The 2015-2016 Detroit Red Wings were a team in transition. Jeff Blashill took over a team that on paper, looked ready to build on their performance from 2014-2015 where they nearly upset eventual Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay. Instead, the Red Wings were an inconsistent bunch, struggling mightily on the power play, especially in the playoffs, and searching for an identity between their storied past, and their dynamic future, which includes budding superstar Dylan Larkin. The Red Wings were bounced in five games by the Lightning in the first round, and general manager Ken Holland found himself facing a restless fanbase and crucial offseason.
Cap Space: $11,073,789 according to CapFriendly. This number will change if Pavel Datsyuk’s contract is moved to another team. Additionally, the Red Wings are looking at a number of trades to free up room.
Key UFAs: Darren Helm. The 29-year-old center has been with the Red Wings for his entire career, first making an impact during the Wings 2008 Stanley Cup run. Helm has blazing speed and is a huge factor on the penalty kill. After having a career year in 2014-2015, Helm posted numbers a bit below with 26 points. (13-13). The Red Wings expected Helm to show a consistency in scoring, but the lack of a scoring touch has been missing from Helm’s game, especially on breakaways. Helm has already been offered a contract, but with the emergence of speedster Andreas Athanasiou and Larkin, Helm’s loss wouldn’t be devastating should they not come to terms.
Key RFAs: D Danny DeKeyser, and G Petr Mrazek. DeKeyser was expected to be a top 4 defenseman in Detroit and might be paid as such. With Niklas Kronwall aging, and the core of Detroit’s defense disappointing, DeKeyser is seen as a steady presence who can log more minutes. Mrazek is a completely different case. With over $5.2MM invested in Jimmy Howard, Mrazek is widely seen as the #1 goalie in Detroit and will be compensated as such. The Red Wings have already started shopping Howard to free up money for Mrazek. The 23-year-old Czech was stellar between the pipes, and is seen as the caliber of a goalie who can steal games. In the regular season, Mrazek won 27 games and had a .921 save percentage.
For several seasons now, Ken Holland has swung and missed with trades and free agency. The Red Wings are no longer the dominant team they once were, and are clearly in transition with young players like Athanasiou, Larkin, and Anthony Mantha looking to take over. Holland vowed to make changes. His first order of business will be determining what to do with Datsyuk’s contract. After that, the pressure is on Holland to reshape the roster into one that will bring the Red Wings back to dominance.