While the Red Wings are a good $4MM over the salary cap before the season begins, general manager Ken Holland doesn’t seem too concerned about getting cap compliant by the beginning of the season. Although many writers (mostly local) have remained neutral about Holland’s work this summer, there are a few who have registered their concern with what Holland has done.
Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert warns that the Red Wings burned a lot of money on players who were overpayed to either re-sign or sign on to the team. Lambert remembers a day where the Wings only had to wonder how much stalwarts like Nick Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk would want for compensation. Instead, Holland scorched nearly $17MM in salary cap room with the likes of Darren Helm ($3.85MM), Frans Nielsen ($5.25MM), Luke Glendening ($1.8MM), Drew Miller ($1.03MM) Thomas Vanek ($2.6MM), Steve Ott ($800K), Danny DeKeyser ($5MM), and now Petr Mrazek ($4MM). Several of those deals were lampooned by fans, Helm and Glendening especially, for being severe overpayments. Worse, it’s the re-signing of marginal forwards, namely Miller and Glendening, that have caused many to wonder if Holland is slipping.
The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff goes further, revealing that Holland’s excessive loyalty to homegrown players could cripple the Red Wings for seasons to come. Duff writes (via Hockeybuzz) that Holland has locked in an astounding $28.3MM to bottom six forwards. Compare that with top heavy teams like Chicago ($20.8MM invested in generational talents Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane), or Pittsburgh ($25MM invested between Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel). Such an excessive amount promised to players like Helm, Glendening, Miller, and Ott, who combined registered only 51 points, spells doom during a grueling regular season.
Such is the problem in Detroit–as Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall (though he once played up to his value), and Jimmy Howard seemed to have been “rewarded” for being Red Wings. While this strategy worked well before the salary cap, this has compromised the Wings for the future. Not only does it strangle the Red Wings financially, but it also blocks the chance for young forwards Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Martin Frk, and to a lesser extent, Tyler Bertuzzi, from reaching the big club.
Ken Holland, as Duff writes, has painted himself into a corner. Lambert goes further, wondering if the Wings excessive payments will lead to a disappointing season result–especially without an aging, but still very good Pavel Datsyuk. With Datsyuk, the Wings were much better. Without him, well, the results weren’t as positive. Should the Red Wings flounder this season, many have to wonder if Holland will be held accountable. After all, outside of building Stanley Cup teams in 2002 and 2008 (1998 was still technically a core built by Jimmy Devellano and Scotty Bowman), Holland’s work over the past half decade has yielded three second round exits and four first round exits, including the last three seasons.
Unless Holland can pull something out of his hat to acquire a top pairing defenseman, the playoff run might be in serious jeopardy.
- Specific criticisms have also rolled in about Holland’s deal with Danny DeKeyser. TSN’s Travis Yost writes that DeKeyser shouldn’t have gotten the deal he did. Using analytics, and “the eye test”, Yost points out that while DeKeyser is an NHL caliber defenseman, he hasn’t truly grown into the top pairing blue liner that was expected–or warranted by a deal of this magnitude. Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski agrees, wondering if it’s yet another example of Holland “overcompensating” his own player.