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The Winged wheel seeks a tire change

by Ryan Hammond

The Red Wings’ waiting game is over, and the result was as many expected.

Jiri Hudler will likely return to the Wings… if he ever returns to the NHL. The KHL retains its stance that restricted free agents (even if they file for arbitration) are free to leave for Russia, and the NHL still stands in opposition. This conflict is underscored by the fact that the KHL’s restricted free agents are forced to automatically re-sign until reaching the age of 28.

This is all academic to Hudler though. He will be paid handsomely in Rubles, and the Wings hope to compensate by signing Windsor native Patrick Eaves.

Eaves is 25, and still considered something of a project by many. He scored 20 goals in his rookie season, but is generally known more for his speed and defense than his scoring acumen. Eaves was a scoring star in the college ranks though, and Ken Holland believes there’s a chance to reclaim some of that potential.

Holland says the Wings are still looking to sign one or two more forwards, which makes sense, since they’ve lost three they were looking to keep. It would be irresponsible for Redwingsmix to speculate, so we’ll smirkingly repeat the assumptions of other writers.

George James Malik thinks the Wings will try for a center, with likely candidates including Vaclav Prospal, Manny Malhotra, Rob Niedermayer, Dan Fritsche, Jiri Novotny, or Dominic Moore. Meanwhile, Eric Fish believes Maxim Afinogenov, Mike Grier (Detroit), Todd Bertuzzi, and Petr Sykora are in the mix.

Malhotra and Grier would both be excellent options to replace Kopecky, though they’d also likely demand more than him in salary. Malhotra has a history of injuries too, as do Niedermayer, Fritsche, Bertuzzi, and Afinogenov. Prospal and Sykora are likely out of the Wings’ price range and both have been known to either sulk or shirk their duties. Novotny is often MIA as well, and Moore is a player who lacks both size and scoring talent.

August often brings slim pickings in the free agent market, but there are several marginal or questionable players who may have priced themselves out of contention during the prime early weeks of peak demand. This means there's still some talent to be had. The KHL doesn’t have the money or roster space to give outlandish contracts to all these holdouts, so someone’s going to take a haircut. For once, it won’t be Tony Amonte –he’s retired.


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