From the moment he began negotiating a contract extension with Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland steadfastly maintained he would give Zetterberg either big money or a long term, but not both.
Score another one for Holland, who managed to get Zetterberg to accept $6 million a season when he could have easily fetched $8- or $9-million per season had he put himself on the open market after this season.
Zetterberg’s 12-year deal is worth $73 million, but there’s almost no chance he’ll play beyond the first nine years of the deal. That’s because the contract was front-loaded, meaning Zetterberg will collect $67.65 million of the total in the first nine years of the deal. He’ll make only $5.35 million in the last three years of the deal, which means there’s a good chance he’ll retire after the 2017-18 season and the Red Wings will clear his $6.08 million off the books after that season.
That is, of course, unless the league makes another salary rollback demand in negotiations for its next collective bargaining agreement, something a number of GMs are convinced will happen. Should the players take another 24 percent haircut in the next CBA, Zetterberg’s yearly stipend would go down to $4.56 million after the 2011-12 season, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
The bigger question is, how does this impact the Red Wings going forward and can they still find a way to sign Marian Hossa after this season?
The answer depends on what kind of sacrifices the Red Wings will be willing to make to do it. And if they are ready to clear room for Hossa, look for the Red Wings to be in the unfamiliar position of being sellers at the trade deadline.
With Zetterberg on the books at $6 million, the Red Wings have about $48.2 million committed to seven forwards, seven defensemen and a goalie. Top prospect Jonathan Ericsson will hold down the eighth spot on defense at $900,000 and the Red Wings will likely install Jimmy Howard as their backup for $717,000. That brings the Wings to about $49.8 million for 16 players.
Assuming revenues remain the same this season, the salary cap will likely come in next season at about $56.7 million, but the NHL Players’ Association has the option of adding a five percent “inflator,” which would bring the cap to about $59.1 million. That would leave the Red Wings about $10 million to sign Hossa and fill the other holes at forward in their lineup.
If the Red Wings are intent on re-signing Hossa, it would almost certainly have to be to a deal something like Zetterberg’s where the player would have to accept less money and a longer term in exchange for remaining in a winning organization. Even then, though, the Red Wings would have to begin unloading salary, particularly since the financial picture for the league looks grim beyond next season.
Holland knows he’ll be unable to sign both Hossa and Johan Franzen. If he chooses Hossa, Holland may opt to move Franzen before the trade deadline in order to avoid losing him to unrestricted free agency in the summer. Or he might decide Franzen, who is second on the Red Wings in goals with 21, is too important for this year’s playoffs to trade and will keep him in hopes of ending his Red Wing career with a Stanley Cup parade.
There are other players who probably shouldn’t feel too secure in Hockeytown these days. Valtteri Filppula comes in at a very reasonable $3 million for the next four seasons after this one. Tomas Holmstrom has one more year left on his deal at $2.25 million and Dan Cleary is on the books for $2.8 million for the next four seasons.
All of them are reasonably priced and bring a championship pedigree, so teams looking for a good player with experience will likely be willing to make a deal for them. The Red Wings, meanwhile, will be able to fill their holes next year with the likes of Darren Helm (599,444), Justin Abdelkader ($850,000) or Ville Leino (restricted free agent).
But it’s beyond 2009-10 that will be of concern to Holland. Everyone in the industry expects revenues to plummet after next season and be followed by a drastic tumble in the salary cap. And if Nicklas Lidstrom wants to continue his Hall of Fame career after next season, he’ll have to be signed as well.
Or Holland could just accept the fact that Hossa is a one-year wonder in Detroit and move on without him.
But make no mistake, Holland is too good a GM to be backed into a corner, despite the difficult decisions he has to make. Whatever moves he and the Red Wings make will be on their terms. If Holland decides he wants to keep Hossa in Hockeytown, don’t bet against him making it happen.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.