Detroit may have a new GM, but that doesn’t mean they’re looking to clean house. Quite the opposite in fact, according to Steve Yzerman. The Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan relays the news that the Red Wings are not planning to buy out any of their current players this off-season. For a roster with plenty of unwieldy contracts, that comes as a surprise. But that’s not all -Kulfan adds that the team also hopes to re-sign 38-year-old defenseman Niklas Kronwall and versatile depth piece Luke Witkowski.
The Red Wings are heading into the off-season with a projected $13.7MM in cap space and no key players in need of new contracts. That gives Yzerman and company some wiggle room to bring back a couple impending free agents and also spend on the market. Yet, the team could have opened up even more room, to drastically improve a roster that finished eight games under .500, by not extending any free agents and buying out expensive players with little production, such as Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley, Darren Helm, or even a bigger move like Justin Abdelkader or Danny DeKeyser. Instead, it seems the whole team will return, barring a trade, as Yzerman does not plan to utilize a buyout.
On top of that, Yzerman also hopes to bring back two players that fans may not have expected. Kronwall was still productive last season, leading all Red Wings defensemen with 27 points. Yet, the aging veteran has also clearly lost a step and many assumed he would move on amidst what was expected to be a youth movement in Detroit. Not so fast, as Yzerman would like to have the respected defender back. In fact, it’s Kronwall who is still undecided about whether or not to continue his career. As for Witkowski, the defenseman – and occasional forward – played in only 34 games this year and recorded just two points. His versatility is valuable, but his production leaves a lot to be desired. Yet, the team is in talks to bring him back as well.
One player who has not had extension talks with Detroit yet: Thomas Vanek. Vanek’s 36 points were good enough for sixth on the Red Wings this season, but the team may be looking to add a better, younger free agent forward rather than re-signing the 35-year-old. Vanek has bounced around the league in recent years, playing for four different teams including two stints with Detroit, so the veteran may not be up for another move. Vanek’s market bears watching this summer as the interest level, both player and team, will be intriguing.