Say Goodbye To...
The following are a list players I don't think Detroit should resign, barring an extenuating circumstance. I considered including Kyle Quincey but decided not to given what Detroit gave up for him (1st rounder), his age and RFA status and the uncertainty surrounding Lidstrom and Stuart.
This is painful to write. Tomas Holmstrom will more than likely retire this summer. It seems unlikely Detroit will resign a 39 year old forward who posted his worst points/game percentage since his first NHL season where he only played 47 games. Holmstrom has been a power play specialist for over a decade, pestering goalies and providing an invaluable net-front presence however the Red Wings power play was abysmal for much of this season. It may benefit from new blood and possibly a new strategy.
The Red Wings have several young players jockeying for a roster spot and it will be hard to justify resigning Holmstrom over giving the likes of Tomas Tatar, Jan Mursak, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson a true roster spot. Tatar is out of minor league options and must move to the Red Wings roster next season. All four have spent at least one season with the Griffins and have all had two or more stints with Detroit.
Of the four players listed, Hudler is the player I would most like Detroit to resign if I had to pick. He rebounded from a terrible 2010-2011 season, nearing his career high. He is a solid top-six forward but I think Detroit can find better options through free agency and/or trade. If Ville Leino's contract last summer is any indication, the Red Wings may be quickly outbid for Hudler's services. He was one of the few forwards who seemed engaged during the Nashville series but his inconsistency, slowness and diminuitive stature make me think Detroit can find greener pastures elsewhere.
One option I like to replace Hudler is PA Parenteau from the Islanders. New York and Parenteau have expressed a mutual interest in his return but hopefully he won't resign before July 1. If the Red Wings are able to sign Zach Parise, I wouldn't mind seeing Hudler return if there was no other equal or superior top-six option Detroit could afford.
I know Detroit will resign the RFA with the strongest Michigan ties on the roster but I don't have to like it. Abdelkader's most redeeming quality is the size he brings to the bottom six. He has relatively little offensive potential and will probably never rise above the 10-15 goal ceiling. He takes more bad penalties than Bertuzzi, Franzen, Ericsson and anyone else on the roster. His favorite seems to be high-sticking calls in the third period. The Red Wings have become more reluctant to part with home-grown, drafted players of late and will undoubtedly resign him.
I think the bottom six is going to be deeper and more productive with Helm, Miller, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Eaves, Emmerton, and possibly Nyquist/Tatar/Mursak. Abdelkader is bigger than Kirk Maltby was but not as efficient at pestering opponents and drawing penalties. He's not as quick or offensively talented as Kris Draper was and nowhere near the fighter Darren McCarty was. Mike Babcock lamented the Wings lack of scoring depth as the central reason for their early exit and the bottom six provided almost no support at all, although the loss of Darren Helm was significant. Abby isn't strong enough two-ways for me to see him as a true asset to the team.
Conklin is the only no-brainer of the group. After a shutout in his season debut, he turned in several awful appearances and was sent down to Grand Rapids. Although he performed better as a Griffin, he was still mediocre when he returned to Detroit after Howard and Macdonald were injured. Joey Macdonald has a one-way contract next season and will more than likely back up Jimmy Howard unless the bulging disc in his back doesn't heal fully by training camp. Even if Macdonald isn't ready at the start of the season, there are several inexpensive backup options in the free agent market that will be more consistent than Conklin.
A.K. Bennett, @MrAdrianKeith