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Photo Credit: Nick Seguin

WN MONDAY MAILBAG: Buy In or Buy Out?

The Red Wings are not a lot of fun right now. In the midst of a ten game losing skid, the worst this team has endured since the 1989-90 season, frustrations are boiling over for coaches, players, and fans alike. It seems like nobody wants to talk about the team that is currently hitting the ice every night. Instead, attention is being turned to the offseason and the moves that can be made then.

There was also one question about the state of the team’s goaltending from my good pal Mr. Wheelhouse:

Honestly, it’s a bit of both. This team has demonstrated many times that they rely on their goaltenders to win them games. They live and die by Jimmy Howard, who is streakier than a shitty paint job. Their defense, I find, is pretty consistently bad. But when Jimmy is on, they can win games. The thing about Jared Coreau is he isn’t that streaky. He’s just got the ceiling of a below-average back-up goaltender. Nothing good is going to happen for him behind this horribly inconsistent defense. In terms of his abilities, whenever I think about him playing consistently in the NHL, Nathan MacKinnon’s 3rd period goal from Sunday flashes through my head. I know MacKinnon fanned on the shot, but the way Coreau over-committed was all I needed to see that he can’t compete against the NHL’s best.

If you want to read more about the state of the Red Wings goaltending, Tom Mitsos wrote a great piece last week, when the losing streak was only at seven games:

State of the Red Wings: Goaltending absent during seven-game losing streak

We had two questions from Adam Flett that were kind of similar, so I’m going to tackle them together:

As a quick reminder for those who may be confused, the Red Wings have two first round draft picks in 2018. One is their own, which, depending on how the lottery balls fall, will likely end up in the 4th overall to 7th overall range, and the other is from the Vegas Golden Knights, which came over in the Tomas Tatar trade.

Now, onto the trade strategy. Personally, I’m a “best available” kinda guy. Always, always, always, draft the best available player, no matter the position. The issue, though, is we all have a different definition for who the best available player is. For example, I’d take Adam Boqvist before I take Brady Tkachuk. Sorry, Adam. I might even take Quinn Hughes, who, as a defensemen, has only five less points than Tkachuk in four less games in the NCAA.

Despite Tkachuk’s amazing showing at this year’s World Junior Championships, I can’t shake this feeling that he is going to fall lower in the draft than we all expect. And yes, I am prepared to eat these words.

Of course, if the Wings land in the top-3 overall thanks to the lottery, I would take whichever of Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, or Filip Zadina is still available. They are the top-3 in this very deep draft and it’s not even close.

As for the Vegas pick, which will likely fall in the 20th to 24th overall range, I’d be looking at someone like Jesperi Kotkaniemi if he’s still available or maybe Mattias Samuelsson depending on how the defensemen fall. I’d also be open to trading down with this pick if we felt comfortable that we could land someone like Jet Woo early in the second round.

No matter where they’re picking, I’m a big believer in always taking the best player available.

Thank you for asking this question. This debate comes up every once in a while on Twitter where folks want the Wings to buy out all their defensemen then turn around and offer Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty a bunch of money. Buyouts are not an easy one-and-done solution, though, and the rules around them are kind of tough to grasp. CapFriendly does an amazing job of breaking it all down, but here is a quick summary:

  • Since all of the Wings defensemen are over 26 years old, they buyout amount will be 2/3 of the player’s remaining contract value at the time of the buyout.
  • The remaining salary is multiplied by the buyout amount and spread out over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract. So, if we’re looking at Ericsson, the buyout would be for four years since he has two years left on his deal.
  • That annual buyout cost is then subtracted by the player’s salary.
  • The cap hit is then determined by subtracting the savings from point 3 by the player’s AAV.
  • This is done for each year of the buyout, which is why the buyout cap hit can change from year-to-year.

Again, check out the CapFriendly FAQ. They do a much better job of explaining it and they even have a buyout calculator that let’s you select a player and see how their buyout would affect the team’s cap.

As for the second part of your question, I wrote a piece last Summer about the three best candidates for a buyout and determined that if it was going to be anyone, it should probably be Ericsson:

Who Is The Red Wings Best Buyout Candidate?

Since then, though, I’ve changed my mind pretty drastically on buying out a Red Wing. In my opinion, we’re rebuilding and not expected to be good for another three years at minimum. We’re better off riding all of these contracts out and not handcuffing the cap any further. The team is already eating a Stephen Weiss cap hit until 2020-21. If they bought out DeKeyser, for example, it would result in a cap hit for Detroit until 2025-26.

As fans, it’s tough because we see the team is not well right now, but we want them to be successful as soon as possible. We also want them to rebuild and set up the sustained success that they’ve had in the past. We can’t have it both ways, though. When done properly, a rebuild takes time. They are going to be bad for a while. The buy out option is a short-term solution with long-term effects. Instead, buy in to the rebuild and accept that we’re going to lose for the next few seasons. Before you know it, the Helm, Ericsson, and Daley contracts will all be gone and replaced with younger talent.

Buy in to the rebuild. I promise you it will pay off.