It is time to blow things up in Hockeytown. The writing has been on the wall for a few years now. However, the fact that Detroit needs a reset can be ignored no longer. Unfortunately, an extensive list of unmovable contracts will make the Detroit Red Wings rebuild quite the challenge.
In order to complete step one of a successful rebuild, from a roster standpoint, a team must shed all of the undesirable salary currently on the books. Detroit happens to have a lot of it and those contracts will prove to be difficult to move.
In July 2016, Frans Nielsen signed a six-year $31.5 million deal with Detroit. This was during a time of denial for the Red Wings, who hoped that signing players like Nielsen would keep them contending.
Nielsen, who will be 38 by the end of the deal, is providing the Red Wings with an unfriendly annual cap hit of $5.25 million. This is far too much for a player who will record between 40 and 50 points a year. Unfortunately, no team is going to be tempted to take Nielsen off Detroit’s hands. His age, term, and cap hit just scream “stay away” a little too loudly.
To put it bluntly, Justin Abdelkader‘s deal is a bit of a head-scratcher. Players get overpaid all of the time in the National League. However, most of them produce an uncharacteristically stellar season that leads to a pay bump. When Abdelkader signed his seven-year $29.75 million deal, it was indeed after his best season. Unfortunately, his best season consisted of 44 points. Although that kind of production is indeed helpful, it hardly yells seven-year extension.
This was just a risky deal that clearly did not pan out. Abdelkader could have some value on a contender but his term is just too long to be an attractive asset.
Darren Helm‘s cap hit isn’t awful, $3.85 million per year. However, the 30-year-old is on the books until the summer of 2021 and simply does not produce enough to have any value on the trade market. No team is going to want to be committed to an essential fourth-liner for that length of time. Unfortunately, the Red Wings are stuck with him.
Maybe it’s unfair to add Henrik Zetterberg to this list. Detroit’s captain has done his fair share of good for this franchise and should always be respected. However, the 37-year-old center is finally on the decline of his career and has three more seasons left on his contract. His over $6 million annual cap hit is something the Red Wings would love to get rid of. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine any team wanting to take that on, especially for three more years.
It is hard to imagine any team wanting to acquire Danny DeKeyser, even for a bag of pucks. The last time I checked no franchise is in the market for a blueliner who is a defensive liability, especially one that is on the books until 2022 with a $5 million cap hit.
His six-year, $30 million deal is just another head-scratcher. It should have never been handed out and now Detroit must suffer for it.
Jonathan Ericsson is your typical defensive defenseman who can succeed in the right role. However, there is no offensive production to be had which has been turned into a close-to-necessary attribute for blueliners.
Ericsson could be a player of interest for a team looking to strengthen the defensive aspect of their team. However, he brings with him two-and-a-half more years of a six-year, $25.5 million contract. His $4.25 million cap-hit just might not be worth swallowing for a player with his skill-set.
Patience is Key
The Red Wings need to go through a complete rebuild. It is more clear now than it has ever been. However, all of these unmovable contracts means one very important thing. Patience must enter the mindset of every person involved in this franchise from the front office to the fanbase. It is going to be a long and likely painful process but is the only way to get this organization back to greatness someday.