First, to replace Hudler I signed Nikolai Zherdev to one-year $1.75m, a slight pay-cut due to the fact that he is running out of options in the NHL, but I am willing to take a gamble on him. Also, knowing he would start the season playing alongside Datsyuk helped lure him here. I know a lot of people are sceptical about this signing just because of his lack of defensive ability, but let's be honest, was Hudler that much of a better defensive forward, hell no. And with Zherdev's offensive upside I'd take him in a heart beat, so I did. Put him on a line with Datsyuk and Filppula (two of the three most defensively aware forwards on the team) and not only would it make up for his lack of defense but it would help his defensive game watching these two guys working their asses off at both ends of the ice. Zherdev is more than capable of putting up 50-60 points on the top line with Pav and Fil.
You won't be getting Zherdev for less than $3m. As for the comparison to Hudler, the only thing Zherdev has on Jiri is speed. Put Hudler with Datsyuk and Filppula and you'll get 80+ points. And Hudler is a much harder worker and better backchecker WITHOUT needing to be "motivated" by playing with Datsyuk.
Connolly hasn't matched his pre-contract production during his two-year contract. However, due to contract inflation and the fact that his salary from this past season is $4.5, much higher than it was in 2008-09 when he signed his 2-year, $9m deal, he will likely get closer to $5m.
Then I went out and signed Tim Connolly to a three-year $4.5m per, to fill the void of a right-handed centerman we desperately need. I don't think it would be too much to think Connolly could put up 40-50 points in a third line role with Bert and Cleary.
Here are your forward lines, updated with Zherdev replaced and prices changed.
I have always liked Connolly, and would love to see him on the Wings, but realistically - especially looking at that lineup - I don't see it happening. That would give the Wings seven forwards priced at $2.8m or higher.
Valtteri Filppula ($3.000m) / Pavel Datsyuk ($6.700m) / Jiri Hudler ($2.875m)
Tomas Holmstrom ($1.875m) / Henrik Zetterberg ($6.083m) / Johan Franzen ($3.954m)
Daniel Cleary ($2.800m) / Tim Connolly ($5.000m) / Todd Bertuzzi ($1.937m)
Justin Abdelkader ($0.787m) / Darren Helm ($0.912m) / Patrick Eaves ($0.850m)
Jan Mursak ($0.550m) / Cory Emmerton ($0.533m)
Wisniewski won't be that cheap. He made $3.25m last year. Babchuk won't be that cheap. He made $1.4m last season. We're probably looking at $4.5m and $2.5m for those guys, respectively. So we'll figure that part in. As for the one-year deal for Babchuk, I don't think I see Holland doing that; if he signs a guy like Babchuk he'll go for at least two or three years. As for Ericsson, Babchuk would be coming in to replace him if he comes to town at all. So let's cut him out, and put in Doug Janik as the 7th, with Kindl taking Ericsson's 3rd pairing spot.
Then I went out looking for two solid right-handed shots, one that could chip in offensively and help out on the power-play (replacement for Rafalski), and the other to give us a little more depth and help out on the penalty kill (replacement for Salei). So I signed James Wisniewski to a four-year $3.75m contract and Anton Babchuk to a one-year $1.8m contract, two perfect replacements to help out our team and give us a little more balance and depth on the back end. No, I don't think Wisniewski is going to completely fill the loss of Rafalski, but he can definitely help us out. He's not going to make that first breakout pass like Rafi could and there's not too many in the league that can but he brings just as much to the table in my opinion. He's a slight upgrade in size but much harder on the puck and can clear the front of the net as good as anyone and is not afraid to drop the gloves. Not to mention he can put up pretty reasonable numbers, he's not a quarterback on the power-play but can defintely help out if paired with Lidstrom which I would do for the first PP unit. As for Babchuk, I think he is an upgrade to Salei and would pair great with Ericsson. Babchuk is not quite the same stay at home style defenseman as Salei, he is a little more mobile and has a decent shot from the point.
So we've got a solid unit of defensemen, but again more expensive than you were expecting. Wiz won't replace Raffi, but he'll provide some solid offense and good physical play.
Nicklas Lidstrom ($6.000m) / Niklas Kronwall ($3.000m)
Brad Stuart ($3.750m) / James Wisniewski ($4.500m)
Jakub Kindl ($0.883m) / Anton Babchuk ($2.500m)
Doug Janik ($0.513m)
Osgood will likely return as the backup, but for minimal cap hit. As for Boucher, he put up a comparable performance to Pekka Rinne, and significantly outplayed both Marc-Andre Fleury and Antti Niemi. He faced 30 shots per game behind a weak and ineffective defense, yet managed to lead the team to the second round despite his coach's refusal to commit to his top goaltender, and the other two goalies on the team playing terrible hockey. Boucher would definitely be my choice for a backup if Osgood were to retire, but Osgood has already made clear his desire to return.
When looking at the goalie situation, first Ozzie retires and I let Joey MacDonald walk. Now I'm looking for a decent goaltender for a reasonable price that can play 25 - 35 games when called upon. So I signed Brian Boucher to one-year $850k. Boucher is a decent back-up goaltender that can play well behind another solid goalie, he had a decent season last year but struggled in the playoffs when he was the number one guy. I think the pressure got to him a little but as long as Jimmy can stay healthy and on top of his game I think Boucher is very competent to play a solid 25+ games for us.
Well, there's your goaltending tandem. Howard should have a better year after the sophomore slump, and Osgood hopefully won't have a season-ending injury. Holland, of course, will sign a solid veteran like Joey Mac who is good enough to fill the backup role but will clear waivers, just in case. Unless McCollum, Pearce, or Larsson show that they are ready for the job.
Jimmy Howard ($2.250m) / Chris Osgood ($0.550m)
So what does this do to the final cap hit?
Well, it cuts pretty close, but still fits. So it's possible to produce your roster at the likely cap hits for these guys, but I don't see it happening. Unless someone goes nuts on Big Rig, that would be the first place I would expect a cap-saving move made. He'd get $500k or so less, if not more, so Holland would have a bit of flexibility he wouldn't otherwise have with only a minor downgrade. It's also more likely Ericsson is re-signed than Babchuk is brought in.
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $63,500,000; CAP PAYROLL: $63,492,044; BONUSES: $0
CAP SPACE (23-man roster): $7,956