Since Ryan Suter and Zach Parise agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild on Independence Day, the Detroit Red Wings have been reassessing what appears to be their limited options.
While the Wings take a long, hard look in the mirror before they begin to implement Plan B, C, D or even E, there’s a theory being bandied about as to why the mighty Wings have not fared well in the free-agent market.
For years, Detroit has spent money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Fans expect them to go out and acquire top talent by paying top dollar.
Even non-hockey fans have heard of the Red Wings, simply because they’re labeled the New York Yankees of the NHL.
Anytime a player’s agent could say that Detroit was in the mix for his client’s services, the asking price jumped and became too rich for many teams. Whether the Wings were interested or not, they set the rate that other teams had to accept or, in most cases, decline.
Now that the league has spent the past several years firmly entrenched in a hard salary cap, the playing field has been leveled. Everybody has the same amount in the bank, and it depends on how a team chooses to divide its salary pool.
It’s believed that Parise never had any intention of signing with Detroit. He wanted the Wings to make an offer so he could use it as leverage when he sat down with the teams he really was considering — New Jersey and Minnesota.
Remember, the entire world knew that the Wings were far under the cap, had holes to fill on their roster and were more than willing to overpay for a player they really desired.
Whether you believe Detroit is a destination spot or not for today’s players, the Wings still have the reputation as a solid organization that will always try to put their players in the best position to win. A contract offer from the Wings remains a substantial negotiating chip.
When the Wings made Parise an offer on July 1, they didn’t hear back from him until July 4, when he informed them that they were out of the running.
It’s believed that Suter was really considering Detroit and wasn’t just using the Wings to get the contract he was really seeking elsewhere.
Shane Doan, like Parise, could be using the Wings. Reports persist that Phoenix has the coin to keep him locked up in the desert and he doesn’t want to leave Arizona.
You can’t blame any player for manipulating the Wings. It’s a business and the Red Wings have far more urgent issues to address than being upset that they were used, then tossed aside.
If there’s a problem that even the astute Red Wings have no answer for, it’s Father Time.
When Suter didn’t sign, it threw the Wings a huge curve because they thought they had a great shot at him and really needed Suter to anchor their defense. Because the Wings thought they were on Suter’s short list, they had to wait until he made a decision before they could address other major issues.
If Suter had signed here, the Wings’ major offseason problem would have been tackled. Once Suter decided on Minnesota, the talent pool had pretty much dried up.
That’s why the Wings have been relatively quiet. They have to figure out if they’re willing pull the trigger on a trade, hold their nose and sign a free agent they’re not thrilled about, or become younger, hoping they catch a break on one or two of their prospects.
There’s still plenty of time for the Red Wings to improve their roster. They will sign at least one veteran defenseman before the season begins, but that might be it. They could sit tight until the trade deadline and nab a star or two in a salary dump.
Anyway you look at it, the Red Wings are embarking into uncharted territory. They have money, but they will not spend it just to spend it.
They might hold onto their cash and go after next year’s unrestricted free agents class, which could include, Shea Weber, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
As the Rolling Stones sang “You can’t always get what you want,” but until last week, that had never been a problem for the Wings.