Free Agency 2012: Day 1


“Trust, but verify.”

One of my co-workers loves that phrase.  So did Ronald Reagan.  Vladimir Lenin liked its Russian form.

It comes to mind because of my reaction to today’s news that the Red Wings had signed Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo as free agents.  I’m not the only one who had the same kind of reaction.

Neither player has been a favorite of late among Wings fans, so to see both of them suddenly on our team (in Samuelsson’s case, again), signed in a matter of minutes, was a shock.

I trust Ken Holland to make the right moves for the team.  That said, I don’t blindly believe everything he does is perfect.  I question these moves and I want to see how they’ll work out.

Trust, but verify.

Logically, I know that Tootoo was a pain for the Wings to play against, so having that on “our” side is a good thing.  The Wings haven’t had someone like him in quite awhile.

That said, because the Wings hadn’t had someone like that, they were able to (most of the time) play like they were above what Tootoo brings to the table.  Maybe they need to lower themselves to that level, maybe being above that is what they’ve been missing, but it leaves a bad taste.

Logically, I know that Samuelsson is a cheap replacement for Jiri Hudler, who’s bound to get $4 million or more from a team like the Canucks or Capitals or Sabres.  He plays a similar game for significantly less money.

That said, it wasn’t that long ago that he basically had his house for sale before the season ended in Detroit.  We still make jokes about how often he’d miss the net on drives from the point.  While he replaces Hudler, it kind of seems like a role that didn’t need to be replaced.

Lost in all of that are the signings of Jonas Gustavsson and Damien Brunner.  Brunner was a known – announced a week ago but not official until today.  Gustavsson’s deal I initially questioned but only for the financial side and the reality is that $1.5 million for a backup goalie isn’t that bad.

And no news on the big fronts, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.  Depending on who you believe, any number of teams – Detroit included – are the frontrunners for either or both of those two.

Regardless of what happens with the big-names, it’s hard to ignore the math facing the Wings’ lineup right now.  There are simply too many forwards to fit into the lineup next year.

Assuming that Hudler is gone (as it seems that he is), Tomas Holmstrom doesn’t return, Brunner makes the lineup and Justin Abdelkader is re-signed as a restricted free agent, the team has fifteen forwards.  That’s with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and a handful of others sent back to Grand Rapids, which (at least in Nyquist’s case) should not happen.

It sure looks to me (and to TPL and WIIM) like a trade is in the works.  I won’t speculate on who it could be for but I do want to look at who could be going the other way.

Abdelkader is an unsigned RFA, probably due around $2 million, which just happens to be how much the Wings brought Tootoo in for.  Given that they play similar games, it sure seems like Abdelkader was just made expendible, even if he’s the hometown kid.

Todd Bertuzzi isn’t going anywhere, he’s got a no-trade clause.  Same for Danny Cleary (and Pavel Datsyuk if you think the Wings would deal him).

Patrick Eaves could be moved but lost nearly a season to post-concussion syndrome so good luck finding a taker.

Cory Emmerton was used a lot as the fourth line center last year but that’s a replaceable position.  That said, because he’s replaceable it should mean he wouldn’t bring much in trade.

Valtteri Filppula has been labeled a future leader of the team but has an acceptable contract, is relatively young and scores a little bit.

Johan Franzen has a contract that should make it nearly impossible to move him if the Wings even wanted to.  Darren Helm also won’t be moved as he just signed his contract.

Drew Miller and Jan Mursak are in the same boat as Emmerton.  Solid bottom-six guys who are ultimately replaceable, which devalues them.

Samuelsson and Tootoo just signed (and Samuelsson got a no-trade clause) so they’re staying put.  Henrik Zetterberg is the next captain so he’s going nowhere.

Ignoring prospects (counting Nyquist and Tatar among them), that means that Abdelkader (or at least his rights) and Filppula are the Wings’ most movable, valuable forwards.

I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the start of the season but looking at that roster crunch, I have a hard time thinking that all of those guys are going to be wearing the Winged Wheel come October.  This was just the first official day of NHL summer.  We’ve got a lot coming up.

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development, as well as that of DH.N's sibling site,

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