There is one less restricted free agent remaining unsigned. With training camp opening up next week, the Detroit Red Wings have re-signed their lone remaining free agent, forward Matt Puempel. The team announced a two-year deal with Puempel, which will make the 25-year-old an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires after the 2019-20 season. No salary details have been disclosed.
Puempel came to Detroit early last season in a trade from the New York Rangers, a one-for-one swap for defenseman – and current free agent – Ryan Sproul. Although Puempel never suited up for Detroit in 2017-18, he still had an impressive season. The hard-working winger was an AHL All-Star and scored at nearly a point-per-game pace, with 57 points in 62 games. Among forwards with 60+ games played, Puempel had the sixth-best scoring rate in the league. The 2011 first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators has not panned out as expected, and likely won’t, but showed some impressive ability last year and can be a strong depth option for the Red Wings.
Of course, the question raised by any Detroit signing is how it impacts the salary cap. Most likely, Puempel has signed a two-way deal since he did not log and NHL game last season. The bigger question is his salary at the NHL level and whether or not it is a comfortable fit within the Red Wings’ cap crunch. Detroit’s payroll for a 22-man roster, which doesn’t include a seventh defenseman, is currently projected to be $82.77MM, almost $3.5MM over the salary cap. The team will gain cap space when Johan Franzen and likely Henrik Zetterberg are placed on long-term injured reserve, but after a defenseman and at least one replacement forward are added, much of that space will be used up. Whether or not Puempel can then fit into the roster remains to be seen.