We’re closing in on the quarter mark of the NHL schedule, and whether it’s a surprise to anybody or not, the Red Wings are really struggling this season. Could this finally be the year that general manager Ken Holland tears the team apart and sells at the trading deadline? While it may sound like a good idea, it might be easier said than done.
As it stands right now, the Red Wings hold a record 8-10-1 (17 points). While it’s still a bit early to be too concerned with playoff standings, those 17 points have the team four points behind the second wild card spot, and seven points behind the third place spot in the division. Again, it is way too early in the season to let playoff standings consume a large amount of thought, but the next 15-20 games carry extreme importance both for the team’s short-term and long-term plans.
Some fans have been calling for a rebuild for a couple of years. After all, what’s the point of grinding through a full season and sneaking into the playoffs just to inevitably get waxed by the Tampa Bay Lightning or Montreal Canadiens in the first round? The timing seems right, but here’s why the idea just might not work.
A rebuild generally requires a team to have highly skilled/productive players with big contracts who can be traded for high prospects. Who are the highly skilled/productive players with big contracts the Wings currently have?
Tomas Tatar is only 25 years old, and in the last year of his current contract before hitting restricted free agency. Gustav Nyquist is 27 and has three years left on his current deal at $4.75 million a year. These two have each had one big season with Detroit (29 goals in 2014-15 and 27 goals in 2014-15, respectively), but after each had a down year in 2015-16, and slow starts to their current campaigns, their trade value has taken a hit. Newcomer Frans Nielsen has gotten off to a slow start, and carries a cap hit of $5.25 million a year through 2021-22. Current captain Henrik Zetterberg (36 years old) has seen his production tail off, and his contract carries a $6.083 million cap hit each year until 2020-21 (ugh…). Defenseman Mike Green has a $6 million cap hit this year and next, and aging defenseman Niklas Kronwall is due $4.75 million each of the next three seasons. Jonathan Ericsson is due $4.25 million each of the next four seasons.
Perhaps you are noticing a trend here? The production for EACH of these players doesn’t match the value of their contract. Sure, team’s might be interested in some of these players for their leadership and veteran presence at the deadline, but the high salaries would detract Detroit from receiving full value in return (which probably wouldn’t be as high as we would like it to be anyways).
We’ve talked about it before. The Red Wings have been handing out over-valued contracts in a salary cap world for too long, and it’s finally catching up to them. Oddly, the expansion draft for the new Las Vegas franchise could be of benefit for Detroit in an “addition by subtraction” manner, as each NHL team will lose one player who is under contract for the 2017-18 season. But, there is not just one player who is responsible for the woes in Hockeytown right now.