This morning Steve Yzerman’s Detroit Red Wings are, according to CapFriendly.com, $48.1 million under the salary cap and Yzerman’s former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning are $5 million over the cap.
But the reason why Yzerman has so much room is that he only has 10 regulars under contract for next season. Only the expansion Seattle Kraken, who don’t have a player yet, have more available cap space. The Buffalo Sabres are only other team with only 10 contracts. But they have only $34.1 million in cap space.
Detroit’s current $48.1 million in cap space does take into account that the Red Wings have $2.3 million in dead cap space because they bought out Justin Abdelkader’s contract.
Those 10 contracts don’t include the signed Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno deals because they are non-roster players for now. Let’s presume that Seider and Veleno start the season in Detroit and Raymond goes to Grand Rapids. So Detroit now has 12 contracts.
The reason why the Red Wings have such a low contract number is that they have nine players who are restricted free agents. According to our rough projections, the Red Wings will spend about $17.7 million to sign nine of those players. If that happens, the Red Wings would have 21 contracts and just over $27 million in cap space. They would have two more roster spots to fill.
Cap space would be lower if Vrana or Hronek got longer-term more lucrative deals, or if any player receives more money than we project.
The cap space and the number of open roster spots will grow when Seattle takes a player off Detroit’s roster in the expansion. Also, it does not take into account that Detroit could buy out Frans Nielsen’s and Richard Panik’s contracts. That would add a roster spots and increase cap space.
Even with that amount of cap space, the Red Wings may not be a major player in the free agent market. Top players won’t be attracted to Detroit because they are still rebuilding. The Red Wings likely will look to sign a couple of defensemen, like they did last season. Marc Staal returning is a possibility. Ryan Murray and Mike Reilly are two 27-year-old free agents that might interest Detroit because they are young enough to join the group. NHL Network tweeted that the Red Wings might be interested in Michigan native Alec Martinez.
The Red Wings are interested in bringing back Luke Glendening. They could also need a backup goalie. Many teams are trying to dump contracts, and Yzerman could use his cap space to trade for one of those contracts. You make those kind of deals to acquire assets.
Here are our projections on what the RFAs could get.
Jakub Vrana: One year deal at $4.25 million. Made $3.3 million on his Washington contract. Salary projections have him at $5.5 to $6 million range on a long-term deal. Short deal makes more sense. Both sides might want to see where Vrana fits.
Tyler Bertuzzi: Four year deal worth $4.5 million per season. Yearly salaries would be $4 million, $4.5 million, $4.5 million and $5 million.
Filip Hronek: Bridge deal worth $3.75 million per season. Earned $900,000 in his last deal. Given the economic uncertainty, a bridge deal makes the most sense. If they negotiate a longer deal, his average salary will be higher.
Adam Erne: $1.5 million average on a two-year deal: He earned a bump in salary by his strong play last season.
Michael Rasmussen: $1 million: Both sides should want a short deal to see what kind of player he will become.
Gustav Lindstrom: Under $1 million: Penciled in to play as a regular.
Dennis Cholowski: Under $1 million. Both he and Lindstrom are out of options. It’s this season or never for Cholowski in Detroit.
Givani Smith: Under $1 million: Red Wings don’t have an abundance of physical players. Smith should get a chance to play this season.
Chase Pearson: Under $1 million. The Red Wings believe Pearson will be a solid role player for them. Coaches like him. There’s a chance Seattle could take him in the expansion draft.
Evgeny Svechnikov: Red Wings showed last season that Svechnikov is not in their future plans. They waived him last season and no team picked him up. It would be best for Svechnikov if he could get a fresh start in a new organization or play in the Kontinental Hockey League.