While I'm personally disappointed that Brunner isn't on the team, I'm not mad about it. The part of this that people ignore is what happens next offseason. Tell me if you agree with the following statements, or if they're at least in the ballpark of 50/50:
- The Wings will benefit from a veteran presence and additional Top 6 forward who can score.
- Alfredsson is a safer bet to be more productive than Brunner in 2013-14.
- Having $5.5 million in new cap space next offseason is preferable to the $2 to $3 million we would have as the difference between Alfie and Brunner
Yes, we signed Alfredsson "instead" of overpaying Brunner, but Alfredsson's money is completely off the books next year. In the NBA, an "expiring contract" is a valuable commodity. Teams will purposefully trade for old, overpaid players so that they get the cap room. If you think of Alfredsson as a pretty useful "expiring contract" who will help this year, what's not to like?
And the reality about Brunner is that wasn't Brunner vs. Alfie, or Brunner vs. Cleary. It was Brunner vs. Brunner's price tag. If I blast the Wings all season for giving a 3-year deal to Jordin Tootoo that isn't worth his cap hit, I have to be intellectually honest about the fact that I can't say with strong confidence that Brunner will be anything better than a 3rd liner making $3 million a year. He could be a 30-goal scorer and a steal, but there's zero guarantee of that.
Far more often than not, when the Wings let go of or lost a player to FA who has become overpriced, they made the right decision (Lapointe, Fedorov, Leino, Hudler, etc.).
It's a pretty safe bet that Aflie will still be "on the books" during the 2014-15 season given that his $2m bonus cap hit will be defered to that season instead of taking the entire $5.5m hit in 2013-14.