief will come from Franzen — who carries a $3.955 million cap hit — going on the LTIR, but that still doesn’t leave much room to sign Athanasiou.
It isn’t going to be easy for Holland to pull off a move. Most teams are in a similar situation, in that they’re squeezed right below the cap ceiling, dancing around to try to make things work out financially. As we’ve seen recently, cap space is a massive asset for NHL teams, and you aren’t going to find many willing to take on a contract for the hell of it. The Wings also have 10 different players with a no-move or no-trade clause, further muddying this process.
Khan mentioned in the article that Nicklas Kronwall, who’s been plagued by a knee injury that can’t be fixed in surgery, should be ready for training camp. That said, if he does begin the season on the LTIR, the Wings could be given the cap relief they need to squeeze under the cap.
Another option that comes to mind is Petr Mrazek, who, unlike many players on this roaster loaded with bad contracts, has some value. I’m not personally suggesting the Wings should move Mrazek, but based off of the Wings leaving him open in the expansion draft rather than Jimmy Howard, you have to at least assume Holland would consider moving him to free up potentially $4 million in cap room depending on what came back.
Regardless, Holland is going to have to do some manoeuvring to navigate through this mess he’s created for himself come October.