Wings Rejected in Free Agency, Still Optimism for next Season

The Detroit Red Wings were rejected at the start of free agency on July 1, 2014. The team went after four different players that ended up elsewhere for a variety of different reasons.

At the beginning of free agency, general manager Ken Holland understood that he needed to acquire a middle-tier winger along with a top-tier right-handed defender, but the Wings came out empty handed.

Holland and the front office were in hot pursuit of top unrestricted free agent defenseman Matt Niskanen. They offered him a seven-year, $38.5 million dollar contract, which would have given Niskanen $5.5 million annually. He ended up accepting an offer from the Washington Capitals for $40.25 million over seven years.

As for the Wings’ other three options, there were a mix of reasons as to why they did not land anyone they were in pursuit of.

Dan Boyle, 38, went to the New York Rangers for $9 million over two years. The Wings offered the defenseman $10 million over two years, but Boyle rejected the offer because he was looking for a team that his agent said “had a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup”.

Stephane Robidas told the Wings that he wanted to be “closer to his kids” whom currently lives in Montreal, Quebec. The 37-year-old defenseman ended up accepting an offer with the Toronto Maple Leafs for $9 million over three years.

As for defenseman Anton Stralman, he ended up accepted a $22.5 million dollar contract over five years, which was not in the range that the Red Wings were trying to acquire the defender for. Stralman’s agent told the team that they were “not on his short list”.

After thorough rejections from all of their potential free agents, the team had to quickly strengthen their defense by re-signing Kyle Quincey for two years, $8.5 million. The 28-year-old defender accepted the raise shortly after 7 p.m. on July 1, which was not on the Red Wings agenda for the day when free agency began at noon.

Holland informed the media a couple days before free agency began that they wanted to “move on” from Quincey.

What Are the Wings Current Options?

After the first two and a half days of free agency, the Wings are questioning multiple aspects of their organization. As for looking to strengthen the depth chart, the Red Wings will have to start exploring trade options.

What would seem like an easy decision has quickly turned into a difficult one. Teams would be interested in a trade with the Red Wings, but only if the trade included quick rising stars: Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco or Anthony Mantha.

Holland does not want to part with any of his rising players due to a second wave of youngsters that are rising through the Wings’ development program.

Fans Should Still Be Optimistic

After free agency and the daunting trade options that sit in front of the Red Wings, there is still hope in the picture for the Red Wings’ 2014-2015 campaign.

Last season, the Wings only had stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg playing for 29 games together in which they collected 32 points combined in those appearances. With those two players out for over half the season, health could bring success for the Wings.

Along with Pavel and Henrik being out, forward Johan Franzen only played in 54 games throughout the season, scoring 16 goals. Forward Darren Helm missed 40 games and centerman Stephen Weiss missed 56 games.

Only two players on the roster played in all 82 games last year and a mere five players played in at least 70 games last season.

Riley Sheahan was resigned for two years on July 1. Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist all are rapidly improving and will have one season under their belts going into 2014-2015.

There is also a second wave of prospects that will be hitting the Joe Louis ice next season. Xavier Ouellet made a playoff debut last season against Boston in an elimination game. The Wings are looking to get a lot out of Ouellet next season as well as right-handed prospective defender, Ryan Sproul.

Finally, Anthony Mantha had two 50-goal seasons with his junior team and will be receiving chances during the 2014-2015 preseason to show his stuff to the Red Wings.

For fans, free agency was extremely disappointing and scary. For analysts, the team still has a lot of time to reshape within their organization. With rising stars and veteran leadership all in the locker room for at least 70 games next season, it could lead the team to a more successful season.

The team lost during free agency, but still has not sunk, and will look to acquire late free agents and make potential trades.

Austin Goodman is the host of Octopi Hockeytown at Impact Sports.