When bringing undrafted players to the NHL from Europe, the one-year contract can be a boon or a bust. When the Detroit Red Wings signed Damien Brunner to a single-year deal, it was more or less a tryout.
At 16 points through 19 games later, we can safely say that Brunner’s game translates to the NHL level. So now what do the Wings do with him?
A big part of Brunner’s effectiveness has come from playing with Henrik Zetterberg. If he were running around on the ice making everything happen by himself, then maybe Detroit has more of an issue getting him to re-sign a fair deal. But the chemistry between B and Z has elevated both of their games, so this is a mutually beneficial relationship.
That fact probably isn’t lost on Brunner, either. He has found success in the best hockey league in the world thus far. He currently leads Detroit in goals with 10 and is thriving in a top-six role.
All this is good news for Detroit and their fans as the team tries to make the playoffs once again despite a ridiculous amount of injuries. The hockey gods have conspired against the Winged Wheel so far in 2013, but have seen fit to leave Brunner out of their ire.
The bad news is that the Wings will now need to re-sign Brunner and he will be looking for a hefty raise over his current contract, which will pay him $1.3 million.
It may be a bit early, but Detroit could look to trade underachieving Valtteri Filppula before the deadline for help on the blue line. Filppula is making $3 million this season and his deal will expire along with the 2013 season. He’s always had promise, but Brunner has been cashing in recently in what is really a “what have you done for me lately” league–just ask Ryan O’Reilly.
If Detroit can move Filppula for the proper price, then this will free up enough dough to hand to the high-scoring Brunner. There are obviously several different ways that the Wings could try to free up cash to give to their third best forward, but moving Filppula may be principal among them.
Danny Cleary and his $2.8 million price tag are also coming off of the books at the end of 2013, so Detroit could just let him walk and hand that cash over to Brunner.