With Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss coming in, it was inevitable that some of the forwards from last year’s team would be leaving. Valtteri Filppula is already gone, off to join Steve Yzerman‘s Tampa Bay Lightning, and unrestricted free agents Dan Cleary and Damien Brunner appeared likely to follow him out the door. It was a numbers game, both in terms of roster spots and the salary cap.
But hold the phone on Cleary. The consensus now is that the Red Wings want him back, and he wants to return. The Sporting News reported a three-year deal for around $8 million is being discussed. That might be a bit rich in both dollars and length considering his age (34), his bad knees, and the fact that he almost certainly won’t be playing a top-six role.
On the other hand, Cleary’s leadership and willingness to do thankless work like getting beaten up in front of the net on the power play are hard to quantify. The problem is that Detroit literally can’t sign him unless it ships out someone else, and possibly multiple someone elses. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press speculates that Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves and perhaps Cory Emmerton could be trade material, but the Wings would have to be prepared to take very little in return.
Cleary’s agent J.P. Barry told the AP there are “options” for Cleary if the Wings can’t make it work, but that “we’re in a holding pattern… because I think everyone is taking a breath this weekend.” So don’t be surprised if this drags on for a bit.
As for Brunner, Red Wings fans seem to have made peace with the fact that he’s gone from Ken Holland‘s latest unearthed treasure to expendable spare part in the span of six months. There seems to be a bit of revisionist history involved too. Yes, Brunner had trouble with the physical aspect of the NHL game, but he also got off to a rousing start and led the team in playoff goals.
Any team who hasn’t taken much of a dip into the free agency pool and could use some secondary scoring (Washington Capitals? Buffalo Sabres? Bueller?) would be wise to at least talk to Brunner’s agent. And they probably have. I wish him well, but not so much that he ends up making Holland regret letting him walk.