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Future Of The Detroit Red Wings Free Agents

Nine Detroit Red Wings players will become free agents this offseason, including captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who may retire. Here's an early preview of who might stay and who might go.

With Thursday's elimination at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings are officially in offseason mode and that means the team is going to have some tough decisions in the coming weeks. Notably, Nicklas Lidstrom will ponder retirement for a second straight year, which will leave Red Wings fans with knots in their stomachs until he decides. 

The Red Wings also have some other decisions to make as several players will become free agents this summer. Here's the rundown of what Detroit will be dealing with in the next few months. 

Nicklas Lidstrom, D
2011 Salary:
$6.2 million
The future of the Red Wings defense rests solely on the shoulders of the man known as The Perfect Human. He showed no signs of age or slowing down in the playoffs, but he's once again going to consider retirement. The club obviously wants him back, but just like last year he's going to take some time to make his decision. After the season he had, it wouldn't be too surprising if he asked for the same $6.2 million deal he signed before the season. Lidstrom also has a wife and four kids to think about, though. He's been playing hockey in Detroit for nearly half of his life, meaning he's missed a lot of theirs. 
Outlook: In my opinion, he's still way too good to quit. Signs point to him staying another year, but don't be shocked if he retires.

Mike Modano, F
2011 Salary: $
1.25 million
Modano's tenure in Detroit never really got going. He severed a tendon in his wrist early in the season that kept him out for most of the year and he was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs. It's was expected that Modano would retire when the Red Wings were eliminated, and it looks like that's what's going to happen.
Outlook: It was a gamble to bring him in, and the house won this time. Unfortunately it looks like Modano has played his last game.

Kris Draper, F
2011 Salary:
$1.5 million
Draper got some Game 7 action on Thursday against the Sharks due to his vast playoff experience and reliability defensively, but it looks like the last active member of "The Grind Line" has ground his last game. Draper was in and out of the lineup as part of the fourth line rotation throughout the year, and with guys like Drew Miller and Darren Helm his role is drastically diminished. He's still got a ton of speed in those 39-year-old legs, but Ken Holland has already said he wants to get some younger players in the lineup. 
Outlook: If he wants to play I imagine the Wings would offer him a 2-way contract, much like they did with Kirk Maltby. But there's no way Detroit will sign him for the same price. I think he'll retire like Modano.

Patrick Eaves, F
2011 Salary:
$750K
Presumably with Draper and Modano coming off the books, that will leave more room for a raise for Eaves. He had 13 goals this season and three more during the playoffs, and with more playing time those numbers should increase. He's responsible defensively and is a valued member of the penalty kill, a big plus in his favor. 
Outlook: Detroit will most certainly try and retain his services.

Drew Miller, F
2011 Salary: $650K 
Like Eaves, Miller was in and out of the lineup but was still able to match his career high in goals with 10. He's a valuable penalty killer and is a favorite of head coach Mike Babcock, which makes his re-signing all the more likely.
Outlook: They'll try to bring him back. With limited cap space it might be hard to convince him to take a similar deal.

Ruslan Salei, D
2011 Salary:
$750K
Salei was a solid defender through most of the season and came at a relatively cheap price of $750,000. You rarely heard his name called during broadcasts, which is usually a good thing for a sixth defenseman. But with Jonathan Ericsson in a contract year and Jakub Kindl itching for more playing time, it might be the end of his tenure in Detroit.
Outlook: If they can get him for the same price, the Red Wings might be inclined to bring Salei back. However, I think he's probably not coming back.

Jonathan Ericsson, D
2011 Salary: $900K
Ericsson looked a little lost at times this season, but for the most part he was markedly improved from a shaky rookie campaign in which he finished a dreadful minus-15. He looked much more comfortable in his own zone and I found myself screaming his name in frustration a lot less frequently.
Outlook: Big, young defensemen don't grow on trees so he'll probably demand a raise, which could determine what Detroit does with Salei.

Chris Osgood, G
2011 Salary:
 $1.4 million
Osgood had another rough year on the ice, suffering a groin injury in January that ended up keeping him out for the rest of the season. It was a shame too, as Osgood appeared to have accepted his role as the backup to Jimmy Howard and was putting up much better numbers than he did in 2009-10. He picked up his 400th career win, only the 10th goalie in NHL history to do so. But he'll be 39 next year and Joey MacDonald proved to be a capable backup, making his return a question mark. Osgood says he wants to play next year, but it's pretty much guaranteed the Wings won't bring him back at the same price tag.
Outlook: If Osgood is willing to take a massive pay cut, the Red Wings will probably bring him back. At most, he'll play 20 games next year, and Detroit isn't going to pay $1.4 million for that.

Joey MacDonald, G
2011 Salary:
$550K
When the Red Wings signed MacDonald to a two-way contract last year, it was mostly to shore up their goaltending in Grand Rapids. At 31, he provided veteran experience to groom Detroit's younger goalie prospects, Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce. By mid-January however, it turned out to be more than just an insurance signing. With Osgood already out, MacDonald became the de facto No. 1 goaltender when Howard suffered a brief injury in January, and he played admirably in the brief time we saw him in net. If Detroit doesn't bring Osgood back, it will likely be because of MacDonald.
Outlook: MacDonald showed he can be a serviceable NHL goaltender, and he may look for a job elsewhere if Detroit re-signs Osgood.

Detroit also has several restricted free agents, including young forward Tomas Tatar and goaltender Jordan Pearce, but there's not a real danger of losing any of them. Grand Rapids forwards Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton are under contract but they're out of minor league options. There's no way either clears waivers, so Detroit will have to either put them on the roster or let them walk.

All Locked Up 
2021- Henrik Zetterberg
2020- Johan Franzen
2014- Pavel Datsyuk
2013- Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl
2012- Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall, Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader

Notable 2011 NHL Free Agents
Brad Richards (TB), Simon Gagne (TB), Sean Bergenheim (TB), Ed Jovanovski (PHX), Ilya Bryzgalov (PHX), Kevin Bieska (VAN), Alex Tanguay (CGY), Tomas Vokun (FLA), Ian White (SJ), Erik Cole (CAR), Tim Connolly (BUF), Michael Ryder (BOS), James Wisniewski (MTL)