Saturday, May 26, 2012

What to Do with Hudler...?

I'm going to begin this little piece by saying that Jiri Hudler honestly did surprise me this past season.  Let it be known that I thought his stint in the KHL had wrecked his form beyond repair and that any strides forward he had made previously with Detroit had all been lost.

Then last year rolled around and we got a mostly decent 50-point producer who looked like he had begun to find himself again.  A perfect split between goals and assists with 25 each, had Happy Hudler finally gotten his groove back?  Perhaps he has, but we now find ourselves at a crossroads: Hudler's contract is up, and he is now an unrestricted free agent.  Now it is up to Kenny Holland and the Red wings brain trust to decide if it's worth pursuing an extension for Jiri or if it's time to move on and let Hudler test the waters of free agency.

On the one hand, as mentioned above, Hudler has made some improvements to his game and has relatively caught up to his old self.  His point production is back to where it was when he left and he's a more experienced forward now, yet he is still young at 28.  There could still be more room for Hudler to develop his game if he hangs around for a few more years, but if we do bring Hudler back, what do we pay him?  At $2.85 Million, Hudler had 50 points in last year's regular season, which equals roughly $57,000/point.  In comparison, Valterri Filppula--in what most would consider a breakout year--was paid $3 Million and tallied 66 points.  The average?  $45,000/point.  Many would say that we were forced to pay more for Hudler's services than we should have, and perhpas this is true, but let's look at Johan Franzen next.  In a very 'meh' season, Mule racked up 56 points with a $3.95 Million salary.  That averages out to about $70,000/point at almost the exact same output as Hudler.

In short: there -are- arguments on both sides as to whether or not Hudler is being paid too much or not.

If we do decide we're overpaying for Jiri and he walks, finding another team in the process, what is the Red Wings' plan moving forward?  Holland could either sit pat and simply move a prospect up to full-time roster duty, or Detroit could pursue a replacement during free agency.  Many rumours already abound with the idea of Detroit chasing Zach Parise out of New Jersey and into the Winged Wheel.  If Hudler walks, there's already a LW spot waiting for Parise when he lands in Hockeytown.  Suppose, however, that Tomas Holmstrom does retire this summer and Parise fills that spot.  Who else is out there that might fit in Detroit?  If you look at players comparable to Hudler in pay, then you get someone like a Niklas Hagman, who has never even breached 50 points.  If you're willing to pay a bit more, you get a Dustin Penner, who -has- had good seasons, but has dimmed in recent years.  Maybe with the right change of scenery, a player like Penner rekindles his scoring flame and plays at a level similar to what he's being paid to play at.

What do YOU think is the best route for Detroit in the case of Jiri Hudler?  Feel free to leave a comment explaining how you would pursue this issue with free agency little more than a month away.