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THN.com Blog: Wings can absorb Hudler’s surprise split

Jiri Hudler had 23 goals and 57 points with the Red Wings last season. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Jiri Hudler had 23 goals and 57 points with the Red Wings last season. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It is the last team you’d expect to get caught in the rain without an umbrella.
The Detroit Red Wings are the kind of organization that prepares for every scenario, happy and sad. The departures of Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson likely weren’t preferred actions, but you have to believe Wings GM Ken Holland and his merry band of smart hockey men accounted for the possibility and were fully prepared to deal with the results.
Jiri Hudler’s decision to play in the Kontinental League, however, seems to have triggered the rare moment when the Wings get caught with their Cooperalls down.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Hudler has been offered upwards of a tax-free $5 million per year salary, $2 million more than Detroit was willing to compensate the small-but-slick 25-year-old.
Based on the fact Holland, coach Mike Babcock and players Kris Draper and Dan Cleary all placed calls to Hudler, it seems fair to assume he was one spoke the Wings were counting on staying in the wheel.
But to reuse an analogy I’m fond of, Detroit, as an organization, is a bit like a tissue box; pluck one quality player out and another just magically pops up.
Draper gets hurt in the playoffs, meet Darren Helm. Pavel Datsyuk goes down, Valtteri Filppula steps up.
Hudler, coming off a 23-goal season, was likely one of the players management expected to fill the void created when Hossa and Samuelsson split. His unexpected decision to sign with Moscow Dynamo changes that.
But don’t expect to see puffs of panic emanating from the Motor City any time soon. Aside from the fact that simply never happens, Detroit can still count on a couple of Finns to supplement its high-end core of forwards.
As mentioned, Filppula already filled in admirably for Datsyuk on the second line during the conference and Cup final last spring. And Ville Leino, who’ll turn 26 right when next season begins, is ready for full-time duty and might well be the next Wings forward to make opposing fans and teams mutter, “Where do they keep finding these guys?”
Of the remaining UFAs still wondering where their next million will come from, Alex Tanguay offers far and away the most offensive upside.
The 29-year-old struggled through an injury-riddled year in Montreal one season after posting a disappointing 58 points during his final go in Calgary.
Tanguay isn’t going to run anybody over, but he’s capable of being a productive point-producer on a quality team and thanks to consecutive underwhelming seasons, he’s not in a position to demand outrageous dollars.
Any team willing to chew up about $4.5 to $5 million in cap space could add a quality, supplementary contributor by getting Tanguay on board.

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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.

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