I’d push this back into next week, but I fear both series will be over by then.
After we examined the soon-to-be former Bruin and Penguin that will become Red Wings for the 2013-14 season in part 1, our attention turns to the Western Conference finalists.
If you haven’t noticed, this year’s free agent class kind of sucks. There are about four intriguing free agent forwards, and then Mark Streit and Sergei Gonchar on defense, and Gonchar will probably end up in Russia.
The Red Wings’ first priority is likely to be add another defenseman. To do so they’re going to have to stop worrying about earning and A and just worry about passing the class, which brings us to our first group of free agents.
Los Angeles Kings
Unrestricted free agents: LW Dustin Penner, C Brad Richardson, D Rob Scuderi.
Richardson is meh. Pancakes is interesting. He’s a better upgrade at forward than the two players I selected in part 1, Jarome Iginla and Nathan Horton. But the 30-year-old is the biggest-named, in-his-prime (I know, that’s debatable) free agent set to hit the market.
I have a feeling one of two things will happen. Option 1: Somebody will overpay for him. The Red Wings have the cap room to win a bidding war for Penner, but that doesn’t mean they want to. My guess is they drop out when the expenses outweigh the projected profit and Penner goes somewhere else. That is if he goes anywhere at all. Option 2: He never makes it to free agency. He took a one-year $3.25 million deal to stay with Los Angeles last year after a mediocre season. He returned his offensive numbers to about where they were in previous years this season, so I can see him and Los Angeles living in matrimony after a multi-year deal.
That leaves us with Scuderi.
The 34-year-old defenseman made $3.4 million last year and has played over 20 minutes a game for the Kings the past three years. While he won’t add much offensively, he’d be a calming influence on a Red Wings defensive unit that spent too much time as a pullback car last year. Scuderi would be a two-to-three year fix, but he would have a role as second-pair defenseman. Pair him with Brendan Smith and Scuderi might be able to teach the guy a thing or two about defensive zone coverage.
Unrestricted free agents: C Michal Handzus, LW Viktor Stalberg, RW Jamal Mayers, LW Bryan Bickell, D Michal Rozsival, G Ray Emery
I would be campaigning for Rozsival, but he’s basically the cheap European version of Scuderi. The Red Wings aren’t going to sign a backup goalie, so Ray Emery is out. That leaves us with an underwhelming crop of forwards.
Handzus is 36. No thanks. Jamal Mayers is 38. Even more no thanks.
Bickell and Stalberg are similar players in terms of build (Bickell is 6-4, 233 pounds, Stalberg 6-3, 209), offensive production, (both put up identical 9-14-23 lines in the regular season), and salary (Bickell makes $541,667 this year, Stalberg $875,000). The difference: Bickell has eight goals and three assists in the postseason. Stalberg hasn’t recorded a goal and sat for two games.
Teams that value ‘playoff experience’ and need to spend to hit the salary floor are going to line up to pay Bickell lots and lots of money for a (roughly) 20-game performance. Say hello to Winnipeg, Bryan.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings are going to make the underwhelming signing of Stalberg. Pundits will call it questionable. Then the Red Wings’ magical Swedish touch will work yet again and Stalberg will turn into some sort of weird cross between Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson, score 30 goals and all those pundits that called the move questionable will call Ken Holland a genius for the 534th time. Pierre McGuire will have to one up everybody like he always does and will somehow work in telling us about the great scouting the Red Wings do in Sweden led by Hakan Andersson, even though that has literally nothing to do with Stalberg or his play.
Between him, Franzen and the also recently signed Horton, the Red Wings will have the most formidable power forward trio in the league. There will be a bunch of talk about how the Red Wings’ have changed their identity even though they really didn’t.
Rob Scuderi and Jarome Iginla will join Horton and Stalberg as productive additions to the Red Wings. Detroit will compete for the division title. I’ll be screaming into my corner of the internet wilderness about how much smart I am. Nobody will listen to me. Then somebody for a national site will stumble upon this article and show it to the world.
Only then will I be able to tell the world I told you so.
I’m not sure what just happened. I’m pretty sure I just saw the future.