- Craig Custance
The Detroit Red Wings are fighting for their playoff lives, thanks to the resiliency of a certain team a few hours down the road in Columbus. But the concern for Detroit fans doesn't stop there.
Lots of questions regarding the Red Wings filled up this week's mailbag. Let's take a look at some of them and a few other inquiries.
I'm worried that [Pavel] Datsyuk won't sign an extension after next season.
Datsyuk has one year left (after this one) on his contract that will pay him $6.7 million in the final year, and there's legitimate concern that he may prefer to finish his career in his native Russia, playing in the KHL.
The two sides will talk after this season (NHL.com's Brian Hedger recently got some great information from general manager Ken Holland on the topic), and an extension can't be signed until July. The KHL has been used as leverage in contract negotiations since it opened its doors, and I'm sure that's factoring into the speculation.
The positive is that the Red Wings have plenty of flexibility under the cap and an owner who's willing to spend, so if it's strictly about finances, they should be able to make it work. This will be a situation to watch this summer. I can't imagine this is something the Red Wings want to drag out into the season, especially with the Olympics in Russia.
What do you think the Red Wings will do with Valtteri Filppula? He's a fairly young guy with all the tools to be a star but can't seem to put it all together. He probably could get a lot more money on the open market than the Wings are willing to pay.
Adam Kem, Toledo, Ohio
Regardless of the frustrations he causes Red Wings fans at times, if Filppula goes to the open market, he'll get paid. No doubt about it. There aren't many centers hitting the market, and even fewer in his age range (29). Keep in mind that he's represented by the same agency (Acme World Sports) that got Ville Leino a six-year, $27 million contract from the Sabres in free agency.
This certainly hasn't been a contract year for Filppula, but he's just one year removed from a 23-goal, 66-point season. Considering the lackluster free-agent class, the Red Wings' cap room and even the possibility of Datsyuk leaving down the road, I think Ken Holland finds a way to get this deal done. He has to.
This is pertaining to your Flyers article. I completely agree with your idea to not change a thing. However, I do think they need to reach out and grab a young defender that has already proven himself like Luke Schenn did. Kimmo only has a few years left. Andreas Lilja is going to Sweden and Meszaros is always injured. For instance, try and obtain Alex Pietrangelo before he gets his huge contract with the Blues or steal his counterpart Kevin Shattenkirk. What is your opinion on this?
Ben Hessler, Philadelphia
General manager Paul Holmgren would absolutely love to add a talented, young defenseman, but it's probably the hardest asset to acquire. The Flyers paid a big price for Schenn by trading away James van Riemsdyk -- who is thriving with the Maple Leafs -- and they went to great lengths to acquire Shea Weber, without success.
I don't see any scenario in which the Blues let Pietrangelo or Shattenkirk go anywhere. Both are restricted free agents after this season, but even with the salary cap dropping, the Blues have more than $20 million in cap space and are set up to contend for a Stanley Cup for the next several years. The best way for the Flyers to get a good, young defenseman this offseason will be to draft one in June.
Biggest question going into offseason -- Who do the Panthers take with the top/second pick? Would be happy with any of the three but have my fingers crossed for [Nathan] MacKinnon. However, he could be the most risky of the three. Could this be true?
Cory, Calgary, Alberta
I guess there's always risk when you're talking about projecting prospects, but if you're picking in the top four of this draft, the risk is as minimized as it's been in years. MacKinnon would be a fantastic pick for Florida, as he's future captain material in Sunrise, Fla.
If the Panthers pick first, it would be really tough to pass on Seth Jones, but I'd have no issues with MacKinnon to Florida in the top spot. Maybe the risk you're referencing comes from his performance in the World Junior Championship, but that had more to do with how he was used than how he played. If Florida lands MacKinnon, they're getting a franchise player to build around for the next decade. That team is set up to be really good in about two years.
My question is this. Why, even though the Kings are the defending Cup champs, they still get little respect when it comes to penalties during a game? Let's bring up the [Dustin] Brown suspension. I still don't get how you can get a two-game suspension when the guy coming into you lowers his head and your elbow hits him. No call on the ice, no suspension needed for this play. Do you see the Kings as a legitimate back-to-back winner? Who do you think we have to worry about in the playoffs out of the West?
Greg, Los Angeles
If it makes you feel better, I hear from fans around the league who feel the same way when it comes to their team and penalties. So you're in good company. I know Jason Pominville was low when Brown hit him, but I disagree that he lowered his head. And just because there's no call on the ice, that doesn't mean a player isn't guilty. I didn't have a huge issue with the suspension, especially considering Pominville's injury. You have to take that into consideration.
As for your question, the Kings are as legitimate a back-to-back winner as we've seen in the last several years. I would put them in a group with the Blackhawks, Blues and Canucks that I would be comfortable picking to represent the West. It'll come down to injuries, bounces and matchups. The Kings' struggles on the road concern me a little bit, but it's hard to tell if that had more to do with the weird season and schedule than any team deficiency. At the time of this writing, they would play the Blues in the playoffs, which is an awful draw for them. It would be a great series, but St. Louis is not a team I'd want to face in the first round.
Craig Custance dives into his mailbag to answer readers who raise concerns about the Detroit Red Wings' roster challenges, and he examines whether the Florida Panthers should select Nathan MacKinnon if they land the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL draft.