Detroit Red Wings: 3-year outlook, defense and goalies

A week ago I analyzed what the Detroit Red Wings’ forwards situation could be like three years down the road.  So, now I’m back to finish this series by breaking down the possible defense and goalie rotation the Wings could bolster for the 2016-17 season.

Defense

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Quincey is the biggest question mark moving for. (Photo Credit: David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Half of the job is already done for me as Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jakob Kindl all have contracts through the 2016-17 season. Also, Kronwall and Ericsson have no trade clauses. That leaves Kindl and I can’t see the Red Wings moving him. He’s coming into his prime and would be the Wings 3rd best defensemen behind Kronwall and Ericsson.

So, with three spots already locked up we move to the 2014 offseason. Kyle Quincey will be an unrestricted free agent and Danny DeKeyser is a restricted free agent.

Jonathan Ericsson got his new contract early into this season, so you would think if management really wanted to keep Quincey, he would have been locked up next. That wasn’t the case which means Kyle Quincey will probably end up as a free agent and DeKeyser gets re-signed. But, it’s not that simple.

There are two glaring flaws that will have to be addressed here. First, will the Wings have enough cap space to give DeKeyser a quality contact or even possibly match a qualifying offer? Second, who replaces Quincey if the Wings do decide to replace him?

If Quincey isn’t re-resigned than that’s $3,775,000 off the books to keep DeKeyser and find a replacement. Also, there is Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, and Daniel Cleary who are unrestricted free agents in 2014. As said in my first installment, that’s about $7 million in cap space if those three aren’t coming back. That should be enough to pay Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser. Any money left over could be used to replace Quincey or bring in another forward.

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DeKeyser is certainly deserving of an extension even after his shoulder injury. (Photo Credit: Dave Reginek / Getty Images)

That brings us to the second dilemma: Who is going to replace Kyle Quincey?

Here are the potential 2014 free agents. Not one defenseman in that group catches my eye; they are either too old or going to ask for way too much money (or both).

So, the Wings will either fall back on tradition and take a chance on one of the veterans or give in and re-sign Quincey. Of course there is still the third option of bringing up a prospect from the Grand Rapids Griffins and Adam Almquist would be that guy. But, I’m assuming he needs at least two more years before he is NHL ready.

The 2015 offseason is a rather simple one with just Brendan Smith as a restricted free agent. Depending on how Smith develops over the next year and half will determine his future as a Red Wing. Brian Lashoff is in the boat a year later when he becomes a restricted free agent. My gut says both continue improving and are still in a Red Wings’ sweater come the 2016-17 season.

But, the alternative for not keeping them is rather tempting. The 2015 and 2016 free agency class should be stacked (or at least deeper than in 2014) and the AHL prospects of Ryan Sproul, Xavier Quellet, and Alexey Marchenko are going to be itching for a promotion.

Piece everything together; I present the most logical pairings for the 2016-17 season opener:

Kronwall – Ericsson / DeKeyser – Kindl / Smith – Lashoff

With the option of Kyle Quincey or a free agent pickup moving up to take Smith/Lashoff spot.

Goalies

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Gustavsson has played lights out in a contract season making it tough for the Red Wings to keep him next year. (AP Photo)

This is Jimmy Howard’s job to lose. He is under contract for 5 more years after this season and is making just under $5.3 million per season. Howard’s play so far along with injuries this season is starting to make this huge deal he signed back in April a risky move by the Red Wings. Also, the fact that backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has better stats and is taking more and more of Howard’s starts is becoming troublesome as well.

It also creates a problem for Ken Holland as “The Monster” is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Without question he is going to pursue a starting role and more money. Two things the Red Wings can’t offer him. They can’t even offer him a future with the organization as the position is filled by Petr Mrazek.

Therefore, the Wings will probably need a backup goaltender next season to allow Mrazek more playing time in the AHL before his contract ends in 2015. Petr will then get his extension and move into the backup role from that point on and eventually transition into the regular starter when Howard is finally out of the picture in 2019.

That concludes my two part series on the 3-year outlook of the Detroit Red Wings. Want to crunch the numbers for yourself? Check out capgeek.com.

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

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