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Red Wings’ cap future after Tatar signing: should they buy out Ericsson?

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In a vacuum, the Detroit Red Wings handing Tomas Tatar a four-season deal that carries a per-year cap hit of $5.3 million makes a lot of sense. Tatar ranks as one of their deadliest scorers, and at age 26, the contract likely takes up the final years of his prime.*

Still, it must be mentioned that Tatar’s contract reminds us that the Red Wings may no longer stand as an obvious contender, yet they sure spend like one.

Yes, Johan Franzen‘s near-$4 million will go to LTIR, but this Cap Friendly reading still stands as a reminder that there isn’t much breathing room, especially with Andreas Athanasiou needing a contract. Detroit figures to have a little less than $1 million minus Franzen:

OK, so there are a few options. Winging it in Motown brings up an intriguing idea: what if the Red Wings buy out defenseman Jonathan Ericsson‘s contract?

They used Cap Friendly’s tool to show that a cap hit of $4.25 million would be spread out over six seasons in this setup. Each year, the actual cost would be a bit less than $1.39 million.

The bright side is that, for the next two seasons, the Red Wings would see real savings:

2017-18: save $2.61 million
2018-19: save $2.86 million
2019-20: save $2.86 million
2020-21 and 2021-22: would cost them about $1.39 million

Naturally, that would be quite the price to pay to get a player to not play for the Red Wings, yet it would also help Detroit squeeze under the cap. More on that conundrum here.

Let’s leaf through most of the Red Wings’ structure to see which deals are good, bad, and ugly.

(Note: As usual, Cap Friendly was highly helpful in putting this together.)

Dicey defense

  • Obviously, Ericsson’s health issues and struggles make him a tough guy to keep around at 33 and with a $4.25M. He’s merely the most obvious defensemen who’s an issue for this team.
  • Mike Green presents an interesting situation. He still has his use, yet at 31 and with his $6 million cap hit to expire after next season, the Red Wings must ponder his future. If they don’t want him back, could they send him somewhere else, whether that be now or in-season? Salary retention would likely need to be a consideration, especially if they wanted to move him earlier. That said, their already dicey defense would experience a painful loss if they traded Green.
  • Danny DeKeyser‘s $5 million cap hit through 2021-22 would be very difficult to move. At least he has … some proponents in the organization?
  • Niklas Kronwall‘s been a great solider for DRW, and the positive news is that his $4.75 million cap hit will evaporate after two seasons. Much like Ericsson, health is really hampering what he can do in the present, though.
  • Trevor Daley was just signed this summer. While he brings some strengths to the table, you have to wonder if the 33-year-old will slip enough that the $3.16 million could be an annoyance rather soon.

Forwards

  • Tatar ($5.3 million) becomes the second-highest-paid Red Wings forward behind Henrik Zetterberg, who makes just over $6 million. Zetterberg quietly enjoyed a strong 2016-17, and you can bet that he delivered at far higher a value than $6 million through the earlier years of his contract. Still, he’s 36 and that cap hit runs through 2020-21, the same year Tatar’s ends. Not ideal.
  • That Franzen headache expires after 2019-20.
  • Frans Nielsen is a nice player, and he had a strong debut season for Detroit. Still, he’s somehow already 33 and his $5.25 million cap hit won’t expire until after 2021-22. One would think that, if the Red Wings wanted to move him, now would be one of the better times since his value is probably still reasonably high. Of course, savvy teams will balk at that term. Maybe, like DeKeyser and some other players, the Red Wings would need to move a “problem” (Nielsen’s term) for some other team’s issue.
  • Moving on, there are bit players getting too much. Justin Abdelkader‘s term (2022-23) and $4.25M cap hit give off an albatross vibe. Darren Helm, already 30, at $3.85M per year seems shaky. Even Luke Glendening‘s reasonable but maybe unnecessary $1.8M cap hit argues that Red Wings management might be overvaluing supporting cast members.
  • Then you have young players who may cost more soon. Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha could see big jumps with breakthrough contract years as their ELC’s expire. Will Athanasiou be on a shrot deal, too?

Goalies

The netminder situation is pretty cloudy as well.

Jimmy Howard‘s contract is worrisome, although at least that $5.3M only runs through two more seasons. Petr Mrazek‘s a baffling situation, though maybe a team would take him from Detroit if the Red Wings retained some of that $4M? Would that even be a smart move considering Mrazek’s still-considerable potential?

***

Yikes, that entire outlook is almost entirely dismal. It’s not easy to say what the Red Wings should do next, especially if you’re not in the “blow it all up” camp.

(Note: Ken Holland doesn’t seem to be in the “blow it all up” camp.)

* – Of course, he could defy the general odds by having a longer run of prime years.

