Post updates on your NHL teams Here! July comes fast for free agents! Here is what my Red Wings are facing this coming season! After having an extended break to let the dust settle following another disappointing playoff performance by the Detroit Red Wings, it is time to evaluate the roster and determine what the future holds moving forward for Ken Holland, Jim Nill and the Red Wing braintrust. Today, we will focus on the forward group. FORWARDS Justin Abdelkader: RFA Prognosis: The expectation is that Abdelkader will re-sign with Detroit and receive a slight raise from the $787,500 he made the past two seasons. Perhaps in the $1.25 million range per season. He can be a productive member of Detroit’s bottom 6 with the potential to elevate his offensive game by getting extra PP minutes if he can play the Tomas Holmstrom role. Daniel Cleary: 1 year remaining at $2.8 million Prognosis: Following a difficult season where Cleary attempted to play through a knee injury, a successful knee surgery and recovery in the offseason should see Cleary. When healthy, he would be an ideal 3rd line winger, who can slide up to the 1st or 2nd line when necessary. Although his no-trade clause is no longer in effect, Cleary is not a probable trade option for Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk: 2 year remaining at $6.7 million per season Prognosis: The expectation is that the Red Wings will pursue acquiring a top-line goal-scoring winger to place beside Datsyuk so he doesn’t have to play alongside Todd Bertuzzi anymore. Datsyuk turns 34 this summer and although still one of the game’s very best players, it will be interesting to see what he decides to do once his contract expires in the summer of 2014. My gut tells me he likely returns to Russia to finish off his career in the KHL, although the recent air disaster may delay Datsyuk's return to his homeland. Gustav Nyquist: 1 year remaining on ELC at $875k Prognosis: Nyquist was a pleasant surprise this season for the Red Wings, scoring 7 points in 18 regular season games, in addition to posting 57 points in 55 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL during his rookie pro campaign. Despite being held pointless in the playoffs, Nyquist contains the offensive skills to likely feature on one of the team’s top two lines next season, in particular if Jiri Hudler does not return to Motown. Riley Sheahan: 2 years remaining on ELC at $900k Prognosis: In making his NHL debut this season in the regular season finale, Riley Sheahan is fully expected to begin next season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. However, Mike Babcock is enamored with Sheahan’s size and skill set, making it a distinct possibility that Sheahan could end up seeing some time with Detroit. Patrick Eaves: 2 years remaining at $1.2 million per season Prognosis: Following an unfortunate situation when he took a Roman Josi slapshot to the chin in late November, Eaves is fully expected to recover and return to the Red Wings lineup next season. A useful player when healthy in providing Detroit depth on the wing, he also could benefit by seeing additional power-play time if Tomas Holmstrom does not return. His presence in the lineup should also help the team’s penalty kill. Drew Miller: 1 year remaining at $837.5 k Prognosis: Miller is coming off a career-high 14 goal campaign and is an ideal fit for this hockey club in the bottom six. Jiri Hudler: UFA Prognosis: Likely the biggest question mark up front on whether he returns to Detroit or not. Coming off a career-high 25 goal campaign, Hudler will likely be looking to cash on his biggest statistical year as he enters his prime (age 28). He finally cemented a spot in Detroit’s top six but I can’t envision a scenario where the Red Wings pay him the amount of money per season he is looking for. Jan Mursak: 1 year remaining at $550k Prognosis: Although he never seemed to get on track this season following his fractured ankle during the pre-season, Mursak will once again be given every opportunity to contribute on the team’s 4th line given his speed and forechecking ability. Henrik Zetterberg: 9 years remaining at $6.083 million per season Prognosis: Zetterberg had a strong second half to the season and was likely Detroit’s best forward during the playoffs. However, his play in the opening couple months of the season provided Red Wing fans with a glimpse at how bad this contract might end up looking for the Wings in the future if Z’s play tails off. Darren Helm: RFA Prognosis: Similar to Abdelkader, the expectation is that Helm will re-sign with Detroit this summer and receive a raise likely in the $1.5 million per season range. Mike Babcock did not help Holland & Nill any favors when he raved about Helm’s