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Breaking down the Red Wings' Summer Plans

As you probably know, tomorrow at 12 noon, the NHL free agent period officially begins. As a hockey fan, July 1st represents more than just a national holiday. It is the day where the teams are reshaped for next season in the most exciting and unexpected ways. The Detroit Red Wings look to be busy this summer as they try to sign a big name defenceman, a back up goaltender and a top 6 forward. Who exactly will those players be? Read on to find out.

Ken Holland, the General Manager in Detroit, has repeatedly said that the Wings will be big players this summer. With the recent retirement of Brian Rafalski, the announcement that Ruslan Salei, Joey MacDonald and Mike Modano would not be returning as well as the constant aging of the Wings regular skaters, this summer seems to be more important than most. The Wings did not make a single move all of last season and did alright by winning the division, but now it's time for some changes. They have some good prospects ready to make the jump to the pros, specifically Correy Emmerton, Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak, but the Wings always like to nurture them slowly in the minors. The Wings have over $16 million in cap space according to capgeek.com and so they can afford to spend big to land some players. But they have been very quiet all week, while players that would be good for their roster are being traded and signed left and right. It creates a curious speculation on who the Wings are targeting this summer. This blog post will offer you some names that the Wings should look at this summer to hopefully improve their roster for the fall.

Definitely the Wings best position is on forward, where they have a strong tandem of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg leading in the offensive categories and Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi providing secondary scoring. However, there is always room for improvement and with underwhelming seasons from both Valtari Filppula and Jiri Hudler,  the Wings could add another scorer to their team. Some available players include former Wing Ville Leino, Joel Ward from Nashville, Tomas Fleischmann or Erik Cole. All 4 of these guys are big solid forwards who can score and are smart at both ends of the ice. They are also all wingers, leaving Zetterberg and Datsyuk to play center. But considering the Wings want to spend big on a top 4 defenceman and not as much for a forward, it might be hard to lure one of these players just with money. Also, Jaromir Jagr has been trying to make a comeback to the NHL and one of the teams interested in him is Detroit, I as a fan am not though. They tried reviving the past last season by signing Mike Modano which proved to be a bust and Jagr appears just the same. It sounds like Jagr wants over $2 million, which is absurd when you consider his age and how long he has been away from the speed of the NHL. It seems like too big of a risk for the Wings, who should be giving their younger players more opportunities. It will be interesting if the Wings land one of those forwards but next years roster is not dependent on them doing so.

It is more important for the Wings to sign a top 4 defenceman tomorrow and it seems like everyday a new one gets taken off that list. Joni Pitkinen, Christian Erhoff, Andrei Markov, Kevin Bieksa and Eric Brewer all have been given new contracts for next season and all would have been good as Red Wings. It was a little disheartening to watch Erhoff get traded twice before settling with Buffalo, as the Wings did not appear to be anywhere close to trading for him. At the young age of 28, he would have fit their needs perfectly. Regardless, teams learn to move on and the Wings signed Jonathan Ericcson only a couple hours after the Erhoff signing. This leaves them with 1 spot available for a free agent defenceman and 1 available for a prospect defenceman. The prospect will likely be Jakub Kindl with an outside chance that Brenden Smith gets in. The free agent could still be a few players. The most likely player is Ed Jovanovski from the Phoenix Coyotes who is from the nearby city of Windsor Ontario and would love to win a cup with the Wings. The next best player would be James Wisnewski, who had his negotiating rights traded from Montreal to Columbus yesterday. Ian White and Tomas Kaberle are both good offensively but have histories of playing questionably in their own end. The Red Wings also have enough cap space and draft picks to consider sending out an offer sheet to either Keith Yandle, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian or Luke Schenn. Those guys would be expensive and their contracts would likely be matched by their current teams but it would be worth a shot. It is clear that with Brian Rafalski's recent retirement, the Wings have a big hole to fill on defence. I really hope they do not sit by and watch all of these guys get taken off the market and maybe one of them will be wearing the winged wheel next fall.

Finally, goaltenders, the position the Red Wings have always been good but not great at in recent years. They locked up Jimmy Howard a few months ago to be the starter for 2 more years but as of right now they do not have a back up. Chris Osgood could come back, but he is getting old and it might just be time for him to hang up the skates on his hall of fame career. There are some notable back up goalies available, the best being Johan Hedberg who sat behind Martin Brodeur in New Jersey last year and had some good games during their disappointing season.  Some other potential bargain back ups include Ty Conklin, Jose Theodre, Mathieu Garon and Marty Turco. I expect the Wings to land one of these guys at a bargain price of less than or around $2 million and the goalie probably will play just under 30 games behind Howard. All of these goalies are experienced, skilled and no longer capable of being a starter so being the back up on a contending team like Detroit should appeal to them. A deal with any of these guys probably won't happen until the dust settles on the bigger names available, but it could very likely get done.

As you can see, the Red Wings have a big shopping list when the market opens tomorrow. As a fan, I hope they make the best moves that will lead to success and I do not doubt Holland after all the winning teams he has put together. I am a bit worried about missing out on the defencemen though after watching the Wings sit by when many of the best available players were being traded and signed. As a writer, if the Wings land a big name player it will be exciting to write and be a part of sending all the news to my readers. Either way, it should be one busy summer in Detroit.

Josh Beneteau can be found on Twitter at @jbenny15.

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