Detroit’s veteran blueliner Niklas Kronwall is in the final year of his contract. Drafted in 2000, Kronwall has spent his whole NHL career with Detroit, lifting the Stanley Cup with the team in 2008. Despite often struggling with injuries, he’s been a loyal servant to the organisation and there’s not a fan out there who isn’t grateful for the massive hits he’s laid out.
“I’m not calling teams about him”
Which is good, Kronwall wants to retire as part of the only NHL team he’s ever played for, and fans want to see that too. What we don’t want to see is Kronwall get extended. In the same article Holland also talks about how Kronwall is a leader and role model, and how the team needs veterans like him to guide the youth. Essentially making the kind of noises that end up a player getting signed for another season. You can’t disagree with the sentiment, and despite playing well this season, it’s time to let Kronwall retire.
The end of this season sees Gustav Nyquist, Thomas Vanek, Kronwall, Nick Jensen, Luke Witkowski and Jimmy Howard become unrestricted free agents, so cap space is going to be precious. So of the above list, who does Holland try to keep?
The goose will be loose at the end of the season, but Detroit should hold onto the Swede for a little longer. He’s on target for a career high season and probably won’t command too high a cap hit when negotiating a new contract. That said, the Red Wings are rebuilding and if the cap hit is too much, I wouldn’t be heartbroken to take a decent prospect or selection of draft picks instead.
Kronwall might not be the only retiree at the end of the season, Vanek is 35 now and is unlikely to be offered another contract. He also has a no trade clause so can’t be bounced in the transfer window.
Jensen is a tricky one to judge, his first two seasons were mediocre. This season has been much better though, despite being mostly a stay-at-home defenseman, Jensen has already equalled his points total for last season and his defensive pairing with Danny DeKeyser seems to be working pretty well. Jensen will also be relatively cheap to recontract. An important consideration for a team struggling to find cap space.
In September 2018, Witkowski was placed on waivers by the Red Wings, but despite clearing waivers was never assigned to the AHL. Injuries on the big team’s roster allowed Witkowski to hold onto his place in Detroit. It can’t be denied that the Michigan Native puts a shift in, but his future doesn’t lay in the Motor City.
Jimmy Howard will be a Red Wing for the rest of his life.