Today I was going to work on my Detroit Red Wings team preview.
But thanks to the news from earlier today, that has been put on the backburner.
In case you missed it, the Red Wings have signed Daniel Cleary to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. Cleary had agreed to a three-year deal worth $8.25 million with the Philadelphia Flyers, but reportedly turned down the offer and took a trip to Traverse City to talk to Ken Holland and Mike Babcock. Both parties agreed to a deal and will sign the deal tonight.
"I just followed my heart and did what I thought would make me happy…and I'm proud to be a Red Wing." Cleary said.
Even though Cleary took a pay cut to return to the team he has been with since 2005, yours truly does not understand the reasoning behind Holland choosing to bring Cleary back.
First and foremost, cap space is the primary issue. The Wings are now $2.4 million over the salary cap, and need to get under that number by September 30. In order to do so, some players will likely be shown the door.
That leads into my next concern–who gets shipped out? The Wings now have 17 forwards under contract, but only plan to carry 14. Gustav Nyquist is the only player who can get sent down to the AHL without waivers, but that will likely cause an uproar among fans as Nyquist has played very well in Detroit.
Jordin Tootoo is most likely to get traded after being a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Trading him will clear about $1.9 million, but the toughness factor for the Wings will be gone.
Cory Emmerton and Patrick Eaves are the next most likely to be moved, which won't really move the needle, as neither has been very productive.
Other candidates include Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi, but they have no-trade clauses in their contracts. Tomas Tatar could be another option, but Holland would be better off holding onto him until the trade deadline. Whatever happens, someone is going to get the short end of the stick in terms of playing time, and some fans will be infuriated.
The third issue is Cleary's production. While he has scored 20-plus goals three times with the Red Wings, he hasn't been able to come close to his career-best in 2010-11 when he scored 46 points (26 goals, 20 assists). However, he was the second-leading scorer for the Wings in the playoffs with ten points (four goals, six assists) in 14 games.
The fourth issue, which should be the highest concern after the cap issue, is Cleary's health. Despite playing in all 48 games this past season, Cleary has had a history of knee problems, including during the 2011-12 season when he missed seven games after getting fluid drained from his knee. He later had surgery to remove two cysts from said knee.
It drives me crazy when general managers/coaches decide to keep certain players around because of a personal relationship between the parties. I have seen this happen way to often with the Detroit Tigers, but that's a completely unrelated story.
I want to make one thing clear: I have no animosity or hatred toward Cleary at all. I am just frustrated with the fact Holland, a well-respected general manager looked upon as one of the best in all of sports, would do something like this. It is probably the most I have ever questioned Holland's decision making.
But then again, Cleary has proven doubters wrong before. He originally came to the Wings on a professional tryout in 2005 after struggling with the Blackhawks, Oilers, and Coyotes. He would go on to score 20 or more goals in 2006-07 and again in 2007-08.
Should he make the team, the best expectation I can give for Cleary is for him to play a Tomas Holmstrom-esque role (bottom six forward who serves as net-presence guy on the power play). However, he might prove everyone, including me, wrong and score 30-plus goals and win the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Wings win the Stanley Cup.
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