Right wing Johan Franzen, who had 56 points in 2011-12, is good for a salary cap hit of nearly $4 million for the Red Wings this season. (David Guralnick/Detroit News)
The Red Wings have a Red Wings way of doing things.
Across the great success of the team over the past 20 years, there have been no major shake-ups in the roster. The Wings generally add a piece here and there, often after long deliberation.
Prospects rarely move up quickly. The Red Wings prize patient development.
Any thoughts that a two-or-three-season period could result in a dramatic overhaul of the roster are inconsistent with the methods by which they have operated for decades. And with teams headed by Steve Yzerman and then Nicklas Lidstrom, they could afford to progress conservatively.
But as the Red Wings skate this season for the first time with no members of the 1996-97 Stanley Cup team that restored the glory of the franchise and four years removed from their last appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, they are a team in flux. By the start of 2014-15 season, about two years from now, circumstances exist that could dictate considerably more change than usual.
Three provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement, expected to be ratified by the players association on Saturday, along with the expiration of contracts with a raft of current players, provide the Wings a means to completely remake the roster, and quickly.
First, under the new CBA, each team would have the opportunity, beginning with the end of the current season and lasting until the start of the 2014-15 season, to jettison two players signed to contracts.
The so-called amnesty buyouts would cost two-thirds of the remaining amount of the deal, paid over twice the length of the contract, and the payments would not apply to the team's salary cap.
That would free up both two roster positions and several millions of dollars in cap space.
Second, as is the case in Major League Baseball, teams would be able to retain a portion of a player's salary when they trade him. That new provision would make some previously unappealing trades suddenly eye-catching.
Spike in trades forecast
The restrictions are: No more than 50 percent of a salary can be absorbed, a team can retain salaries of only three traded players at any time and the total charge against the cap can't exceed 15 percent.
Regardless, the salary retention provision is expected to spur a spike in the number of trades league-wide.
Third, the $70.2 million salary cap for the coming season declines to $64.3 for 2013-14 with the probability of almost exactly the same cap for 2014-15.
With a total cap hit of about $61 million in the coming season, the Red Wings are in a position to make a move or two. And with many other teams considerably closer to the cap, they will be far more willing to relinquish players to create space, especially at this coming trade deadline, which is presumed to be in early April.
In addition to the increased flexibility from the new CBA, the Wings have a lot of unrestricted free agents over the next two seasons. They can keep all, or none.
After this season, Damien Brunner ($1.35 million cap hit), Daniel Cleary ($2.5 million), Valtteri Filppula ($3 million), Jimmy Howard ($2.25 million), Drew Miller ($837,500) and Ian White ($2.88 million) are all unrestricted.
After 2013-14, Todd Bertuzzi ($2 million), Carlo Colaiacovo ($2.5 million), Pavel Datysuk ($6.7 million), Patrick Eaves ($1.2 million), Jonathan Ericsson ($3.25 million), Jonas Gustavsson ($1.5 million), Kyle Quincey ($3.8 million) and Mikael Samuelsson ($3 million) are all unrestricted.
Ready to adjust
It all adds up to a lot of options and opportunities for the Red Wings' brass.
Given their roster, cap space and the recent departure of players who were critical to their Stanley Cup wins, many observers believe the Red Wings will be among the more active teams in the NHL.
Some suggest they are already kicking tires on Jarome Iginla, the great 35-year-old Flames captain, who is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and 26-year-old defenseman Keith Yandle, who is no Nick Lidstrom but might be the most talented young blue-liner the Red Wings could sign in the coming calendar year.
Losing Lidstrom and also Brad Stuart and then losing the sweepstakes this summer for the free-agent package of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter left a lot of fans unsettled.
But with plenty of maneuverability, the Wings, still considered by many to be in the top eight or 10 teams, could return to the pinnacle of the NHL quicker than some might think.
It is not the same degree of flexibility that came with the endless financing of salaries by Mike and Marian Ilitch, in the pre-cap NHL. And it might take Holland, his assistants Jim Nill and Kris Draper, and professional scouts like Mark Howe and Kirk Maltby out of their comfort zones.
But, in a new day for the Red Wings and the NHL, that might be precisely for what they are paid.