Riley Sheahan (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Detroit Red Wings have several restricted free agents to lock up this summer and got one out of the way Wednesday, reportedly signing 24-year-old center Riley Sheahan to a two-year deal.
Riley Sheahan’s offense took a step back in 2015-16, as was the case for many Red Wings, but it doesn’t appear as though it hurt the 24-year-old’s negotiating power.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reported Wednesday that Sheahan, who was set to become a restricted free agent, has signed a two-year deal worth $2.075 million per season. It’s a hefty raise for Sheahan, who’s now earning more than double what he had on his last deal, but one that signifies Detroit has a feeling that he could become a useful part of the middle-six of the Red Wings’ roster moving forward.
This past season, Sheahan scored 14 goals and 25 points in 81 games, but that’s down substantially from the 13 goals and 36 points he notched the season prior. And considering Sheahan managed nine goals and 24 points in 42 games in 2013-14 — more than half a point per game — the downturn in production signalled the second consecutive year Sheahan’s production dipped.
However, Sheahan’s lack of production was as much on him as it was the Red Wings’ inability to score. Detroit averaged 224 goals for per season over the first two seasons of Sheahan’s career, but were one of the league’s worst offensive teams in 2015-16 with only 209 goals for. That ranked 23rd in the league and the Red Wings sat only one spot, and one goal, ahead of the Arizona Coyotes.
The promising thing about Sheahan’s game is that he’s proven to be a useful two-way player who can drive possession. Of the 15 skaters who have played at least 2,000 minutes for the Red Wings over the past three seasons, Sheahan ranks fifth with a shot attempts for percentage of 54 percent at 5-on-5, per Puckalytics.
The one thing Detroit would love out of Sheahan, though, would be for him to be tasked with and thrive under more defensive-zone starts and tougher competition. If Sheahan could excel in a truer two-way role, he’d be an excellent asset, especially at the price. He’s already proven he can take care of the Red Wings on the penalty kill, averaging more than two minutes of ice time per game with Detroit shorthanded in 2015-16, so that’s a step in the right direction.
But even if Sheahan continues to play as he has, the deal isn’t a bad one for the Red Wings. There’s still some room for him to grow, still some room for improvement, and if his offense comes back alive, too, Sheahan’s new contract will look good for Ken Holland’s Red Wings.