Free agency is now just a few days away and there are quite a few prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. The Detroit Red Wings have few to no worries as they only have three restricted free agents within their entire roster, all three of which are not considered to be NHL level players. The team also has a number of unrestricted free agents.
Key Restricted Free Agent: D Joe Hicketts – The team’s top restricted free agent still must earn a job with the Red Wings as the 23-year-old managed to appear in just 11 games last season (eight to start the season when the team was ravaged with injuries on their blueline). Unfortunately in those 11 games, he failed to register a point and finished with a minus-9 rating. He did make three appearances at the end of the season and did play over 20 minutes in all three games, but still finished with a minus-3 in that span. Regardless, the offensive-minded, diminutive, yet gritty defenseman has showed some success at the AHL level, finishing with three goals, 27 points and 67 penalty minutes in 64 games. It’s not likely that Hicketts will be making much more than the minimum next season.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Niklas Kronwall – General manager Steve Yzerman has made it clear they do not intend to rush the 38-year-old blueliner as he decides on whether he intends to come back next season. The veteran still fared quite well last season, posting three goals and 27 points in 79 games and most people believe that Kronwall might be motivated to return as he still needs 47 games to reach the 1,000-game mark for his career. Kronwall just finished his seven-year, $33.25MM deal ($4.75MM AAV) he signed back in 2011, but if he returned, it likely would be for a one-year pact for significantly less money.
Thomas Vanek – It looks like Detroit is moving on from the 35-year-old forward, but after bringing the veteran back on a one-year deal, the team was happy with his 16 goals and 36 points. However, he insisted on a no-trade clause in his deal as Vanek has been a common name over the years at the trade deadline. However, with plenty of young forwards ready to make the leap into the NHL, it makes more sense to free up space to give them a chance.
Projected Cap Space: The Red Wings currently sit a little more than $12MM under the cap ceiling, according to CapFriendly, but that is all free money for the team to spend as the team has little to no in-house work that needs to be done this offseason. Even signing all three restricted free agents, the team should have some cap room to sign a free agent or two to bolster either its offense or its defense.