Mar 28, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Detroit Red Wings right wing Daniel Cleary (11) passes the puck against San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle (22) during the second period at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency Updates: Dan Cleary And Damien Brunner

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.

Tags: Damien Brunner Dan Cleary Free Agency Mikael Samuelsson

  • the viceroy’s gin

    If Helm is healthy, don’t be surprised if the Wings move Andersson and another young forward for a Top 4 defenseman. They have a logjam at forward now, with more excellent prospects in the pipeline. They’ll have to address this situation now or later, and so don’t be surprised if it’s now.

    They have Abby and Emmerton to play Center now, if Andersson leaves. I like the kid, but somebody has to be moved, and he doesn’t project to be any sort of bigtime scorer or speedster, and will be a utility man, and obviously they have plenty enough of those, with Sheahan and others on the way.

    They need to be proactive here, rather than wait and have to have to waive a decent player later. Remember Quincey? That whole situation has been snakebit. A top 4 D acquisition now lets them move another of their D at their leisure later, for picks or prospects or whatever they need at the trade deadline. They need a F/D roster-balancing move right now.

    • Tom

      That’s what we thought about Franzen too. He played the exact role that Andersson plays AND was projected about the same. I think Andersson is a guy they really need to keep. Good size and speed and a really good penalty killer.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        I’d call Andersson slow, actually, similar to Franzen, only he’s not as good a scorer and playmaker as Franzen, who jumped directly into the NHL he was so gifted, which Andersson isn’t. If you’re speaking of Andersson as a “penalty killer”, then that means he’s a role player by definition, i.e. he’s a candidate for trade, because there are multiple other players to fill that limited role for the Wings. Sheahan will fill that role, perhaps immediately, and Emmerton and a healthy Helm will do so as well. Abdelkader can do it, as he showed against Anaheim with that shortie in Game 7.

        I’d rather keep Andersson also, but the fact is that to make room, somebody is going to have to be traded off this roster, one or more of the younger players, and the Wings are overloaded with centers in the organization. If somebody is enticed to take Andersson and perhaps one of the younger defensemen and Samuelsson for a Top 4 D stud, that would be the move to make. That would probably facilitate the return of both/either of Brunner and Cleary, if desired, in addition to bolstering the D.

        They really do have to rebalance this roster, because the situation isn’t going to get any easier as time goes on. They have too many prospects in the minors that have to be brought on. Some pruning must be done, like it or not. They have to say goodbye to some good prospects eventually, it’s just a matter of which ones.

        • Tom

          Franzen was projected as a 3rd or 4th line checking center. His first two years in the league he put up numbers similar to what Draper and Maltby had done in the past. He was also playing with players WAY better than what Andersson is playing with. That 2005-2006 Wings team was stacked. They dominated the league that year. I’m not saying he’s the next Franzen, but it would be much wiser to keep him over signing Cleary. Brunner is just a lost cause. They are not ready to sign him for $3.5 million after 1 season. Especially since the second half he really was invisible. It would be nice to keep him, but it’s probably not going to happen… even if they had the money.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Franzen walked directly over from Europe and established himself. Andersson didn’t do that, and is simply not in Franzen’s class as a player, scorer or playmaker, and so the comparison here is simply invalid. Andersson projects as a role player. He doesn’t have the speed or skill to do much beyond that.

            Andersson and Brunner/Cleary don’t play the same position, so they’re not in competition for a roster spot. Andersson is in competition with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Weiss, Helm, Emmerton, Abdelkader, Sheahan, Mantha et al. In other words, they’re overloaded at center, and hence his name should come up when a required roster balancing is discussed. And it has to be more than discussed, it has to happen. They have too many young players, with more coming up.

            Brunner may be signed yet. I’d imagine Holland would take him back for 3rd line money. Same with Cleary.