Johan Franzen (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Detroit Red Wings are in a bind when it comes to the salary cap, but the solution for GM Ken Holland appears to be the unfortunate status of both Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale. Holland said he doesn’t expect either player to play this season, and isn't even expecting to see Franzen on the ice.
The Detroit Red Wings may be more than $4 million over the salary cap with the regular season approaching, but GM Ken Holland sees a clear path for the club to take to become salary cap compliant before the campaign begins. And it won’t even require a trade or demoting players to the AHL.
After the signings of Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek, a combination of deals that accounts for a total of $9-million in cap hit this coming season and next, Detroit sits $4.24 million over the salary cap before the season is even set to begin. However, Holland said that neither Johan Franzen or Joe Vitale are expected to play this coming season, meaning both will assuredly be placed on long-term injured reserve.
"Certainly we have no expectations that Franzen and Vitale are playing hockey this year," Holland told MLive’s Brendan Savage. "I talked to Vitale after we traded (for) him. He's having on-going issues with concussion. He certainly not expecting to be in camp. I'm not expecting to see Johan Franzen on the ice.”
"I think realistically, when it's all said and done, we're probably a little over the cap. What's a little? Probably a million dollars or just a little bit less over the cap if you don't count Vitale and Franzen.”
Currently at $4.238 million over the cap, placing Franzen and Vitale on the LTIR the day before the season opens would free up $5.07 million in space. That would make the Red Wings compliant by more than $800,000. However, CapFriendly doesn’t take into account the additions of Andreas Athanasiou, who played 37 games last season and all five playoff games, and another defenseman, even from the AHL, who will likely be on the roster before the season begins.
Adding in Athanasiou and, say, Xavier Ouellet would mean adding another $1.34 million to the cap, putting Detroit back over the upper limit by more than $500,000. But there’s another Red Win who could be headed to LTIR: Teemu Pulkkinen.
Pulkkinen underwent off-season shoulder surgery and won’t be ready to start the season. If he and his $812,500 salary are also on LTIR, the Red Wings should be back under the cap. Sure, they’ll have minimal breathing room, but they’ll be cap compliant.
Making the pieces fit this off-season wasn’t going to be easy for Holland and he’s not exactly going to be able to go about managing the Red Wings’ salary cap in a traditional fashion this season. That said, he’s made it work.
The difficulty now will be improving his roster, if need be. Any deal Holland makes will have to either save the Red Wings money against the cap or be almost a perfect match, dollar for dollar. That’s not an easy task in today’s NHL, so Holland is going to need to get creative if he’s still seeking to add another defenseman.
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