GM Ken Holland and his staff have long been known as some of the smartest folks in hockey and in signing center Frans Nielsen, they may have struck again. Detroit just handed him a six-year deal worth $31.5 million, or $5.25 million per season.
Nielsen, formerly of the New York Islanders, is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and has been for several years. His defensive work is excellent, he can play in all situations and he's also good for about 50 points a year. For a Detroit team that just said goodbye to Pavel Datsyuk, this is a welcome addition. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not comparing Nielsen to Datsyuk, especially in terms of prime year contributions, but if you're the Red Wings, looking at 2016-17 and beyond, Nielsen's a nice add. At 32, he's not exactly heading into his prime years, but the Danish national doesn't play the sort of game that would wear him down too quickly. He's also a solid possession player, despite starting more than 35 per cent of his shifts in the defensive zone this past season. For a Detroit team that is still running that incredible post-season streak (now at 25 seasons), getting some new blood is key, particularly with Datsyuk off to the KHL (by way of Arizona, technically). Dylan Larkin is on the upswing, while Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou have potential, but otherwise the forwards corps could use some new blood. Swapping Nielsen for Datsyuk improves things five years, at least.
WHAT ADVANCED STATS SAY: f Denmark had their own version of a Swiss Army knife, it would be Frans Nielsen. He does a lot of things really well and is an extremely versatile player. Name the situation, and Nielsen can play it. He’s great in both zones, especially on the defensive end, he can kill penalties and he’s very effective on the powerplay. Very underrated, but – and it’s a big but – giving a 32 year old six years is crazy. Detroit isn’t getting this version of Nielsen, they’re getting a worse one, and paying a premium for it. He’ll age better than someone who’s more physical, but this deal will be an albatross one day.
By Dominik Luszczyszyn