This article is part of our Cap Compliance series.
While the current season remains on hiatus, there is no time like the present to start looking ahead to next year. Over the next several weeks, we'll take a look at the cap situation for all 31 NHL clubs, including restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents and even potential buyouts. Then, we'll play a little armchair General Manager by providing our recommendations for how we would approach the upcoming 2020-21 campaign if we were running the club.
In our Twitter poll, the Detroit Red Wings came in first and will kick off week three of our Cap Compliance series.
2020-21 Cap Situation
The Red Wings currently have eight forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender under contract for next season at a price tag of $44,592,499, though that includes $6,083,333 for Henrik Zetterberg which can be recovered through LTIR. Detroit is also still on the hook for $1,666,667 thanks to Stephen Weiss' contract, which was bought out in June of 2015. Assuming a flat cap of $81.5 million, this leaves the club with $41,324,167 in salary cap space and 10 spots under the 23-man roster to fill.
Restricted Free Agents
Anthony Mantha ($3.3 million) Tyler Bertuzzi ($1.4 million) Adam Erne ($1.05 million) Robby Fabbri ($900,000) Brendan Perlini ($874,125) Christoffer Ehn ($759,167) Dmytro Timashov ($694,444) Madison Bowey ($1 million)
AJ Scholz: Were it not for the league shutdown, Bowey would have reached the 20-point mark. As it stands, Bowey has already set new career highs in goals (three), assists (14) and average ice time (17:54). The defenseman should be back with minimal difficulty, as both sides figure to be content with a two-year, $2.5 million deal that keeps him with the club. After making the move to the Motor City, Timashov saw his ice time per game jump by nearly three and a half minutes, though he wasn't able to get on the scoresheet in five outings. His $735,000 qualifying offer is probably all the winger can hope for, as he probably hasn't shown enough to warrant a one-way deal, either. Having previously signed a two-year bridge deal, Mantha will no doubt he looking for some term and could point to the six-year, $26.7 million contract signed by Christian Dvorak in August of 2018. Look for a six-year deal with an AAV $4.5 million to lock up Mantha for the long haul. Bertuzzi will enter contract negotiations coming off back-to-back 20-goal seasons, including a 2019-20 campaign which saw him take on an increased role of the power play. If Mantha's contract is the benchmark, Bertuzzi likely won't be too far behind, considering he signed a two-year bridge deal during the same offseason as Mantha. If nothing more than to avoid both deals running up at the same time, Detroit figures to hand a four-year contract to Bertuzzi in the neighborhood of $16 million, though it may have to increase the AAV if it wants to limit term. After racking up 20 points with the Lightning, Erne was handed a $1.05 million deal and has failed to impress this season. Not only has the 24-year-old garnered a meager five points, but he's also a minus-24. At best, Erne would get a contract matching his previous offer, though he may be forced to settle for a one-year, $997,500 qualifying offer. Similarly, Ehn hasn't shown enough to warrant a contract bigger than the $735,000 QO he is expected to be handed this offseason. In his first three seasons in the league, Perlini has managed to reach the 20-point mark every year, including his 17-goal, 13-assist performance in 2017-18. Unfortunately for the winger, he managed a meager four points in 40 points this season in a contract year. That will likely see his deal capped at one-year, $1 million at the absolute most. Finally, we get to Robby Fabbri in what could be the most difficult contract negotiation to pin down. He lost nearly two seasons to injury and struggled to get into the lineup for the Blues, but since joining Detroit, he's been a player capable of pushing for the 20-goal mark, a threshold he may have reached were it not for the league going on hiatus. A good comparable figures to be Pavel Zacha's three-year, $6.75 million deal signed last summer.
Kyle Riley: I see Detroit letting all three of their upcoming UFA defensemen walk this summer, so re-signing Bowey, who's had a solid season for Detroit after heading to the Motor City last February in a trade with the Capitals, has to be a priority. The 25-year-old blueliner's qualifying offer would be a one-year, two-way deal with an AAV of $1 million, so I think AJ's pretty darn close with his estimation, but I'd actually be comfortable with giving Bowey a little bit more cash with a two-year, $3 million deal. He's capable of being a solid bottom-pairing defender and (at worst) would be a good seventh option, so $1.5 million AAV seems reasonable. Detroit claimed Timashov off waivers in February and he's only notched nine points in 44 games during his first NHL season, so his one-year, two-way, $735,000 QO should get the job done, and will also allow the Red Wings to bury his salary in the minors if he doesn't perform. Mantha has dealt with injuries early on in his career (he's missed at least 15 games in all but one of his first four full seasons in the league, including the current campaign), but he's Detroit's best scoring threat and also puts his 6-foot-5 size to good use by playing with a mean streak up front. He'll likely be looking for something in the range of a six-year contract, but I'd try to play it safe with a four-year deal considering his health concerns. I think a four-year, $25 million deal ($6.25 million AAV) would actually be a win for the Wings, so I'd be fine with handing him a four-year, $26 million contract ($6.5 million AAV) to get it done. Bertuzzi isn't nearly the offensive force that Mantha is, but he's still a good player that Detroit should be looking to sign long term. He's also the type of player whose production shouldn't drop off a cliff in his early thirties, so I think a six-year, $33 million ($5.5 million AAV) contract would age well for the Wings. Erne and Ehn aren't worth much more (if any) than their QOs, but they're both arbitration eligible, which gives them a little more power at the bargaining table. Either way, if they don't accept their QOs and instead elect to go to arbitration, their raises will be minimal. Perlini showed flashes of being a capable NHLer during his first three seasons in the league, but as AJ mentioned, he's had a pretty disastrous 2019-20 campaign. His QO would be a $917,831, two-way deal, so I agree that a $1 million, one-way contract (one year) should get it done. Fabbri has played well since joining Detroit in early November, notching 14 goals and 31 points while averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per contest in 52 appearances, so he's definitely due for a substantial raise. I still don't necessarily see him as part of the Red Wings long-term core, but I think a two-year, $5.5 million deal is more than worth it to keep him around in the short term.
Unrestricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: Daley, Ericsson and Howard are all making huge paychecks and are over 36 years of age. The club has been transitioning to younger and younger players and it's time to part ways with all three of these players. Letting Daley and Ericsson walk will clear a space on the 23-man roster for Dennis Cholowski and Moritz Seider to make their cases for roster spots in the lead up to the 2020-21 campaign. In the crease, there figures to be a battle for the No. 2 spot between Calvin Pickard and Kaden Fulcher with Howard out of the way. Goloubef was snatched off the waiver wire by the Wings in late February but managed just two appearances for the club prior to the league going on hiatus. Unless there is a problem signing Madison Bowey or significant concerns about the development of the aforementioned youngsters, there is really no reason to bring Goloubef back for another year. If the Wings do need him, a minimal deal around one-year, $875,000 contract should get the job done. For the second straight year, Gagner failed to reach the 50-game or 20-point marks. He certainly shouldn't be looking to make more than the $3.15 million he did last season. In fact, the 30-year-old forward may have to settle for a pay cut. The max I see Detroit giving Gagner would be a two-year, $4 million deal, though it may make more sense to let him test the free agency waters.
Kyle Riley: Ericsson, Daley and Goloubef are all old, underperforming defenseman that (with the exception of perhaps Goloubef) are overpaid. Shedding those types of contracts is exactly what's required to have a successful rebuild, so there's no way Detroit should be looking to re-sign any of them. The same can be said for Howard, who's 36 years old and has had one of the worst seasons for a goalie in recent memory. His NHL career might not be over if he's willing to take a one-year deal elsewhere to serve as a backup behind an established veteran, but his time in Detroit has undoubtedly come to an end. Gagner is still a decent depth option, but I don't see any reason to re-sign him with youngsters like Taro Hirose, Joe Veleno, Michael Rasmussen and Evgeny Svechnikov (among others) on the way.
Minor-League Free Agents *Who appeared in an NHL game in 2019-20
AJ Scholz: In 26 NHL appearances for Hirose this season, he's notched two goals, five helpers and 21 shots while averaging 12:33 of ice time. The 23-year-old forward wasn't able to maintain his place on the squad, however, and was demoted back to AHL Grand Rapids in mid-February. A qualifying offer for the center would be equal to $874,125 on a two-way deal, which could see the organization offer him a $800,000, one-way contract that he would almost certainly sign without hesitation, especially if a second year was added as well. In the case of Svechnikov, he didn't see nearly as much time in the NHL this season as Hirose and he may have to settle for signing his $874,125 qualifying offer.
Kyle Riley: I actually like Hirose more than Svechnikov at this stage, which is odd considering the former went undrafted and the latter was selected by Detroit with the 19th overall pick in the 2015 draft, but to this point Hirose has outperformed Svechnikov in both the AHL and NHL. Hirose has notched 14 points in 36 career NHL contests and 27 points in 35 career AHL contests, whereas Svechnikov has only totaled four points in 20 top-level games and 99 points in 182 minor-league matches, and both players are 23 years old. I think Hirose could realistically make the big club out of camp next year, so I wouldn't hesitate to ink him to a two-year, $3 million contract (one way). Svechnikov, on the other hand, could benefit from some more time in the AHL in 2020-21, and he isn't arbitration eligible, so he shouldn't be looking for much (if any more) than his QO.
AJ Scholz: Even if the Red Wings fork over significantly higher cap amounts for both Bertuzzi and Mantha, this is a team that is going to have a lot of money to spend this summer, likely close to $20 million. While there are a lot of prospects that need to be given their opportunity, including Taro Hirose, Evgeny Svechnikov and Filip Zadina, the organization still needs to improve the product on the ice. Some interesting free agent targets for Detroit to consider would be Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Tyler Toffoli. Any of those players would improve a topnsix that is already trending in the right direction and still has several years left in the tank. If the club plays its cards right, the playoff drought could come to a close sooner rather than later.
Kyle Riley: With the plan I outlined above, the Red Wings would have over $20 million in cap space to work with this summer, which would allow them to make a big splash in free agency, most likely for a top-flight defender as well as several complimentary pieces up front. This year's blue-line class includes Alex Pietrangelo, Torey Krug and T.J. Brodie, so I'd look for Detroit to make a huge push for one of those players this summer. That would still leave them with plenty of space to add a couple well-established complimentary pieces up front, completely transforming their squad from this season in the process.