The Detroit Red Wings are the closest thing to a dynasty that this hockey era will see. The Red Wings continue to put together a competitive team that is always a threat to win the Stanley Cup despite never having great or even a good drafting position.
Detroit is waiting to see whom they will play in the second round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs so while we wait let's look at ten bold predictions for their off-season.
10. Mike Modano Will Retire. Modano started his career with the Detroit Little Caesars and has now come full circle, as he will retire as a Detroit Red Wing.
The Dallas Stars dropped the ball big time with Modano, who should have re-signed their franchise player to his final NHL season. Modano played his entire career for the Stars organization and should have retired as a Star. Imagine if Detroit didnít re-sign Steve Yzerman for his final season or Colorado Avalanche not re-signing Joe Sakic to his final season. Itís the same thing for Modano.
Modano only played in 40 games this season due to a wrist injury. Modano will retire as the highest scoring American-born NHL player and finish 22nd overall in NHL all-time scoring.
9. Ruslan Salei Will Not Be Re-Signed. Salei was signed to a one-year contract last off-season and did a great job adding depth to the Wings defense. However the Red Wings are going to add some youth to their blue line this off-season, making Salei the odd man out.
Salei has played 13 seasons in the NHL and with four NHL teams. His best season was with the Florida Panthers in the 2006-2007 season when he scored six goals and 32 points. At the age of 35 his offensive days are done but he can still add depth, leadership and a nasty side to whoever decides to sign him.
8. Jonathan Ericsson Re-Signs a Long-Term Contract. Ericsson is logging big-time minutes these playoffs and proving his worth. Ericsson finished the first round as the fourth highest defenseman for time on ice per game (TOI/GP), averaging over 19 minutes a game.
Ericsson has yet to show the same offensive numbers that he had in the 2009 NHL Playoffs but that doesnít mean he doesnít have the ability to put up points. The Red Wings have several offensive defensemen and havenít needed him to be offensive these past two seasons.
Ericsson scored 15 points this season in 75 games but if his 2009 playoff numbers are any indication of his skill level you can count on his point totals doubling. Ericsson scored four goals and eight points in 22 playoff games, at that pace over a full season would equal a 15-goal and 30-point season.
Ericsson is one of the key pieces of the Red Wings future defensive core so expect the Wings to re-sign him this off-season to a six or eight year deal.
7. Chris Osgood is Not Re-signed. Osgood is 38 years old and has struggled to stay healthy this season due to a groin injury. He played in only 11 games this season, finishing with a 5-3-2 record, goals against average of 2.77 and save percentage of 0.903.
Osgood has proven his worth to the Red Wings organization, playing 14 seasons in Detroit, but doesnít seem to get the same respect from non-Detroit fans. Osgood has 401 wins, putting him 10th all time, 50 shutouts (24th all time) and 74 playoff wins (eighth all time).
Osgood has always been clutch in the playoffs backstopping the Wings to two of his three Stanley Cups. Osgood has put up hall of fame numbers and has the Cups to back it up but likely wonít get a sniff at the Hall because he is so underrated and unappreciated.
Unfortunately for Osgood the Red Wings no longer need a playoff goaltender but a solid regular season back up for Jimmy Howard. Age and injuries are starting to add up for Osgood who shouldnít be resigned by Detroit and could likely be done in the NHL.
6. Detroit Hits the Free Agent Market. Donít believe the speculation out there that Brad Richards will sign with Detroit. It wonít happen and doesnít make any sense.
Donít count on the Red Wings spending big dollars on the free agent market, as that is not their style. The Wings like to build their franchise players from within and use the free agent market to add depth and fill voids.
Look for Detroit to sign a third or fourth line forward. Players like Pascal Dupuis, Curtis Glencross, Tanner Glass, Boyd Gordon or Chris Clark would be the type of forwards the Wings would go after.
The Wings biggest need with be a back up goaltender so watch for Detroit to target a veteran goalie like Mathieu Garon, Alex Auld, Brian Boucher or even bring back Ty Conklin.
5. Kris Draper Will Retire. Draper has played 20 seasons in the NHL and has been a key member of the Detroit Red Wings for 17 years. Despite being 39 years old he can still out skate and check most players in the NHL, just look at what he did in the Phoenix series.
Draper is a workhorse who knows what it takes to win. Draper has embraced the role as a checking forward. He along with Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty were members of the ĎGrind Lineí that played a huge role in the Wings four Stanley Cups.
Injuries are starting to take their toll on Draperís body as he has missed time in each of the last three seasons due to groin injuries. This should be Draperís last season.
4. Tomas Tatar Will Start the Season in Detroit. Hockey sense and two-way hockey are key characteristic of any player who wants to play for the Detroit Red Wings and Tatar has both.
Tatar had a nine game audition this season with the big club and didnít look out of place. Tatar is very offensively gifted but he also knows how to take care of his own end. A lot of the same things scouts were saying about Pavel Datsyuk they are saying about Tatar; great hockey sense, incredible offensive instincts, strong puck handing skills and can play the two-way game. Tatar wonít be the next Datsyuk but will be a top six forward who scores 70-80 points a season.
Tatar improved his second year in the American Hockey League (AHL) and should start the new season on the third line in Detroit.
3. Brendan Smith Makes the Red Wings. The Red Wings donít rush their prospects and expect them to play at least one season in the AHL and that is exactly what they have done with Smith. However, now is the time for Smith to step up his game and make the big club.
Smith has tremendous offensive potential. In his final season in the NCAA Smith scored 15 goals and 52 points in 42 games. This season in the AHL Smith scored 12 goals and 32 points in 63 games, but was hampered by a multiple injuries.
At last yearís training camp Smith was fantastic, so much so that coach Mike Babcock stated, ďSmith has the ability to be a game-breaker.Ē Smith has already been compared to Nicklas Lidstrom and will take the first step by making the team this season.
2. Nicklas Lidstrom Leaves With a Norris. A long playoff run and a seventh Norris Trophy is just the way to cap off an amazing career. Lidstrom is headed to the Hall of Fame and will likely be known as the third best defenseman to ever play the game.
It is hard to believe Lidstrom is 40 after seeing the way he has played this season. He scored 16 goals and 62 points this season, thatís right 62 points at 40! After two seasons of point totals dropping Lidstrom bounce back with his ninth season with 15 or more goals and ninth season of 60 or more points.
After scoring 62 points this season why retire? Retiring now Lidstrom would be going out on top instead of coming back for one more season and possible having a big drop in points and play. Lidstrom is playing less this playoffs then he did in the regular season so this is the beginning of the end. During the regular season Lidstrom led the Wings in TOI/GP, averaging 23:28 minutes a game, however in the 2011 playoffs Lidstrom is sixth in TOI/GP with 19:34 minutes a game.
Thank you Nicklas for 19 incredible seasons!
1. Niklas Kronwall Becomes Top D-Man. With the departure of Lidstrom that leaves a huge whole on defense but Kronwall is ready to step up.
Kronwall has been the Wings best defenseman during the first round. Kronwall is leading the Wings in TOI/G with 22:24 minutes a game and in four games he has three points, plus-six rating, a power-play goal, six shots on net, eight blocked shots and team high 13 hits. Kronwall has been mister everything for the Wings.
Injuries will always be a concern for Kronwall as he has never played a full season but he did play 77 games this season. Kronwall scored career high 11 goals this season and has a career high of 51 points (2008-2009 season) and as he becomes the go to defenseman and if he stays somewhat healthy expect him to eclipse both of those totals.