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The Night's Watch in HBO's "Game of Thrones"
(Bradley C. Bower/Associated Press)
Damien Brunner: After the Red Wings signed Damien Brunner to an entry level contract, Mike Babcock announced that Brunner was already ready to play in the NHL. Many people raised an eyebrow. However, during the lockout, the other eyebrow came up in awe and excitement as Brunner joined forces with Zetterberg and the two of them have been putting up huge numbers and seem to have developed immediate chemistry. In 30 games, Brunner has put up 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points. Will he have to adjust to the physicality and talent of the NHL? Sure - but that's pretty damned impressive.
Gustav Nyquist: Nyquist has a lot of people excited. And those of us who were late to the Goose Party fell in love with him quickly in his short stint in Detroit last season. In 18 games, he did only put up 1 goal and 7 assists, however as a lot of people (including me) have noted, that was time spent down on the bottom lines. In Grand Rapids right now, he leads the Griffins in points with 10 goals and 19 points playing on the top line.
Tomas Tatar: Similarly to Nyquist, Tatar has been a source of extreme excitement for a lot of Red Wings fans and has shown flashes of potential when he's come up to Detroit. He only registered 1 goal in 9 games with Detroit, but he's put up more than 50 points the past two seasons for the Griffins, and he's second to Nyquist right now with 26 points.
There are more players waiting in Grand Rapids, but those are the big three. Brendan Smith is worth mentioning but with the Red Wings' currently thin defensive core, he's basically guaranteed a spot. There's Landon Ferraro, Joakim Andersson and a few others who aren't quite ready and aren't the bright spots that aforementioned players are.
Now, one thing to understand about the buyout - you cannot buy out a players' contract and then renegotiate and resign a new contract with them to bring down their cap hit. If you buy out their contract, they're gone to free agency.
Pavel Datsyuk: He's currently got a 6.4 million cap hit, and is signed up through 2014 when he becomes an UFA. He'll be about 36 at the time and probably well into his decline. Which saying Pavel Datsyuk is going to decline is like saying a Ferrari Enzo is going to depreciate. It's still a fucking Ferrari Enzo. It wouldn't really make sense to buy out Datsyuk, unless he made it clear he wanted to finish out his career in Russia. Otherwise, I can see him taking a noticeably lower salary for his twilight years to wrap up in Detroit and be an Igor Larionov to the future superstars of the Red Wings.
Henrik Zetterberg: Z has a 6 million cap hit from now until 2021. As I wrote before, Zetterberg is destined to be the next Red Wings Captain. If we were able to release him and renegotiate his contract to maybe pull in some new talent, beef up the defensive core, or sign a big free agent or make a big trade deadline acquisition, that'd be great. But we can't do that. if we release Zetterberg, he'll be signed in a heartbeat, and we need that heartbeat for the foreseeable Red Wings future. So Z is safe.
Johan Franzen: I have been a huge critic of Franzen. I think he's lazy. I think he lacks any kind of defensive component to his game. I think he's bursty with his production and his flashes of brilliant stick handling and amazing shot are that much more frustrating when he adopts his streaks of fuck all. Despite my frustration and hatred with that, he was 4th in points last season with 56, first in goals with 29. He was 4th 2010-2011 with 55 points, first in goals with 28. He can be a beast in the playoffs (when he's not suffering freak injuries). And at just shy of $4 million, his cap hit is really that not that atrocious for the kind of production he can put up. Although at 33 years old, the injuries can continue to stack up and the production will probably slack off.
So Franzen has to be on the chopping block.
Filpulla: No. He's had major years, found his stride and can be a huge contributor for the Red Wings down the road. Let's just hope he can come back from his knee injury.
Mikael Samuelsson: I don't know why the Red Wings signed him. He's 36 years old. He's costing us $3 million a year, and has a no trade clause for some reason. If you really want to know all of the problems with Samuelsson, just tweet Kevin and ask him. The thing is though, in his favor, is he's arguably a better skater, a better point producer, and a better two way forward than Jiri Hudler, and for $1 million a year less than Hudler got to go play in Calgary. But still, we're paying $3 million a year for this guy.
On the list for a buyout? I think so.
Todd Bertuzzi: Much like Franzen, I've been a very outspoken Bertuzzi critic. If I could have pre-Steve Moore incident Todd Bertuzzi, I'd be elated. But we don't have that guy, we have 37 year old aging power forward Todd Bertuzzi. Sure he's great in a shootout, but you know who is also great in the shootout? Gustav Nyquist. Granted, Bertuzzi is only costing us $2 million a year as a cap hit, but he's one of the guys who actually make us look old. And he has a no trade clause for the same unknown reason that Samuelsson has one. He's also got to be in the running for a buyout.
So what do you think? Is there anyone else who the Wings should consider buying out? Do you disagree with my assessment of any of the players? Should the Red Wings exercise their buyout at all? Let me know what you think in the comments or on Twitter.