Jimmy Howard (Mike Stobe/National Hockey League)
Mike Babcock’s future with the Detroit Red Wings is up in the air, but his contract status isn’t the only worry the club has. GM Ken Holland has to address some roster needs this off-season, including possibly locking up a veteran defenseman with offensive upside.
Nearly a week following the Detroit Red Wings ouster from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, questions remain about their off-season plans. The future of coach Mike Babcock, whose contract will soon expire, dominates the conversation.
Speculation suggests he could move on to another NHL club. He's been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks. Babcock promises he won't drag his feet deciding on his future.
Once the coaching situation is resolved, Wings GM Ken Holland will turn his attention to his roster needs. MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports the Wings have over $56 million invested in 18 players for 2015-16. With the salary cap projected to rise from $69 million to perhaps $72 million, Holland has sufficient space to re-sign his key free agents and add veteran depth via trade or free agency.
Though this summer's free-agent market is thin on talent, Khan speculates Holland could pursue a right-handed blueliner like Washington's Mike Green or Nashville's Cody Franson. The Wings GM could also revisit his trade-deadline interest in Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.
Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press also recalls Holland’s pursuit of Phaneuf leading up to the trade deadline, recalling the Leafs wanted prospect forward Anthony Mantha as part of the return. She claims the Wings intend to keep Mantha, while top prospect Dylan Larkin remains untouchable.
Adding a defenseman like Green or Franson should be more affordable than adding Phaneuf, as all the Wings will be giving up is cap space. Still, with the decline in the Canadian dollar affecting the salary cap plus the number of young Wings be in line for raises in a few years, Holland could add a player via trade if he can move out some salary.
Whether from the Wings or elsewhere, the Leafs will certainly want a good young player and a prospect as part of a return for Phaneuf. Given the 30-year-old's contract (six years remaining worth $7-million per season), Holland could insist the Leafs absorb part of Phaneuf's contract or take on a toxic deal. It's believed Stephen Weiss, who has three years left on his deal at a cap hit of $4.9 million, was offered up by Holland to the Leafs during their trade-deadline negotiations.
It didn't take long to resolve the Wings' goaltending controversy. With backup Petr Mrazek having supplanted veteran Jimmy Howard during the playoffs, there was speculation Howard's future in Detroit could be in doubt. The 31-year-old Howard's contract (four years remaining at an annual cap hit of $5.292 million) prompted St. James to suggest the Wings could listen to trade offers.
However, Khan reports Wings management has no intention of trading Howard. They want him to return next season and battle Mrazek for the starter's job. Khan's colleague Brendan Savage claims that's fine with Howard, adding he won't request a trade.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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