Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding The Rails and The Hometown Discount

With a two-hour train tide ahead of me, I find myself with an excellent opportunity to finally talk a bit about Nick Lidstrom's future in more depth.  To my shock and amazement, I should even be able to have this available to you, the reader, immediately.  It seems this rail service has a wi-fi connection I can actually gain access to, which has been a rarity during my stay in the UK.

With time going by quickly as the Conference finals have already begun, the question looms ever closer: Will Nicklas Lidstrom retire?  Some say yes and others say no, but the one thing that seems to be constant is the belief that Lidstrom is certainly -capable- of playing another season should he see fit to do so.  The problem is, what must the Wings do to make returning to the team look like the more appealing option, and what is Nick willing to do to help Detroit make this run more successful than the last four?

As far as the team goes, it all comes down to making the Red Wings look like a true Cup contender.  Making the playoffs is simply not good enough, just being there doesn't leave a player with much sense of satisfaction unless the big silver bowl is lifted over his head.  The Wings' management knows what the team lacked last season and has the money to rectify this.  I think an aggressive stance during free agency will help show Nick that we're not settling for the status quo anymore and that changes need to be made to win.  If Ken Holland and the gang don't show enough drive to improve, they may drive away our captain.

Keep in mind that Lidstrom has played through an entire generation of Detroit Red Wings hockey.  Almost all of the teammates he'd played the majority of his career with have come and gone, the last being Tomas Holmstrom, who I believe will retire this summer.  How strongly this will affect Lidstrom's decision to stay or go is immeasurable, but certainly important.  Detroit needs to make a strong case by going after key players this offseason if we are to see The Perfect Human play one more year.

On Lidstrom's side, however, is another question: If Nick does decide to stay, how much does he sign for?  I feel the best option here is what's been commonly referred to as 'The Hometown Discount'.  Lidstrom made $6.2 Million last year, and I'm not contesting his deserving that amount for an instant.  I do think, though, that this number -must- come down next year.  If Lidstrom re-signs, if absolutely behooves him to help the team by offering up some of his contract dollars to help bring in bigger names to aid in what could possibly be his final run at the Stanley Cup.  I could easily see Nick comfortably signing anywhere from $3.5-$4.5 Million and giving Detroit more wiggle room to bring in a Ryan Suter or a Zach Parise, and reaping the rewards of his decision as he watches his team's potential grow.

Some don't agree with the idea of asking Nicklas Lidstrom to take a hometown discount.  I believe that we must move past the idea that to ask is an insult to him.  Lidstrom has earned his keep, again I am not disputing this, but this is about more than Lidstrom now.  The more money he takes at the contract table, the more he handcuffs his own team and makes it more difficult for them to improve as a whole.  Considering the fact that Lidstrom would only be returning if he felt Detroit had a legitimate chance to play for the Cup, it seems counter-productive to sign a similar contract to the one that just ended.

Perhaps you think I'm way off base, though.  What do you think? Should Nicklas Lidstrom take a 'Hometown Discount' and drop a couple million off his salary to help his team improve? Feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts on the matter.