But enough about me, let's talk about what happened today.
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They were all but written off by many. The last hurrah of a dying, fledgling empire. Except they didn't die, they fought and showed the NHL that they're still a competitive club. It was inspiring. How inspiring you might ask?
Bill Paxton did it better
There were a few things on the Red Wings to do list coming into free agency this year: Make sure they were secure in their 2nd line center, make sure they were equipped to score goals, and follow that classic Red Wings guideline of not spending too much for anyone. Let's review some of their moves heading into today.
- Re-Sign Pavel Datsyuk - This was a no brainer. It was leaked that Datsyuk was eyeing up returning home to Russia. Which basically made fans shit themselves for two reason. First, we wouldn't have Pavel Datsyuk anymore, and second, losing Pasha would have almost guaranteed a giant payout for Valtteri Filpulla. Datsyuk's three year contract extension gave us temporary relief to both of those problems. Pav did express that he does still want to return to Russia to finish his career, so this three year extension could be his last. Maybe he does the 1 Year Nicklas Lidstrom method or maybe not. But at least we don't have to panic quite yet
- Buyout Carlo Colaiacovo - Another no brainer. Now I want to say, this has nothing to do with Colaiacovo's skill and talent as a hockey player. When he played, he was a very reliable defenseman and played very well when his name got called in the playoffs. But the exact concern that we all had going into the season proved to be exactly the reason he had to go - Carlo Colaiacovo is made out of particle board and scotch tape. He just couldn't stay healthy to contribute to the team. Compounded by the emergence of Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff and Jakob Kindl, Colaiacovo and Ian White became the odd men out. White was out the door as an unrestricted free agent anyway, so the buyout had to be spent on Cola.
|By Federal Law, I am legally obligated to post this gif since I mentioend|
Carlo Colaiacovo by name.
So with those two big house keeping proceedures out of the way, what were going to be the moves by Ken Holland and company this year? Keeping in mind, there weren't huge free agents hitting the market like last year. There was no Parise, no Suter, not even really a Weber. A lot of good players were coming to the market, but nobody that made all others pale in comparison.
- The Red Wings sign former Ottawa Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson - This was a pretty blockbuster signing. Everyone - including the Ottawa Senators - thought Alfie would be back for one more year and then retire a Senator. And that's would have been a great story. However, Alfredsson said he wanted to win a Cup before he retires and was convinced Detroit would give him the best odds to do it. So he took a $5.5 million contract* to come here to do it. It should be noted that he was also wooed by none other than Red Wing captain and Confectionery Magnate Henrik Zetterberg, and the two have played on the international stage together. He also played with Red Wings forward and That Guy From Office Space Patrick Eaves when Eaves played in Ottawa.
- The Red Wings sign former Florida Panthers Center Stephen Weiss - As I mentioned before, securing a stable center for the second line was a major priority for the Red Wings. Since the word "stable" was used, this basically disqualified Valterri Filpulla from consideration. Well, not exactly, but Weiss was a highly sought out candidate for being exactly that - he's a solid, stable point producer and would be a perfect 2nd line center for any team, this one included. Initially numbers around $6 million were thrown out for his contract, and it seemed to come down to us and St. Louis. Then the news came that a much more reasonable 5 year, $4.9 million cap hit deal was reached and the Red Wings gave one more middle finger to their division rivals before packing up to move east.
- Valterri Filpulla signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning - Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman gave Filp the deal he was looking for, signing him to a 5 year, $5 million a year contract. No doubt looking to fill the void left by the Leclavier buyout, the Filp signing was actually a win-win. The Red Wings got to free up the roster spot for Weiss and save $100,000 a year, and Filpulla got what he wanted: the big payout he was looking for, and he no longer has to live in the shadow of much more talented, beloved and higher paid centers.
- What's the Deal With Damien Brunner? - This is the complication left by the Alfredsson signing. That $5.5 million could have been partly used to retain Brunner, not to mention the roster spot Alfredsson takes up is one that Brunner would potentially take - both are right handed shot right wingers. Granted, it could be that the reason the Red Wings pursued Alfredsson is because Brunner had already made up his mind to go elsewhere, or maybe Alfredsson was an insurance move in case Brunner didn't bite and the insurance policy paid out prematurely. Or this was an intentional decision made by Ken Holland. It has been rumored that the Red Wings made several offers to Brunner, and he turned them all down. Either way, there's been a whole lot of nothing said out of the Brunner camp so far, and not much in terms of rumors as to who has been speaking to him. All that we've heard so far is that he won't be coming back to Detroit.
It's tricky. 5.5 is a lot of money for a guy who is turning 41 at the end of the year. Granted, he is a proven goal scorer and point producer who still has a lot to offer a team. We do also benefit from what I've dubbed the Old Man Bonus Loophole. Basically, as it was explained to me by J.J. from Kansas - a player who is 35 years or older can have performance bonuses built into their contract. If they don't meet those benchmarks, they don't get the bonus, and their cap hit is their base salary. If they do earn the bonuses, the CBA allows those bonuses to exceed the salary cap up to 7.5%, or $4.8 million. The overage is then charged to your next season's payroll. It's sort of like charging it to a credit card and hoping you can pay it off later. Risky, but does help manage cap space.
So is it worth it? Well it's hard to say. It is a risky move. It could pay off like snagging Luc Robataille or Brett Hull or Dallas Drake. It could also end up not working out at all, like Jerome Iginla, Marian Hossa (for Pittsburg and for us), and those slew of aging veterans who left their teams to chase glory. More importantly, the signing of Alfredsson has had a very serious repercussion, to be discussed later.
This signing has all the markings of a classic Ken Holland and Company move. A smart, affordable signing, snagging away a prized prospect from other teams because that's what we do. After missing out on the big names last year - really at no fault of his own - and staying quite at the trade deadline, Holland is definitely showing himself to still be a capable and top tier GM.
If for no other reason than because...
The thing is, without a proven track record in the NHL, Damien Brunner could literally be another Ville Leino - tons of talent, tons of potential, and then runs off to another team for a huge payday and be roundly mocked for being a huge bust of an investment. Or he could sign a big payday with another team and end up potting 30, 40 or 50 goals a year. I made mention on Twitter today that the Alfredsson v Brunner signing could very well end up being the next Hossa v Franzen debate. It could also end up being one more example of why Ken Holland and his team are that much smarter than the rest of us. Either way, it is sad to see the Damien Brunner experiment come to an end.
So it was an eventual and interesting first day of this year's free agency for Red Wings fans. Some of the questions have been answered and some still remain, most notably are we really going to fucking re-sign Dan Cleary? Also, is it true that Sidney Crosby really called Cleary to try to woo him to the Pittsburgh Penguins? Either way, it did lead to one of the greatest Whoabot tweets of all time. But there's something I take from all this, and it makes me very happy.
Our playoff run did more for this team than we realized. I have to believe that teams and players around the league looked at the Red Wings team that was counted out and they took notice. That Red Wings team was good. Maybe not great, and maybe not a championship team, but a damned good one. They didn't win and compete because they were lucky; it's because they worked their ass off and had a lot more talent than people realized.
Alfredsson and Weiss noticed and wanted to come to this team that may be "rebuilding" or "reloading" or whatever word you want to use, because despite challenges and set backs, they could have beaten the Black Hawks and threatened the Kings with being on the receiving end of an upset from a lower seed. With more hard work and dedication, and yes a little bit of luck, this team just might be a contender.