As free agency started yesterday afternoon, rumors abounded about which big name defenseman the Wings were going to go after to replace Brian Rafalski. Of equal importance however, was if Detroit would be able to retain key checking forwards, Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller, and Swedish defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.
The first of those questions was answered fairly early on, as the Wings first came to terms on a 3 year deal with Ericsson, worth a total of $9.75 million. The contract will pay him $3.25 million in each of the three years, and has created a fair bit of controversy thus far.
Ericsson has drawn the ire of some Wings fans in the last couple of seasons, as he has been unable to recapture his magic from the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. While Ericsson did make good strides this past season, they were not big enough to warrant the kind of money he is getting, but in the end this was a safe signing by Detroit.
This year’s free agent pool is strikingly shallow (especially on defense), which means that every player’s market value went up significantly. This mean’s that a majority of players are going to be significantly overpaid, because most GMs will be worried that they won’t be able to win over enough players, unless they throw a lot of money at them.
As soon as the first team does that, it skews the entire market, and that effectively made for a very strange day of signings yesterday. Unfortunately for Detroit, almost every defenseman they were likely targeting to replace Rafalski (Bieksa, Ehrhoff, and Wisniewski), was signed by their former team, or had their rights traded (and were subsequently signed) before the Wings even got a shot at them. Honestly, after seeing the kind of contracts that were handed out, it’s probably a good thing the Wings didn’t sign them.
Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10 year, $40 million deal with Buffalo, which pays him $10 million next season. Insane. James Wisniewski signed a six year, $33 million deal with Columbus, which is more reasonable, but still an overpayment considering Wisniewski isn’t as proven as his peers.
Rather than get sucked into a bidding war, and spending just to spend, Ken Holland smartly played it safe, and signed some known quantities. The Wings really believe in Ericsson’s potential, which is top four defenseman material.
The way things went yesterday, Ericsson probably could have fetched somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 million a year from another team, so the Wings may have actually gotten a bargain.
I will state that I do believe the Wings overpaid for Ericsson, but they minimized the damage, and if Ericsson should regain his form, he will be worth every cent of his new contract. The Red Wings front office has come out and said that they now expect more out of him, and that they want him to earn his new contract. Hopefully he doesn’t disappoint.
The next thing the Wings did was resign a pair of valuable checking forwards, in Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller. Eaves was resigned to a three year deal, worth a total of $3.6 million, while Miller signed a two year deal, worth a total of $1.65 million.
Both Eaves and Miller have proved to be valuable assets in Detroit, with their penalty killing prowess, and penchant for contributing offensively when they are needed most.
Eaves scored 13 goals this year, playing fourth line minutes, which is really quite impressive. He has scored 20 goals before, and his a proficient two-way player, who brings energy to the line up. He was a must sign player.
Drew Miller, while unfortunately a victim of the “too many forwards” scenario during the season, definitely made the most of his ice time. Like Eaves, Miller is skilled on the penalty kill, is a great forechecker, and creates a lot of offense for a fourth line player. The Wings will be glad they brought these two guys back at affordable prices.
Overall, these three signings were good for Detroit. They managed to keep forward pieces that they needed to keep, and were able to retain a defenseman that they truly believe in, at a fairly reasonable price (all are in their primes at 27 years old as well). Most importantly, Ken Holland kept a cool head, and didn’t get sucked into the inflated contract game that the majority of the league seems to be playing at the moment.