Red Wings sign Anthony Mantha, the best part of an already bright offseason

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Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman already performed well this offseason before Tuesday’s signing of Anthony Mantha. That said, much like his mentor in Edmonton, it was all about hitting a bunch of singles and not striking out. By signing Anthony Mantha for four years at a reported $22.8 million ($5.7M cap hit), Yzerman and the Red Wings knocked this one out of the park.

With this four-year deal, the Red Wings lock down Mantha, 26, for his peak years. That includes at least a couple of unrestricted fee agent seasons to boot. Again, very nice work by Detroit.

While the Red Wings can rest on their laurels for the remainder of the offseason, they don’t have to. With about $9.54M remaining in cap space, they can pull off another Marc Staal-type deal to take on someone else’s cap problems for picks/futures. Maybe Yzerman should call up his buddies in Tampa and hash out something that benefits both sides?

Red Wings get a bargain with Anthony Mantha signing

However you rank the combination of Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin among the NHL’s top duos, they give the Red Wings fantastic bang-for-the-buck. Larkin, 24, only carries a $6.1M cap hit through 2022-23. Getting those two for a hair under $12M for the next three seasons (with Mantha covered for an extra year at that $5.7M clip)? That’s good stuff.

By just about any measure, Mantha’s been productive for Red Wings teams that sometimes had little to look forward to beyond Mantha-Larkin (and now Tyler Bertuzzi). He scored 16 goals and 38 points in just 43 games in 2019-20, and before that, put together two straight 24+ goal, 48-point seasons.

If Mantha can stay healthy, this will be an even bigger steal. Mantha was limited to those 48 games last season, and also 67 of 82 contests in 2018-19. So far, the 2017-18 campaign was his closest to fully healthy (80 games played).

But maybe some of those bangs and bruises come with the territory for a bigger-bodied winger like Mantha. At that $5.7M clip, the Red Wings can accept him missing a stretch or two. (Especially when, frankly, they’re still far away from being truly competitive).

Delightfully, Mantha shines beyond strong counting numbers. Such strong underlying stats indicate that he isn’t merely elevated by being one of a few strong players on a very bad team.

Mantha deal gives Red Wings an interesting rebuilding vs. competing window

From here, the key is to take advantage of the opportunity in front of the Red Wings.

Again, they’re already getting some quality, bargain prime years from the Larkin and Mantha duo. But beyond that, there are opportunities to extract serious value from prospects who will graduate during Mantha’s contract.

Could the Red Wings make big jumps by combining Larkin – Mantha with the entry-level years from the likes of Lucas Raymond, Filip Zadina, and Moritz Seider, along with key development years from players like Filip Hronek?

Theoretically, the Red Wings could take advantage of all of those below-market value deals to make a splash or two. Maybe they can use what could be a robust amount of cash to coax the next Taylor Hall or Alex Pietrangelo to boost their chances of winnings? (Heck, Taylor Hall could be the next Taylor Hall.)

Accelerate the rebuild

As much as we love to see rebuilding teams pile up potential, eventually, you need to start turning that into production. With three years of Larkin and four years of Mantha at reasonable prices, the Red Wings have a window to try to get much better quite quickly.

Most of that work is up ahead. While the Red Wings have done well to add competence on low-risk contracts, the Vladislav Namestnikov and Bobby Ryan types aren’t likely to move the needle much long-term.

So, consider this the easy part, yet also parts other teams sometimes mess up. Keeping Mantha in place is key to the Red Wings (re)building a winning foundation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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