Update (8:17 PM): Just realized I left a hole in this post: if Lilja can’t make it back in a meaningful way, the Wings will only be about $650,000 over the cap, which means Leino’s the most likely odd-man out. The question becomes much, much easier in that case.
Easy’s good, but I can’t hope for that. I want Lilja to get back to hockey. Weber’s fists can’t be the way he goes out. - Matt
So, according to Ken Daniels last night, the Wings will be about $1.9 million over the cap assuming everyone comes back with no further injuries to anyone else.
That may be a big assumption on Lilja’s part, as he still has to prove he can take the daily grind of being a hockey player again. The projected conditioning stint in Grand Rapids is going to be hugely important and the Wings are going to have to make a decision based on a scant two weeks. Not a whole lot to go on.
Just for fun, let’s assume Lilja’s going to be healthy and everyone else is going to come back. No more injuries. Isn’t that a fun fantasy?
The Wings need to ship off some cap space, either through waivers or a trade. And I tend to agree with Daniels’ analysis that they won’t be looking to move defensemen. You can’t have too much depth at D and the guys everyone talks about, Lebda and Meech, are dirt cheap. That means two things: their movement won’t mean much and they’re a steal.
And we have a couple guys in Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves that no one wants to see shafted.Â So we’re looking at forwards, but, I hope, not those two.
May’s a given, I would think. But he’s only pulling in $481,865. More guys have to go. Some possibilities:
May ($481,865) + Maltby ($883,333) + Leino ($800,000) = $2,165,198. (Roster: 22)
This one bothers me. I don’t care about May and Leino, who have been busts by just about any definition. Leino’s upside would normally make dumping him tough, but he’s shown so little promise in delivering that upside that I’m not attached to him in any way. I like May on a personal level and thing he’s great in front of a camera with a mic in his face. But other than that, he’s dead weight on this team. So no problems there.
It’s, predictably, the Maltby part of the equation that gets me. Maltby is a shadow of his former self. He’s no longer so integral on the PK and is nowhere near the SHed threat he once was. He’s a fourth liner at best these days. But he’s Kirk Maltby and he’s put in years of service for an organization that values that above little else. I would hate to see his career ended on anyone’s terms but his. And it should end with him as a Red Wing.
The math may work here, but if that’s not bad math, I don’t know what is. I know this is a business, but I don’t want to see the Wings become the Tigers and make decisions like that with so little regard for loyalty and character. They’ve painstakingly built a reputation as a team that takes care of its people. I think they value that reputation quite highly, given the return on investment they’ve seen, so I’d be fairly shocked if they unceremoniously dumped Maltby off.
On a tangently-related sidenote, some of my attitude over the Osgood/Howard situation comes from being surprised an organization with such a reputation of even-handedness in the veteran-to-new-guy transition has been so heavy-handed in this scenario. Anyway. Update: By the way, I’m not trying to start another Osgood/Howard debate here. My focus is the cap situation. Unfortunate toss-away comment on my part. - Matt
May ($481,865) + Jason Williams ($1.5 million) = $1,981,465 (Roster: 23)
This would slide the Wings in just under the cap, presumably. And at first glance, isn’t likely. Williams is meant to be a top six guy on this team, you say. True. But they went without him for nearly half a season. You might respond that the Wings didn’t exactly tear it up in his absence, so maybe they need him. I’d say I doubt the absence of Jason Williams is the reason the Wings haven’t done better this season.
Think about it: which of the injuries was the biggest, accounting for talent and length (so, not Zetterberg)? Franzen, followed closely by Kronwall. So maybe the Wings win a few more games with Williams around, but I wouldn’t call him critical like those two. Maybe it’s highly unlikely, but this scenario has the benefit of the Wings already seeing how they might do without one of the guys. Not very well, you’d think, until you remember Franzen and Kronwall are back in the picture.
Maybe I like this scenario because I’m not a Williams fan. And maybe I like it because they’ve already traded him in the past. They may just do it again.
May ($481,865) + Leino ($800,000) + Lebda ($650,000) = $1,931,865 (roster: 22)
I’m sure this is one a lot of people could get behind. Not my wife, who’s a big Lebda supporter, but all of his detractors. This one may be the most likely, which is unfortunate for those of us (Megan and I, and some others) who believe Lebda can be a strong third pairing guy given the right partner (i.e. not a rookie). I think Daniels is right and that the Wings will try not to move a defenseman, but if they are, Lebda’s salary may make bring him forward in Holland’s mind.
May ($481,865) + Leino ($800,000) + Eaves ($500,000) + Miller ($413,472) = $2,195,337 (Roster: 21)
Yeah, this one’s a mixed bag, eh? Two players we’d love to be rid of and two players we’ve all grown attached to over the course of this screwball season. Two guys who’ve been bright spots through the crap. I hate this option. As I’ve already said, I want to be talking about Helm and Eaves for years to come. And Miller has really shown himself to be a great combination of incredible work ethic and surprising hand-eye coordination that has serious potential for some big goals over a career here. I really don’t want to see either of them traded or waived. Someone would claim them on the wire.
May ($481,865) + Leino ($800,000) + Meech ($483,333) + Miller ($413,472) = $2,178,670 (Roster: 21)
If, as I hope, Holland finds Eaves too valuable, here’s a possibility. Of the two, Miller’s likely more expendable. And if Holland decides Lebda worth of sticking around, Meech could get the nod. I’ve felt for a while that Meech is a bit of a deadman in the organization as his development’s seemingly been mothballed and he’s been relegated to spare part status when he could have been a Quincey-level player. But he does come at a bargain-basement price and that makes him a handy asset to have.
Chances are, Holland’s going to figure something out no one else thought of. That’s how he works. So in some days, this is a pointless exercise. But it’s definitely an interesting one.
Of course, it may turn out that Lilja’s can’t make it work.
What do you think?
(numbers via CapGeek).