The Detroit Red Wings only have four players who were NHL regulars hitting unrestricted free agency this off-season, and two have already been told they shouldn’t expect to be coming back.
The Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reported Thursday that Red Wings GM Ken Holland has told free agents-to-be Brad Richards and Kyle Quincey that he “definitely won't sign them before July 1, if at all,” which is to say that both Richards and Quincey are almost assuredly heading elsewhere this off-season. As far asthe Red Wings’ two other UFAs, Drew Miller and Darren Helm, Holland said he’s still seeing what the future holds for them.
Detroit saying goodbye to Richards isn’t shocking whatsoever. Brought in during the off-season on a one-year, $3-million deal, Richards was nowhere near as effective as Holland or the Red Wings would have hoped.
Richards was two-seasons removed from a 20-goal, 51-point campaign with the New York Rangers and coming off of a 12-goal, 37-point championship year with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he couldn’t find even near that production with the Red Wings. For the first time in his career, including the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Richards failed to eclipse the 10-goal plateau and he also scored less than 30 points for the first time in his 14-year career.
The thought was Richards would be an option at second-line center when he was brought in, but he was nowhere near effective enough to maintain that role through the season and he was even shaky as a third-line pivot. All told, he averaged less than 15 minutes of ice time per game. That held through the five games the Red Wings played in the post-season. Richards scored one goal in the playoffs.
As for Quincey, his departure comes in part because the Red Wings no longer have a spot for him and because there are decisions to be made in terms of the salary cap moving forward.
With uncertainty about Pavel Datsyuk’s future — though it appears he is done in Detroit — the Red Wings currently appear to have roughly $15.75 million in cap space for next season. This past year, Quincey earned a healthy $4.25 million and would likely be seeking to match that salary or earn more in the upcoming campaign. However, with Helm and Miller possibly staying on as UFAs, as well as Riley Sheahan, Teemu Pulkkinen, Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko, Petr Mrazek and several potential AHL call-up talents up for restricted free agency, the Red Wings need to ensure they have space to sign those they wish to retain.
That’s not to mention there’s a logjam defensively. DeKeyser is already a top-four defenseman in Detroit, Marchenko was a regular for the Red Wings and could be eying an expanded role, and AHLers Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Robbie Russo are all potential depth defenders with the big club as soon as next season. Considering the cheaper, homegrown options available, the Red Wings can afford to part ways with Quincey.