On adding ‘bad contracts’ vs. ‘running lean’

The Athletic’s Scott Burnside posted a massive article this morning, discussing the “offseason priorities” for each and every one of the NHL’s 31 teams. Burnside suggests that the Red Wings need to maximize their salary cap space by offering salary cap relief to another team in exchange for a roster reinforcement:

[It] would seem that with an abundance of salary cap space GM Steve Yzerman has to be amenable to making that cap asset work for the Red Wings in the hopes of at least incrementally speeding up the rebuild process. A year ago Carolina nabbed a first-round pick from Toronto in order to take on Patrick Marleau’s contract.

Yzerman has to ferret out the kinds of deals that cap-strapped teams will be looking to make to free up space to stay in the playoff and/or Stanley Cup hunt. For instance, would Detroit take on Nino Niederreiter or Jake Gardiner if the Canes sweetened the deal with picks and/or prospects? What about Kyle Turris’ onerous deal in Nashville? Or Brent Seabrook in Chicago? There is hay to be made here for a Detroit team that is still deep in the rebuilding tunnel.

Burnside continues with more about the Wings and other teams (paywall); I can understand his rationale as the Wings have a CapFriendly-estimated $34 million in cap space this upcoming offseaon.

I would suggest, however, that a team that has to pay Frans Nielsen $5.25 million for two more seasons, and Justin Abdelkader $4.25 million for three more seasons, has enough “bad contracts” to occupy itself for the next couple of seasons.

As far as I’m concerned, the Wings need to pace themselves as they’ve got at least two seasons to operate under an $82.5 million salary cap.

While I might jump at taking on an overpriced player if it meant that another team would “sweeten the deal” with a prospect or two, my main priorities as GM would involve building from within (this fall’s NHL draft included) and then running a leaner team than anticipated in order to give the Wings’ prospects a legitimate chance to play hockey and develop.

Instead of signing as many free agents as possible, or taking on “bad contracts,” I’d add only whatever roster reinforcements I felt were absolutely necessary, and then I’d plain old see what “the kids” can do.

I know that my ideas as to what the kind of team the Red Wings should build over the next couple of seasons wouldn’t generate the kind of excitement that the Wings desperately need to sell the promise of improvement to their weary fan base. I simply feel that “running lean” is the way to determine where the organization needs the most reinforcement going forward, instead of applying as many band-aids to the roster as possible.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

2 thoughts on “On adding ‘bad contracts’ vs. ‘running lean’”

  1. Personally, I believe SY will do as you believe—my belief too.
    We can thank the Goddess of Hockey that KH is elsewhere—we’d likely be living in Hockey Hell!

    Good to have ‘ya back—since there won’t be the in-person assessments for which you are so adept and famous, it’ll be interesting to see how this Blog will evolve.

  2. I feel like there are two approaches. The “get competitive asap” approach looks to offload the bad contracts and tosses in, within reason, the sweeteners that make it happen.

    The other one does not think about being competitive for a few years, and weaponizes the cap space to gain assets. If the team can only be successful in a post Abdelkader/Nielsen world, adding another one of those contracts with a year or two on it makes sense.

    I think one of these options needs to picked, at least to some extent. Standing pat and just waiting around for contracts to expire seems like poor asset management, in my opinion. Based on last year, I do not think Stevie would be so passive.

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