Cleat Geeks

Winged Wheel Watch: Free Agency Round-Up

After a successful draft, the Detroit Red Wings turned their attention to free agency, where unrestricted and top restricted targets loomed. General manager Ken Holland was able to tie up most of those loose ends quite quickly, however.

Restricted free agents

This off-season’s top priority fell here as Holland was tasked with retaining top young talents like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Andreas Athanasiou.

Bertuzzi and Martin Frk were the first to re-sign, signing, respectively two-year and one-year deals worth $1.4 million and $1.05 million annually. Retaining Bertuzzi, especially at that cost, is a huge victory for the Red Wings, as his grit, presence on the power play, and eye for making the play led to 17 assists and 24 total points in 48 games. Frk adds depth and a mighty slap shot, but little else. And until he learns to better control his shot, he is even dangerous. But, as a fourth line presence, there are worse options than Frk.

Image result for andreas athanasiou

Photo by; ClickOnDetroit

Next came Athanasiou. After a lengthy holdout to begin the 2017-18 season, many feared a similar scenario would unfold this summer. Further headache was expected as Athanasiou was eligible for arbitration rights. Luckily, the signing went off without a hitch as The Athletic’s Craig Custance reported a two-year deal in early July. The contract is worth $3 million annually. In this, the Red Wings hold onto a talented forward with incredible speed and ability to score goals.

Mantha followed suit not long after, inking a two-year, $3.3 million AAV deal. The team’s leading goal scorer in 2017-18, Mantha brings size, skating ability, and an incredible eye for the net. Consistency has been an issue, as have a few nagging injuries, but there’s no reason to believe that Mantha can’t be a 30 goal scorer (or more) if paired with the right line mates.

Image result for dylan larkin detroit red wings

Photo by; Zimbio

Finally, after much anticipation, Dylan Larkin re-signed with the largest contract of any of the RFA group, returning on with a five-year deal worth $6.1 million AAV (breakdown of the deal can be found here). Perhaps the most important target, Larkin was the Red Wings leading points scorer last season (16 G, 47 A, 63 points), he has developed more of a playmaker’s eye than that of a goal-scorer, which is acceptable given the presence of the likes of Mantha and Athanasiou, as well as up-and-coming youngsters Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen. Larkin also took a step into more of a leadership role last season and is, by all accounts, primed to be the next captain for the storied franchise. And perhaps sooner than later, as recurring back issues have cast doubt on the future, both immediate and long-term, of current skipper Henrik Zetterberg.

Image result for jonathan bernier red wings

Photo by; Detroit News

Unrestricted free agents

The Red Wings acted quickly in the UFA market, making all of their moves immediately after free agency officially opened on July 1. The club elected to add one new face, veteran goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and a couple of familiar faces in winger Thomas Vanek and defenseman Mike Green.

Bernier (three years, $9 million) is coming off of a solid season with the Colorado Avalanche (19-13-3, .913 SV%, 2.85 GAA). He is a sensible addition, as there is no heir apparent in their system to serve as a backup to Jimmy Howard following last season’s trade of Petr Mrazek and the off-season departures of Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum. Bernier’s three-year term will, ideally, provide enough time for one of the goalie prospects in the Red Wings system to step in and take the reins.

Vanek (one year, $3 million) previously starred for the Red Wings in the first half of the 2016-17 season, where he recorded 38 points (15 G, 23 A) and served as a strong presence on the power play before being traded to the Florida Panthers after 48 games. In 2017-18, at age 34, he recorded 56 points (24 G, 32 A) in 80 games with both the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets. He will provide a good veteran presence, if not a familiar one, for younger players like Zadina, Rasmussen, Mantha, Athanasiou, and Evgeny Svechnikov.

Green (two years, $10.75 million) returns after spending the last three seasons with the Red Wings. When healthy he proved to be a solid offensive presence from the blue line, recording 104 points (29 G, 75 A) in 212 games. He provides veteran experience and some offensive prowess from the defensive zone. However, he provides very little stopping presence in that zone, posting a -40 plus/minus rating during his time in Detroit. And ,with the likes of Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts, and Dennis Cholowski waiting in the wings (no pun intended), one has to wonder if Green’s presence, along with other, more concerning contracts given to other defenseman, will block the road for any of these talented prospects.

Where do you stand on the signings made by the Red Wings this offseason? Let us know in the comments below!

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