Detroit Red Wings: 3-year outlook, forwards

The Detroit Red Wings don’t rebuild, they reload. Year after year Ken Holland finds a way to put a playoff contending team out on the ice. It’s remarkable, considering the Red Wings haven’t had a top 15 draft pick since Martin Lapointe was taken 10th overall in 1991.

So, I decided to take the challenge and step into Ken Holland’s world and see what the Red Wings could possibly look like to start 2016-17 season. Thanks to you can do the same.

I decided to make this into a two part series, splitting the forwards up from the defensemen and goalies.


detroit red wings

Johan Franzen is usually on fire, in a cold spell, or injured. There is hardly any middle ground.

I will start with forwards that have contracts through the 2016-17 season: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, and Johan Franzen.

Those 4 contracts take up a large chunk of the cap space in 2016-17, about 22.5 million (and all 4 are likely to remain Red Wings over the next 3 seasons). Although, I personally would like to see the Wings get rid of Franzen’s contract because he has 7 years remaining with a salary just under 4 million per year. However, I can’t see any NHL team willing to accept a trade and take on that contract for a streaky scorer.

Now into the expiring contracts: Daniel Alfredsson (2014), Mikael Samuelsson (2014), Todd Bertuzzi (2014), Danny Cleary (2014), Tomas Tatar (RFA 2014), Gustav Nyquist (RFA 2015), Joakim Andersson (RFA 2015), Darren Helm (2016), Justin Abdelkader (2016), and Drew Miller (2016).

This is where Ken Holland makes the big bucks. There are 10 forwards wanting new contracts in the next 3 years. I will start in 2014 and continue moving forward.

Daniel Alfredsson turns 41 years old on December 11th. Yet, he has also expressed interest into maybe signing another 1-year deal after this season is over. So, basically he is saying if the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup this season, he isn’t coming back, but if they come up short he will be thinking about it.

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A tough decision ahead for Alfredsson, again. Should he stay or should he go? (Photo Credit: The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick)

A 1-year extension could actually benefit both sides here. Alfredsson gets another chance at the Cup and the Wings in return would lock up cap space for the year, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for a change. That money locked in Alfie’s extension could be used the following season to give Gustav Nyquist a long-term contract.

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2014 Off-season: Out with the old, in with the new? (Photo Credit: Harry How / Getty Images)

With Alfredsson and Nyquist taken care of I can move on to Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, and Cleary. I can’t see any reason for Holland to keep any of them. By not offering them a contract the Wings free up almost $7 million. That money could be used to re-sign Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser.

If there is any money left over after that they could target 1-2 free agents (especially if Alfredsson doesn’t sign a 1-year deal). But looking at the potential 2014 free agent market, I can’t see any players I would like to see in a winged wheel.

If no free agents are brought in (which I highly doubt will happen) the Wings need have to rely on their farm system in Grand Rapids. A few Griffin forwards that could step in next year to fill the holes would be Cory Emmerton, Luke Glendening, or perhaps even Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo get another chance.

That brings us to the 2015 offseason. Gustav Nyquist should get a hefty payday whether Alfredsson signs the 1-year extension talked about earlier or not. It’s that simple. Nyquist has already proved he’s a valuable piece of the future. Plus he deserves it, especially after what the Wings put him through to start this season.

The only other forward the Red Wings need to worry about in 2015 is Joakim Andersson. I could see the Wings placing a qualifying offer on him and seeing what teams bite. I assume they would match the best offer but then again I wouldn’t be surprised if they let him go to reload with the compensation draft picks. The Wings would have Calle Jarnkrok, Riley Sheahan, or Landon Ferraro waiting in the AHL to take Andersson’s place.

Making a qualifying offer to Andersson would let the Wings keep his low salary if no other team offered him a contract. The odds of this happening are slim but it would drastically help save cap space. I have no preference on what happens with Andersson because it all seems like a win-win situation for the organization.

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If Joakim Andersson continues to show improvement over the next two seasons then I believe he stays a Red Wing. (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

We have finally made it to the 2016 offseason. Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Drew Miller are the unrestricted free agents.

Helm and Abdelkader should be re-signed, but other teams might force the Red Wings to overpay for them. Drew Miller could go either way. Don’t let Miller’s grey hair fool you, he will only be 33 years old when his contract runs out. Although he isn’t consistently productive, when Miller does make an impact on the game you realize how valuable he can be, especially as a penalty killer. If the price is right, I think Miller stays.

However, keeping all three of them may not be the best option. The 2016 free agent pool is deep.

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All Anthony Mantha is doing in the QMJHL is scoring goals. Hopefully that ability can carry over to the NHL. (Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Steven Stamkos, Anze Kopitar, and Brent Seabrook would headline the group if they decided to test the free agent waters. It would be hard to pull them away from their current teams but then again I thought Alfredsson was going to retire as an Ottawa Senator. How did that turn out again?

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The Wings can attract almost anybody to play in Hockeytown. But, are they willing to spend the money to seal the deal? This isn’t the Miami Heat. Most NHL players don’t take paycuts to play for a championship team.

If the free agent option is a dead end, the Wings still have a few more prospects that they could turn to. Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Mitch Callahan should be ready for the NHL in the next three years. Even Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou could be close to NHL ready if they continue showing promise and progression.

Taking all that information in, here are the logical forward lines for Red Wings’ 2016-17 season opener:

Zetterberg – Datsyuk – Nyquist

Tatar – Helm – Franzen

Abdelkader – Weiss – Glendening

Miller – Jarnkrok – Jurco

detroit red wings

Steve Yzerman can we take away your superstar, Steven Stamkos, in 2016? Please?

Without free agent pickups, I’m so-so on these lines. Whenever Franzen is ready to hang up his skates, Mantha should be ready to take his spot. That makes four inexperienced right wingers though. Sure they will be talented, but the ability to fight through adversity and play consistently comes from experience.

But, my biggest concern comes from the guys projected to play center. As I said before, Andersson could be re-signed which would keep Jarnkrok in the AHL. But I’m thinking big picture. I’m not sold on Weiss yet and 2016-17 is Datsyuk’s last contract year.

I’m just thinking out loud here but, perhaps Stamkos or Kopitar would make sense to target in 2016?

I would love to hear your thoughts, leave them in the comment section below.

The defensemen and goalie edition will be published sometime next week.

You can follow me on Twitter @AEisen13 and while you’re at it, follow @isportsweb.

Read more Red Wings rumors, news and opinion on our Detroit Red Wings page.

  • Kait

    I think if Weiss gets going he could be the third line center, which I think he will. However, I think it would be more effective to switch (at least) Jurco & Glendening. Possibly, switching Jarnkrok & Weiss might be more effective, too. Maybe I am just excited to see all those fast guys (Abdelkader, Jarnkrok, Jurco) on a line.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • Alex Eisen

      Hi Kait glad you enjoyed it.

      Abdelkader, Jarnkrok, and Jurco would be a great third line. Maybe even too much speed, but it would be fun to watch. It really all depends on Weiss. I want him to get going but it’s already over a third of the way through the season and I still haven’t seen evidence that he will turn things around.