Expectations are high for new Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman, but he inherited what remains a rebuilding group in Detroit. The Wings are fresh off a 28th-place finish in the standings. It was thus no surprise that they steered clear of any big-game hunting to open unrestricted free agency. That said, they still had some cap space to ink a veteran or two to mentor the younger generation and handle some tougher defensive assignments. Valtteri Filppula fits that bill.
The Red Wings have signed Filppula, 35, to a two-year, $6-million deal with a $3-million cap hit. We know who Filppula is at this point. He can play center or the wing, he’s respectable on faceoffs, he kills penalties, and he can handle some second-unit power play duty. He’s still capable of chipping in a double-digit goal total, too.
Filppula essentially becomes insurance to keep the Wings from rushing their forward prospects such as Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno to the NHL. Instead, they’ll have to earn their way onto the team with their performances in camp. Once they’re up, a Filppula, a seasoned two-way forward who won a Cup in 2008 with Detroit, can offer some mentorship. During the second year of his contract, should the Wings not yet be playoff contenders, they’ll likely be able to move Filppula to a contender as a trade-deadline piece, as he doesn’t need to score to be useful.
It’s not a particularly exciting move to start Yzerman’s tenure as GM, but it’s a fairly sensible one, though a one-year deal might’ve been more prudent from a team perspective. Then again, the second year was likely the clincher in the negotiation.
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