Free agency is now a little more than a month away from opening up 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. Here is a breakdown of Detroit’s free agent situation.
Key Restricted Free Agent: F Dylan Larkin — After a great start in his rookie year, there were a lot of questions after he struggled in his sophomore campaign when he put up just 32 points. However, the 21-year-old center brushed away any doubts this year, putting up 16 goals and a team-leading 63 points. With a team full of veterans, the Red Wings must begin to depend more and more on Larkin, who is developing into the franchise player they need to center one of their top lines. Add in a recent appearance at the IIHF World Championships where he helped Team USA win a bronze medal and he’s the key to Detroit’s rebuild.
Now coming off his entry-level deal, Larkin is in line for a significant raise from the $1.43MM deal he’s been on for the past three years. Not arbitration eligible, however, the negotiations might get ugly like the one that Andreas Athanasiou dealt with last year, especially with multiple quality players who will be restricted free agents this summer.
Key Unrestricted Free Agent: D Mike Green — On a positive note, the team doesn’t have any pressing unrestricted free agents. While Green is quite an offensive defenseman, he’s also 32 years old and not necessarily in the team’s long-term plans. The team’s original plan was to trade the veteran blueliner to a playoff contender at the trade deadline and had hoped that he would provide the team with a big haul of picks and/or prospects. Instead, Green got hurt and missed the two weeks prior to the trade deadline and weren’t able to move Green.
While there has been some talk of bringing him back on a short-term deal, he might be able to get a bigger deal elsewhere, but considering defense is one of the team’s biggest weaknesses and not a lot of defensive prospects there to take his place, a reunion is certainly possible.
Projected Cap Space: With all the bloated veteran contracts the Red Wings have on the books, cap space is something the team has had little of over the past few years. The team did get the contracts of Green, Tomas Tatar, and Petr Mrazek off the books to free up a little room, but they will likely need all of that to re-sign Larkin, Athanasiou, Mantha and Bertuzzi. While general manager Ken Holland says he doesn’t intend to sign any major free agents to long-term deals this summer, he did say he would look at players with shorter term deals, but in the end, the team hopes to bring in some of their youth to fill in the gaps this year.