It’s been another strange offseason for fans of the Detroit Red Wings. Despite the team finishing near the bottom of the NHL standings once again in 2017-18 ownership has elected to not only keep general manager Ken Holland on, but rewarded him with a two year contract extension in April.
With this newfound sense of security Holland has gone on to continue tinkering with the Red Wings’ lineup, adding veterans Thomas Vanek and Jonathan Bernier in free agency. At the 2018 NHL Entry Draft Holland hit an absolute home run when QMJLH scoring sensation Filip Zadina somehow fell to the Red Wings at the 6th overall position. Zadina, a Czech native who put up 44 goals and 82 points in just 57 games with the Halifax Mooseheads last season, was ranked by most scouts as the second or third best player available in the draft. Again, the Red Wings were incredibly fortunate to land the budding superstar. They also landed top prospect Joe Veleno of the Drummondville Voltiguers late in the first round, as well.
With plenty of young players like Zadina, Veleno, 2017 first round selection Michael Rasmussen and established youngsters like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, the future appears bright in Hockeytown. There’s only one problem… the team’s leading scorer from last season still needs a new contract.
Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports that Larkin, last season’s leading scorer for the Wings, is keen to sign a long-term deal with the Red Wings for four or five seasons. The problem is the Wings have just $2.9 million in cap space and Larkin is likely to command a salary in the $6 million to $7 million range. This means that the team will likely have to part with a player or two in order to fit Larkin’s new contract under the salary cap.
So… who’s it going to be? No doubt the Red Wings would love to get out from under Frans Nielsen’s $5.25 million salary for the next four seasons. Ditto for Justin Abelkader’s $4.25 million salary over the next four seasons. Danny DeKeyser’s $5 million salary for the next four seasons is a back breaker, as well.
Most likely though the Wings will find a suitor for Gustav Nyquist whose $4.75 million annual salary expires next offseason. Nyquist is just 28 years old and did managed 20+ goals and 40 points for the Red Wings last season, so it’s not as if the Red Wings would have a difficult time finding a suitor for him. Would the San Jose Sharks take interest after missing out on the recently traded Jeff Skinner? Or how about the Florida Panthers? They’ve reportedly been interested in Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.
Whatever ends up happening in Detroit this summer, don’t expect the Wings to take on any salary in a trade. Holland has his back up against the wall and will be forced to make a pure cash dump.