For three consecutive postseasons, the Detroit Red Wings have been bounced early from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The pieces have been in place for those three seasons with minute changes to each blueprint. And with each elimination has sparked an outcry to abandon the blueprint that made the Red Wings the most successful sports team of the modern era. Despite what one might think, Kenny Holland has made progressive moves to bring the team’s consecutive playoff streak to 21 and has followed his development model for now-NHL-ready prospects Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist. This offseason will be a true test for Holland as he could potentially have up to $21 million dollars in Cap space for Free Agency.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some free agents (unrestricted and restricted) that fans could potentially see wearing a Red Wings uniform next season:
Zach Parise LW/ New Jersey- There is no question that this 27 year old forward will be the hottest commodity once July 1 rolls around. The 2010 Olympian has potted 30 goals in 5 of his last 6 seasons and along with being paired with superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and dependable Center Travis Zajac has kept Parise’s play at optimal level
. Parise will ultimately scavenge the Free Agent waters before making his choice. And my gut is telling me that he comes back to an upstart New Jersey team when it’s all said and done.
Ryan Suter D/Nashville- This will be the most highly pursued defenseman to hit Free Agency. After being groomed in Nashville for the past 7 seasons under the guidance of GM David Poile, Suter is ready to make a substantial pay raise. The Red Wings have the money and possibly the need to acquire a game changing defenseman like Suter. Will they be the team to offer the most will be the question. This decision will be contingent upon Lidstrom’s retirement and if they feel that Brendan Smith along with dynamic two-way defenseman Niklas Kronwall can lead the team to the promised land.
Alexander Semin LW/Washington- Subject to controversy in the Nation’s Capital, this high flying Russian might welcome a new change of scenery. He is two seasons removed from posting a career high 40G-44A-84 PTS in 2009-10, Semin has struggled en route to consecutive 54 point seasons. There have been rifts with him and Captain Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom along with the lingering consistency issues which have called for Semin to exit the Caps on July 1.
The Red Wings would benefit from his goal scoring talent and his on ice vision to propel the Red Wings to their 12th Stanley Cup.
Chris Kelly C/Boston- This 31 year old Center was a minor piece to the Bruins Stanley Cup run last year. Following a short attempt for a repeat, the Bruins may look to re-tool after being given the chance to travel with Stanley last June. He was third in the NHL in +/- this past season(+33) while consistently pushing 40 points in a third line role. This would be a great veteran acquisition for Holland to bring in: A well traveled second-third line center who can produce 40 points and fill multiple roles on the ice. With a youthful core looking to burst at the seams, Kelly can help tailor the game of Detroit’s bottom 6. If the Bruins don’t plan on re-signing him and if Holland compromises a few familiar faces in the lineup to Free Agency, Kelly would fit in perfectly in the Motor City.
Kris Versteeg RW/Florida- With all that the Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon has done to restore the roar in Florida, the most difficult task for him will be to sign the 25 year old journeyman. He has played for four different teams in five seasons and has a Stanley Cup at a young age. Winning the Cup teaches a hockey player the
mental and physical tools needed to have your name forever etched on a silver chalice. And for Versteeg having valuable experience of getting to the SCF is desired. His point totals suggest that he is ready to get the show stopping role in a big time system. And Detroit would be the perfect fit for a proven goal scorer on the right side of his prime.
Tim Gleason D/Carolina- It is likely that Suter and the Red Wings will not be a match made in heaven. This leaves many alternatives that the Red Wings must pursue if indeed Nicklas Lidstrom hangs up the skates. Gleason, who is a 29-year-old native of Clawson, MI fits the roles of many defenseman. He would complement an already dominant PK. He could play on your second PP pairing. He can be a tough and rugged defenseman (71 PIM) and posted 18 points on a depleted Hurricanes D-core. Those numbers should balloon with a well-rounded stable team like the Red Wings. His local roots might win over a few fans as well. This guy is a class act off the ice and would be a great composed player to have in the locker room. All of these factors, and given his complete repertoire on the ice would warrant a hefty pay raise and a bid to win the Stanley Cup with his boyhood team.
These are only six players who make the most sense to the Red Wings current plans and hopes of keeping the Cup in Hockeytown. The offseason will be shrouded in the ongoing talks of the NHL’s new CBA which expires on September 15th. This alone could change the strategy in which teams use to approach the Free Agency Period. Nevertheless, the work has already begun for the Red Wings to reign supreme in the 2012-13 season. A season where the Red Wings will be quick to reverse the recent losing ways in the postseason.