importance to his team’s lineup during his absence late in the season and again during the playoffs. Helm remains a solid option for this team as their 3rd line centre for many years to come. Todd Bertuzzi: 2 years remaining at $2.075 million Prognosis: After signing a contract extension during the regular season, Bertuzzi provides a solid option for Detroit as a 2nd/3rd line winger. Ideally, he is past the point of being a realistic option in the team’s top six. He still can provide value given his size, soft hands and shootout ability on the team’s 2nd or 3rd line at a reasonable cap number. Cory Emmerton: 2 years remaining at $533.3k Prognosis: The jury is still out on whether the Red Wings feel Emmerton is worth holding on to. Given his minimal salary, I expect him to continue as the Red Wing 4th line centre next season barring a substantial influx of new forwards or a trade. Valteri Filppula: 1 year remaining at $3.00 million Prognosis: Filppula is coming off a career year and puts the Wings in a vulnerable position moving forward as he is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Although Filppula played the majority of the season on the wing, he’s a natural centreman with playmaker tendencies. The Wings value his speed, versatility and well-rounded game. He’s Detroit’s best asset to attempt to entice a team if Holland looks at making a trade during the summer, especially considering his contract situation. That being said, my gut tells me the Wings do whatever they can to keep Filppula in the fold. I can’t envision his raise exceeding Johan Franzen’s cap hit of just under $4 million per season. Johan Franzen: 8 years remaining at $3.954 million per season Prognosis: Despite the disappointing performance in the post-season, let’s not forget Franzen was Detroit’s top goal scorer with 29 goals in 77 games played. Many might think his long-term contract would turn off potential suitors in a deal, however the reality remains Franzen is a power forward who has scored 25 or more goals in each of the past four seasons where he has been healthy. That being said, I don’t envision a scenario where Detroit parts with their best goal-scoring winger currently on the roster, especially given the likely difficulty in moving a player with 8 years remaining on his contract. Tomas Holmstrom UFA Prognosis: Holmstrom again remains a factor for this team with the man advantage by taking his position in front of the opposing goaltender. However, all indications seems to point to Holmstrom retiring. His quote shortly following the team’s loss to Nashville seemed to cement his thoughts on the issue. He does not want to be a 4th line player who is exclusively seen on the power-play. Unfortunately, this is what Holmstrom has become under Mike Babcock over the past season and a half. Thus, based on my assumptions, here is Detroit's current depth chart looks like up front: Filppula - Datsyuk - ??? Franzen - Zetterberg - Nyquist Cleary - Helm - Bertuzzi Abdelkader - Emmerton - Miller Eaves Mursak I think we all know who most Wing fans would like to fill in the question marks on Datsyuk's wing (a certain pending UFA still participating in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs). If that doesn't come to fruition, Detroit can continue to do what they have done the past two seasons in trying the likes of Cleary, Bertuzzi and Eaves as potential top-six forwards, especially if Jiri Hudler does not return. However, another option involves Valteri Filppula. In my opinion, Filppula and Nyquist are true "centers" that have been moved to the wing given their offensive abilities. Realistically, it will be tough to beat out Datsyuk or Zetterberg for a spot down the middle. The fact Babcock was so free in praising Nyquist's ability away from the puck and his defensive responsibilty leads me to believe that Filppula will be seen as the finest trade asset Detroit holds to try and bolster their scoring by finding a true 30-35 goal man to play the wing. The other aspect I find interesting is that you are seeing an increasing shift in several teams using their young talent sooner than ever before. Perhaps it is due to the salary cap being in place more than anything else. Philadelphia was a shining example of this with 8 of their top 12 forwards being under the age of 25. This is something that is in stark contrast to the Wings past and current motto of slowly bringing along their prospects. However, in seeing how quickly Nyquist has been brought up the system and perhaps even Riley Sheahan following in those footsteps, it might be a possibility Detroit is looking to go that route in the near future with some of their forward prospects. Only time will tell. On Friday, we will examine the team's defense.