Making Sense of the Red Wings’ Messy RFA Situation
It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings have quite a few restricted free agents to sign this offseason – whenever that might be.
In all, Steve Yzerman will need to make a decision on 12 pending RFAs, including top-six forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Robby Fabbri and prospects Evgeny Svechnikov and Taro Hirose will need new contracts as well.
Yzerman will have about $35 million in cap space to work with if the salary cap upper limit does not change. It was previously reported that the cap would be between $84 million and $88.2 million, though the current COVID-19 pandemic, paused season, and potential revenue loss could change that.
That being said, the Red Wings still need to sign another goalie. Maybe a defenseman as well. They should also keep cap space to leverage as an asset later on in the season. So Yzerman’s RFA budget will certainly be less than the $35 million available.
So how much will these RFA extensions cost the Red Wings? Will Yzerman keep all of his RFAs? Let’s dive into each players’ scenario and identify what each contract extension would look like.
An Aside on Contract Negotiations
For just every NHL contract signed, there’s at least one person on social media who absolutely hates the deal and at least one person who loves it. This polarity sometimes sparks good conversation. But, let’s be honest, there’s also a lot of trolling too.
This variance in opinion reflects the fact there’s no perfect formula for determining how much a player should be paid. Should they be paid for total offensive contributions or for their ability to mentor other players? Or both? Teams pay players for the attributes they value, whether that can be quantified or not.
Then, there’s also marketplace supply and demand, recency bias, teams valuing certain attributes more than others (such as playoff performance, player size, and having played for a coach/general manager previously), and an agent/general manager’s individual negotiating ability.
As you can see, there’s a lot of context when it comes to contract negotiations. Keep this in mind while reading my *predictions* below and when Yzerman eventually signs these players.
Okay, now let’s get to Detroit’s current RFA situation.
Colleague Devin Little shared an excellent comparable for Mantha’s next contract: Jake Guentzel’s recent five-year, $30 million extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think a $6 million AAV is fair for Mantha and I’ll even add in a sixth year. He’s a burgeoning power forward who will be worth way more than $6 million per season in a couple seasons.
Like Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi is a core piece in line for a long-term extension this offseason. Tom Wilson’s six-year, $31 million extension with Washington will likely be a comparable brought to the table by Bertuzzi’s representatives. The two play a similar style and have had roughly the same point per game pace over the past two seasons. A six-year, $30 million deal for Bertuzzi should be agreeable for both sides.
Related: The Grind Line: Red Wings’ RFAs – To Sign or Not to Sign
After posting 31 points in 52 games as a Red Wing, Robby Fabbri is due for a raise from his current $900,000 salary. In a full season, the 24-year-old is a 20-goal scorer in a middle-six role. How much is that worth? Well, you can look at Kevin Fiala and Andreas Athanasiou’s two-year, $6 million extensions as a ballpark for Fabbri’s next deal. But since Fabbri didn’t have quite the same past performance as Fiala and Athanasiou, I’m going to predict a two-year, $5.5 million deal for the winger.
Still only 23, Christoffer Ehn has time to develop into an effective NHLer. A one-year, $900,000 contract extension will give him another season to do so. It will also allow the Red Wings to bury his contract completely if others beat out Ehn for a fourth line/depth role. That being said, the Swedish forward has some value, as he can play all three forward positions and contribute on the penalty kill.
Brendan Perlini, Adam Erne & Dmytro Timashov
These three bottom-six forwards combined for three goals in 100 games this season. That’s not good, though Timashov only played in five games for Detroit. The Red Wings will likely have a logjam of forwards next season and Erne, Perlini, and Timashov could be on the outside looking in. Chances are, at least two are non-tendered and given the option to sign elsewhere. If anything, I can see Yzerman bringing back Timashov and maybe Erne—who he drafted with Tampa Bay in 2014—on one-year contracts worth $850,000 and $1 million, respectively, to compete for roster spots next season.
Defenseman Madison Bowey produced 17 points for the Red Wings this season, which was good enough to place second among the organization’s blueliners. However, Bowey was also scratched on a handful of occasions, which begs the question: Is he part of the long-term plan? I think it’s worth a one-year extension to find out. However, the Red Wings shouldn’t offer Bowey more than $1.25 million for the 2020-2021 season.
AHL: Taro Hirose, Evgeny Svechnikov, Dominic Turgeon & Kyle Wood
To start, the Red Wings should qualify Evgeny Svechnikov, Dominic Turgeon, and Kyle Wood. This would be a five percent raise over their 2019-2020 base salaries. Their 2020-2021 AAVs would be:
- Svechnikov: $874,125
- Turgeon: $787,500
- Wood: $735,000
Since Taro Hirose’s qualifying offer would actually be less than his 2019-2020 total salary (with bonuses added in), he could reasonably command a slight pay bump. A fair deal would be a five percent raise from his 2019-2020 total salary, which would be $971,250.
With the contracts above, the Red Wings would still have $15 million in cap space available to make additional moves this offseason (or save for later). In addition, only Mantha and Bertuzzi’s new contracts exceed two years in length, giving the team flexibility down the road.
Better yet, the Red Wings will be primed for a big 2021 offseason. Then, they could take on a contract or two before the Seattle expansion draft and/or pursue higher quality free agents.
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