Re-Tooling: The Detroit Red Wings Free Agency Outlook
This article is part of a two part, two team look at Detroit's free agency in basketball and hockey. Click here for the other half.
As the calendar turns to July the NBA and NHL worlds turn their gaze to what is arguably the most important day of the offseason, the opening of free agency.
The NHL opens their market at noon today with players being allowed to sign as soon as the clock strikes 12. While many experts say the class looks underwhelming, there are still diamonds to be found in this year's free agents.
With that we take a look at what can happen for the Red Wings as they look to stock the cabinets for another professional campaign.
Youth Exodus on the Ice
The Detroit Red Wings have been the model of consistency in the NHL. While they haven't won a cup since 2008 or been as far as the third round since 2009, they have made the postseason an impressive 24 straight years. They look for trip number 25 in a drastically changed Atlantic division. (There's four different links there).
Last season's needs were filled at the trade deadline. The Red Wings needed size, they added Erik Cole. They needed right handed shooting defensemen, they added Marek Zidlicky.
However, both have gone the familiar way of the rental player departing after they were traded for as Cole has an injured neck, potentially ending his career. Zidlicky wants to play in the NHL next year, however the Red Wings don't seem intent on signing him.
Both of those players were on the wrong side of 35 and now after a few years of rental players not staying in Detroit, a philosophy shift may be occurring to let the young players play. A new head coach that has spent the last three years on the farm in Grand Rapids will now get to reap what he had sown in the NHL.
Who's on the shopping list?
Both needs that Cole and Zidlicky filled seem to be replaceable from within the organization. For years, Detroit has been respected as one of the best when it comes to developing prospects to be NHL ready, and in a rather underwhelming free agent class it's possible this is the route they go.
On the size and grit forward front, Cole is not being re-signed and uncertainty still looms about Johan Franzen returning from his concussion, the Red Wings could look at power forward types like Chris Stewart or Joel Ward, however both players have expressed interest in staying with their current clubs, that doesn't mean that will happen though.
Matt Beleskey is also an option, but he'll be overpaid as he is one of the bigger fish in his year's free agent pool. This makes Red Wings brass have to ponder the option of keeping restricted free agents Landon Ferraro and Mitch Callahan to provide more sandpaper that the Red Wings have sorely missed for a long time.
As for right handed defensemen, everybody seems to be kicking the tires on Mike Green as the top free agent not just for defensemen, but all positions. Another highly touted free agent with a right handed shot is Cody Franson from the Nashville Predators, this is who the Red Wings should go after, and potentially overpay. He's rumored to be in the six million dollar range, which would make him the highest paid defenseman in Detroit, but he'd be worth it.
Franson is 27, he's 6-5, he's right handed and can quarterback a power play unit. The only knock I've been able to find is he's more of an offensive defenseman and isn't as solid in his own end. Then again so is Brendan Smith and the Red Wings just re-signed him. Pair up the offensive d-men with guys like DeKeyser or Kronwall and the defensive responsibilities will sort themselves out.
If the Red Wings only sign one free agent this July, I'm pulling hard for Franson, but if he's not signed both Alexey Marchenko and Ryan Sproul have right handed cannons from the blue line that look to be ready for more NHL responsibilities.
With the Red Wings sitting 14 million plus under the cap after the Stephen Weiss buyout, Detroit has the cap space to make a move on the level of Franson. To me, it seems as though it's up to Ken Holland to stomach paying that kind of money for a prospect his system didn't develop.