It’s pure speculation on our part, but it appears that Johan Franzen is barely managing to hover above buyout territory for the Detroit Red Wings. His recent injury issues aside, there’s no denying that the man they call Mule has been a non-factor during the 2013-14 NHL season.
He has five points through 13 games played and is a minus-two on the year. It appeared that Franzen has returned to his normal, useful self with an outstanding 2012-13 campaign that saw him score 31 points in 41 games. As it becomes clear that the Wings can get it done without him in the lineup though, has Ken Holland had anything thoughts about cutting Franzen loose?
Trading him would be the better and preferred option, of course. It just doesn’t seem likely that the Wings could find a dance partner without eating some of Franzen’s contract. And therein lies the problem with Mule. He has six years remaining with a $3.954 cap hit, yet that is misleading.
Detroit managed to ink Franzen to a back-diving deal before they became illegal, so the final three years of the contract are for $1 million (the final two years) and $2 million. In reality, the Wings are paying Franzen $5 million a year, and will be doing so until the end of 2015-16.
Are they willing to continue to shell out that kind of cash for an oft-injured, aging player who brings a lot less of a dynamic to the ice than he used to? The Wings have several top-end youngsters that could prove to be top-nine forwards and power-play threats over the next few seasons.
Ask any Detroit fan if they’d rather have Franzen or Gustav Nyquist in the lineup right now, and mostly all of them would answer the former. Do a quick search on Twitter for the #freenyquist tag for all the evidence you need.
The one strike against the idea of cutting Franzen loose early is his presence in the playoffs. The days of Mule going on tears in the postseason seem to be behind him as well though. He hasn’t been nearly as good for Detroit over the last three years when it comes to clutch scoring.
With Detroit right up against the cap and kids chomping at the bit to get a regular spot in the NHL, don’t be too shocked to see Franzen among the buyout casualties this summer.