They've held on this long. But how much longer can they keep holding on? That's the immediate question, as the Red Wings flew to California on Saturday after forcing a win-or-else Game 7 against Anaheim on Sunday night at the Honda Center. But that's also a question about the future, because the offseason decisions loom for this team even as it tries to extend its playoff run for another week or two -- or maybe more. The Wings don't have many pending free agents on the roster, but they do have a few, and none more notable - or mystifying - than Valtteri Filppula, the 29-year-old Finnish center who has become a lightning rod for criticism this spring. In this new-and-improved, salary cap-strapped NHL, where nearly every team insists its focus is a draft-and-develop strategy -- and where fewer and fewer top-tier players are making it to free agency -- Filppula's bound to be a player with opportunities to cash in elsewhere. The problem for the Wings is deciding what value he still has here in Detroit, where the former third-round pick has been a regular in the lineup ever since Steve Yzerman retired in 2006 and a regular in coach Mike Babcock's doghouse for a good, long time, as well. Filppula signed a five-year, $15 million deal after the Wings won their last Stanley Cup in 2008. But while he has played nearly 500 games — 41 of 48 games this season after suffering a knee injury playing in Finland during the lockout — he remains an enigma. As a centerman, Filppula is solid defensively with good speed and excellent playmaking skills. And after four consecutive seasons scoring 35-40 points, he finally emerged last season with career-best totals in goals (23) and assists (43) in the regular season. But then he mostly disappeared in the playoffs as the Wings made a quick first-round exit against Nashville. This season, he reverted to his old form, slowed by injuries, perhaps, but still seemingly reluctant to do all the things he needs to do to be a scoring-line pivot. Filppula finished the lockout-shortened season with just nine goals and eight assists.
Red Wings still trying to figure future of Valtteri Filppula
Detroit News | May 12