UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Detroit Red Wings.
Easily the best-run team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings don’t have a lot of unrestricted free agents (just five in total) but Marian Hossa’s contract is going to be a big-ticket item and it will be interesting to see if Ken Holland elects to keep him – and if so, how he fits him in under the salary cap. Aside from Hossa, some decent depth players are coming up for free agency as well. I would guess that the Red Wings retain whoever they want to; probably at a discount to boot.
Marian Hossa’s scoring goals like he used to (40 this past season) but his point totals have dropped a ton since leaving the Atlanta Thrashers and the Southeast Division – further reinforcing the fact that shiny 100-point seasons playing the easiest schedule in the NHL need to be taken with a grain of salt.
It isn’t just his offense that appeals to teams though. Aside from his goal-scoring touch, Hossa is a responsible two-way forward with good size. He’s among the best forwards entering unrestricted free agency, and if he decides to wait until July 1st he’ll get a ton of interest from a variety of suitors.
Mikael Samuelsson bounced around the league for a long time before finding a home in Detroit. Originally drafted by San Jose in 1998, he played for the Sharks, Rangers and Penguins at the NHL level, never topping 24 points. After the lockout he was grabbed by Detroit, and he’s scored 40 points or better in three of four seasons since the lockout.
He’s got decent size and a bit of an edge, but he’s undoubtedly benefitted from playing in Detroit and it’s a fair question whether he could repeat his performance elsewhere. He probably doesn’t have enough offense to regularly play in the top six, and he’s been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. A great option for the third line.
The 27-year old Kopecky plays a reserve role in Detroit. He’s a good-sized forward who plays a clean but physical game and while he had some success scoring in the AHL so far the points haven’t come at the NHL level. He’s been sheltered in Detroit but he’s struggled against even fourth-line competition on one of the better teams in the league; I can’t imagine that he’ll be an overly sought-after commodity on the free agent market this summer.
Injured for much of this season, the 47-year old Chelios was sheltered this past year but didn’t struggle in the 6th/7th defenseman role. He was an NHL rookie in 1983, meaning that he’s been playing NHL hockey for longer than many players have been alive – in Edmonton alone 19 players were born after Chelios first put on an NHL uniform. He’s shown no indication that he wants to stop any time soon, although the Red Wings are unlikely to re-sign him.
In a recent interview he put it this way: “I don’t believe in that theory you go out on top,” Chelios said. “I want to make sure when I retire there’s nothing left and I’ve spent everything.” There are a few teams that could probably use him as a 7th or even 8th defenseman (assuming he’d be willing to accept a two-way contract in the latter case).
Ty Conklin has enjoyed a career resurgence since leaving Edmonton. Initially he struggled in stints with Buffalo and Columbus, but last season he passed everyone on the roster and solidified the Pittsburgh goaltending position while Marc-Andre Fleury was injured, posting a .923 SV% over 33 games. This year he was clearly the best goaltender in Detroit during the regular season, although coach Mike Babcock elected to go with Chris Osgood during the playoffs (a move which has paid off).
At this point he’s one of the best backups in the league; a player who can comfortably step in if the starter goes down to injury.