Red Wings sign Tomas Tatar: four years, $21.2M

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It turns out that Tomas Tatar‘s days are numbered with the Detroit Red Wings by almost 1,500.*

After a salary arbitration hearing and concerns that he might leave after a single season, “Band-Aid” sort of deal, a wide variety of reporters state that the two sides instead agreed to a four-year deal with a $5.3 million cap hit, which would total $21.2 million.

Those figures come from MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan, FanRag’s Craig Morgan, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. The Red Wings confirmed that it was four years, but didn’t mention the financial details in their release.

Here’s the reported yearly breakdown (cue ominous music for that lockout-protection drop in 2020-21), via Morgan:

Again, this feels like a change in viewpoint, as even just yesterday it was reasonable to wonder if Tatar would only stick around for 2017-18. Now, it is possible that Tatar might get traded at some point, but a four-year deal is a bit surprising. The forward himself speculated that a one-year deal would be it.

This contract makes Tatar, 26, the Red Wings’ second-most expensive forward from a cap perspective, trailing only Henrik Zetteberg’s $6.083 million.

Even with this deal out of the way, Red Wings GM Ken Holland still has some work to do, including re-signing speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou. And the situation is tight.

* – Four times 365 is 1,460. Get it?

Tatar goes to arbitration — are his days in Detroit numbered?

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Unlike the St. Louis Blues, who struck a last-minute deal with Colton Parayko, the Detroit Red Wings were unable to come to terms with Tomas Tatar, meaning an arbitration hearing went ahead today.

Tatar had 25 goals in 82 games last season. The 26-year-old forward can only be awarded a one-year deal, as he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

So unless the two sides can come together on a long-term contract before the arbitrator rules, Tatar may end up becoming a trade chip for GM Ken Holland to play.

After all, the Wings will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs next year, and they can’t afford to lose Tatar for nothing.

The Athletic’s Craig Custance believes that Tatar will be awarded a one-year deal worth “around $4.8 million.”

Tatar has said that a one-year deal would likely mean his “last season in Detroit.”

Related: Wings, Tatar over $1 million apart as arbitration looms

Detroit re-signs Frk, who’s ‘done a great job of scoring goals’

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The Red Wings made a forward depth signing on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with AHL scorer Martin Frk.

Per the Free Press, it’s a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000, and it comes after Frk was close to a point-a-game player en route to Grand Rapids’ Calder Cup championship in June.

Frk, 23, was originally taken 49th overall by Detroit in 2012. He’s been a consistently good scorer at the American League level — back-to-back 27 goal campaigns as proof — but hasn’t found similar success in the NHL.

Carolina claimed him off waivers last season, and played him in a pair of games before waiving him again. Detroit quickly scooped Frk up and shipped him right back to the Griffins.

At this year’s draft, Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill — who coached Frk in the minors — said the Czech sniper may need to make it in the big leagues as a power play specialist.

Marty Frk has done a great job of scoring goals,” Blashill said, per the Free Press. “He is a really good shooter. He plays his best hockey when he is confident. Can he continue into the NHL? It just depends.

“For him to be a good NHL player, he is going to have to be a great power-play guy. Because his shot is his weapon. When he is hitting the net, he is a good weapon on the power play.”

 

Wings, Tatar over $1 million apart as arbitration looms

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Detroit and forward Tomas Tatar are scheduled to go to arbitration on Thursday, and now it’s known what offers the two sides are bringing to the table.

Per Sportsnet and MLive, Tatar is asking for $5.3 million next season, while the Red Wings are offering $4.1 million. Should the case go to arbitration, Tatar will receive a one-year pact.

Tatar’s reported ask shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Earlier this month, reports suggested he was looking for at least $5 million annually on a longer-term deal, this after wrapping a three-year pact that paid $2.75M per.

It’s easy to see why Tatar is looking to cash in. The 26-year-old netted 29, 21 and 25 goals in each of his last three campaigns, for a grand total of 75 — more than Phil Kessel, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene have scored over the same timeframe.

If he and the Red Wings can’t reach a long-term deal prior to Thursday, it could be acrimonious. Tatar has suggested going to arbitration and settling on a one-year deal could mean the end of his time in Detroit.

“Detroit offered me a contract, and even with a few options — for a year, or four or five. We’re still talking about the length, and of course, the financial amount of the contract,” Tatar told CSA.sk earlier this month, per the Detroit News. “However, we aren’t going anywhere, and there’s been time enough.”

“Arbitration is the last option, I have to sign off, it’s just a mandatory contract. Unless I agree with Detroit, I’ll go to the court (salary arbitration), where they’ll give me a year’s contract. That would probably be my last season in Detroit. We’ll see in a few days or weeks before it all comes together.”