What if a carrot was in charge of the Wings’ offseason?

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:00 am by Scott Maxwell

I was feeling a bit nostalgic the other day, and was looking at a classic article at Pension Plan Puppets, looking back at the Toronto Maple Leafs 2013 free agency day, and deciding who had a better day: Dave Nonis, the Leafs GM at the time, or a potato?

And that got me thinking: what if I applied the same logic to Ken Holland’s offseason this year? While maybe not as many historically bad moves, it was an offseason with it’s fair share of bad moves, and has many wondering whether this may be the end of the Wings playoff streak. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to our challenger to Ken Holland, the carrot.

Like the potato, the carrot will be held to similar standards:

  • The carrot cannot extend the Wings UFAs, or sign free agent UFAs.
  • The carrot must also re-sign every RFA to twice their previous AAV, and only for one year.
  • Also, the carrot can’t undo trades, which means that the Wings still have Dylan Sadowy and they still traded Pavel Datsyuk.

To save time, I will only discuss the NHL relevant deals, so no AHL depth signings will be applied, as the cap saving is irrelevant.

So, how did both of our GMs do?

Drew Miller – The first significant signing of the offseason (sorry Tomas Nosek), Holland re-signed Miller to a one year, $1.025 million contract, because you got have that useless fourth line grinder who’s good on the penalty kill. Since Miller was a pending UFA, the carrot can’t sign him, saving the Wings a roster spot, and $1.025 million in cap space.

Alexey Marchenko – Holland’s first move of July 1st, he re-signed Marchenko to a two year, $1.45 million contract. The potato re-signed him to a cap hit of $1,333,332, double his entry level cap hit of $666,666, saving the Wings $116,668.

Darren Helm – The other pre-noon move for the Wings, Holland re-signed Darren Helm to a five year contract, with an AAV of $3.85 million. While the cap hit wasn’t an issue, the term was, so the contract wasn’t well received by everyone. Helm was also going to free agency, so the carrot did not sign him, saving the Wings the $3.85 million.

Frans Nielsen – The first big free agent signing, the Red Wings signed Frans Nielsen to a six year contract with a cap hit of $5.25 million. Nielsen was acquired in an attempt to replace Datsyuk as much as possible, although he was Detroit’s plan B to Steven Stamkos. The carrot did not sign Nielsen, as it is not a sentient being, saving the Wings $5.25 million.

Thomas Vanek – Vanek was bought out after a couple of lackluster seasons in Minnesota, so Holland figured he would take a shot on the 32 year old, in hopes that he’ll perhaps rebound with a bit less pressure, and signed him to a one year, $2.6 million contract. Like Nielsen, the carrot didn’t sign Vanek, so the Wings save $2.6 million.

Steve Ott – The final of Holland’s July 1st big free agent signings, he signed Ott to a one year, $800,000 contract. While the contract is good, the fact that he is taking a roster spot from a young guy isn’t good for the development of guys like Jurco, Pulkkinen, Athanasiou, or Mantha. The carrot didn’t sign him, giving the Wings the extra spot in the lineup.

Kyle Quincey – Twice a Red Wing, Quincey’s four year tenure came to an end this season, as Holland elected to not re-sign him (so far), considering the fact that three of the Wings defensemen from the AHL are waiver eligible this season. The carrot let him walk as well, because even though it is incapable of thought, it still knows that re-signing Quincey is a bad idea. This move also signifies the first time thus far that Holland has saved as much cap space on a move as the carrot. Next, he might even save MORE cap space. Baby steps, Kenny.

Brad Richards – Richards retired, so neither Holland or the carrot could re-sign him.

Teemu Pulkkinen – With July 1st long gone, Holland started to focus on the RFAs, first by re-signing Pulkkinen to a one year, $812,500 contract. The potato doubled Pulkkinen’s original salary, giving him a $1.47 million contract. Holland saves money for the first time, with a solid $657,500 extra in the bank.

Luke Glendening – Holland continued his tradition of signing players to undeserved term contracts when he re-signed Glendening to a four year, $1.8 million per year contract. The carrot extended him to a one year, $1,256,666 contract, because even the carrot knows that giving term to depth players is stupid. The carrot saves the Wings $543,334.

Mitch Callahan – While not a huge move, Callahan is a depth player who could replace someone in case of injury, or in the case of the carrot, a lack of players. Holland gave him the same contract as last year, a one year, $600K contract. The carrot’s negotiation skills (or lack thereof) are beginning to show, as he gives Mitch a $1.2 million cap hit.

Danny DeKeyser – Now begins the two biggest RFAs for the Wings, DeKeyser and Mrazek. Holland locked up DeKeyser long term, giving him a six year contract with a $5 million cap hit. The carrot got him at a slightly better price, $4,375,000, but at the expense of five more years on his contract. Whether you think it’s a good idea to lock up DeKeyser long term or not will probably determine who you think came out better in this one, but the carrot saved the team $625,000.

Petr Mrazek – The other key RFA the Wings needed to sign, Mrazek was a tough decision as to whether or not he should be locked up or not. After all, the last goalie they locked up is currently stuck on their roster in Jimmy Howard. Holland settled for a bridge deal, giving Mrazek a two year contract with a $4 million AAV. The carrot took the option of one less year to really save money, as he got Mrazek for $1.475 million, a whole $2.525 million in savings.

Now, it’s time for a quick comparison of the two teams, to see who truly fared better. Please note that these are depth charts, not projected lineups, so that’s why I have Glendening ahead of Athanasiou.

holland depth chart

Well, as you all know, Ken Holland has a bit of a problem. He has 26 players that he has to become 23, and the only player who is waiver eligible is Athanasiou (assuming that Holland doesn’t want to risk losing anyone on waivers, including Ott). He’s also almost $5 million above the cap, although he will be $1,384,087 under the cap once Franzen and Vitale go to LTIR. Also, there are no roster spots for the team’s youth, so it’s another year of wasting away developing in the minors.

carrot depth chart

The carrot also had a slight roster problem, as it had to call up Mantha and Callahan (darn) in order to have the proper number of forwards, unless a couple of Detroit’s blueliners wanted to play forward.
 Aside from that, the carrot has almost no issues. It has plenty of cap space, and it stays under the NHL roster limit, so it doesn’t HAVE to send down Ouellet, Jensen, and Sproul, although one may have to go down if it wants a 13th forward. It don’t even need to put Franzen and Vitale on LTIR, unless it makes some more moves (except it can’t, because it’s a carrot). Finally, it has spots in the lineup for younger players, so the Wings can develop for the future. The only issue is that the team might be slightly worse, only because they don’t have an adequate replacement for Datsyuk, and DeKeyser isn’t locked up long term, but that’s about it.

So, depending on what you wanted the team to do this season will depend on which GM you thought did better. If you encourage mediocrity and extending the playoff streak on very slim odds, Ken Holland is your man. But if you encourage falling off a bit in order to be better in the future, the carrot is your object.

Now that both cases have been made, who’s smarter: Ken Holland or the carrot?

All cap info provided by NHL Numbers.com