smith

Can’t Forget About Detroit’s Restricted Free Agents!

Danny DeKeyser

Photo courtesy of Steven King/Icon SMI

Detroit has three players on their NHL roster that are slated for restricted free agency, meaning that if any team offers a restricted free agent (RFA) a contract, the Red Wings can match it or let the player walk and receive compensation. The three players up for a new contract are Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar.

Of the three RFAs, I can only see Danny DeKeyser signing a long-term contract with the Red Wings at this point in time. I could see Detroit and DeKeyser agreeing to a five-year, $15 million contract this summer to lock him up for awhile. He would make more than Jakub Kindl’s $2.4 million per season on the open market and the Red Wings will pay him accordingly. Additionally, they could come to terms on a two-year, $4 million contract and work on another long-term deal when that contract expires and DeKeyser is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. Expect DeKeyser to be taken care of this summer and contribute in the top four on defense next year with a new partner.

Riley Sheahan had a breakout year this year just in time for a new contract. He solidified the number two center job with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Stephen Weiss out with injuries at varying times this season. It is likely Sheahan (and Tatar) will sign a two-year deal this summer with the Red Wings. If I had to guess, he would receive around $1.5 million on average for those two seasons. It would be nice if Ken Holland and the Red Wings’ brass could keep Sheahan’s average cap hit closer to $1.2 million to spend the other cash elsewhere.

Finally, Tomas Tatar will also probably sign a two-year deal this offseason. His cap number will be higher than Sheahan’s and closer to $2 million per year. If the Red Wings are smart, they will sign him to a long-term extension after this next season. Tatar could potentially explode and command more than $4 million per season if he puts up 30+ goals and 60+ points. He could certainly do that if a big winger is added to his line in order to give him more time and space to shoot.

These three players will combine for approximately $5-6 million in cap space of the projected $20 million in cap room this offseason. It would be wise for the Red Wings to keep these salary low with Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, and Tomas Jurco all slated to become RFAs next season.

This will be a fun offseason.

Looking into the Future: 2018 Lineup

After really thinking about how prospects like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Petr Mrazek are getting a chance to prove themselves earlier than expected, I began to wonder what the lineup would look like when those players were in their prime. Five years from now, the current batch of prospects would be in their mid- to late-20s and hopefully will be mainstays in the Red Wings’ lineup.

Below is a depth chart of how I think the Red Wings lineup will look in five years. All of the players are in the organization, as I cannot predict who will get traded or let go in another way. Note: Pavel Datsyuk will not be playing in the 2018-19 season, unless he decides to follow in the footsteps of Igor Larionov and play until he is 44.

2018 Lineup

2018-19 Projected Lineup

It was tough to predict the future.

Only Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jimmy Howard are under contract for that season currently. Everyone else will be on a new contract than the one they are currently signed under.

I surely hope Anthony Mantha is dominating the NHL by then. He has the makings of a goal-scoring power forward and would fit well with an aged playmaker in Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist in his prime.

Defense is a huge question mark in my opinion. I can see Brendan Smith or Brian Lashoff not being on the team in 2018, though I hope they are unless they are traded for even better players. Luckily, Detroit has a great batch of prospects on defense are could afford to lose Smith and/or Lashoff. Even some of the prospects could be dealt. Guys like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, and Adam Almquist should all be NHL-ready by 2018, it’s just a matter of who is with the Red Wings, in the minors, or elsewhere in the NHL.

Players I am hoping will be in the lineup: Zetterberg, Mantha, Marchenko, Mrazek, Pulkkinen.

Players who could be traded by 2018: Franzen, Howard, Smith, Jurco, any defenseman prospect.