We’re all of three days into the offseason but it’s never too early to start looking at next year. I’ve had a lot of side conversations about what I think the Red Wings’ roster will look like next year and what it should look like (which aren’t the same thing) so I figured I’d post my “ideal” opening night roster and go from there.
Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar – Riley Sheahan – Tomas Jurco
Justin Abdelkader – Darren Helm – Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller – David Legwand – Luke Glendening
Niklas Kronwall – Danny DeKeyser
Jonathan Ericsson – Brendan Smith
Ryan Sproul – Xavier Ouellet
You’ll notice there are some names missing, and that’s why this may be my “ideal” roster but it’s also pretty much impossible.
The forward lines are build out from the second line. If the Red Wings are really going to embrace the youth movement, even when healthy, I want the Kid Line skating as Detroit’s second line again. It might not be the best possible lineup to start the year but I think it will be by the end of the season and for seasons beyond.
With the Kid Line in place, you can load up on the first line, with both Eurotwins and Gustav Nyquist.
On the third line you’ve got Darren Helm centering Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson. I bring back Alfredsson if he wants to come back and put him on the third line to keep his minutes down and add some scoring. It also gives flexibility for the inevitable Line Blender, as you could bump Abdelkader to the top line as Mike Babcock loves to do, drop Nyquist down to the second, and play Tatar on the third.
The fourth line brings back David Legwand simply because I think he has to be re-signed or it makes the deal to trade for him look even more ridiculous. I wouldn’t bring back Glendening but Babcock loves him so he’s going to be in the lineup on opening night.
Callahan and Ferraro are out of waiver options, they stick with the big club out of camp.
Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson? All free agents, all allowed to walk.
Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, Joakim Andersson, Jordin Tootoo? That’s where this gets messy, as I don’t have a spot for any of them or any player they might bring back in trade and there’s only one compliance buyout left.
The easy answer is that Alfredsson and Legwand don’t return and Franzen and Weiss take their spots. Tootoo gets bought out and Andersson gets the Cory Emmerton treatment. That makes the Legwand trade look awful but is that better than finding a way to unload Weiss (who’d probably just have to be waived with the hope that someone claims him)?
Franzen… Oh Franzen. There are going to be a lot of words written about him between now and the draft. I’ll try not to write too many of them. I say the draft because I think if he’s going to be traded, it’ll be then. He won’t be bought out. It’s not that Franzen necessarily is bad or overpaid (his cap hit is great for his potential). When he’s good, he’s among the best. When he’s bad, he looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there. Combined with his comments about not being paid to score goals, there’s a perceived attitude problem there. The negatives outweigh the positives to me.
On defense, I don’t think the top four are all that controversial. Kyle Quincey is gone. The UFA defense pool is shallow this year and Quincey is going to get absolutely paid by someone.
The third pair, though, is where the youth movement kicks in. Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul looked ready in their limited opportunity this season. I give them the chance to start next year.
I’d like to have a veteran seventh defenseman to back them up but – like Ferraro and Callahan – Adam Almquist is out of options so he stays up by default.
Brian Lashoff? Jakub Kindl? They’re in Franzen/Weiss/Andersson territory. Under contract but I don’t have a spot for them. Lashoff can be buried in Grand Rapids if necessary, the only “easy” decision available.
In goal we’ve got Howard back (of course) and Petr Mrazek making the jump to be his backup. Some (maybe even within the Wings organization) will argue that Mrazek is better served getting starts in GR than as backup, I disagree. A 50/30 split would get Howard some rest and get Mrazek into games.
This doesn’t answer the team’s reported interest in a top-four, right-handed defenseman (unless you want to count Sproul there). It leaves a bunch of players with contracts off the lineup. It doesn’t get anything in return for those missing players and it doesn’t utilize the cap space freed up by their absence. In short, it’s not going to happen. But it’s the starting point that I’m going to look at things from this summer.