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Khan: How will the Red Wings determine Damien Brunner’s worth?

The Red Wings, Damien Brunner and Brunner's agent, Neil Sheehy have quite the pickle on their hands in attempting to determine what Brunner is "worth" in terms of both importance and monetary compensation thanks to what was an incredibly small sample size of his performance.

Brunner earned a total of $1.4425 million this past season, or at least 48 games' worth of said salary, and in theory, a 27-year-old who scored the 82-game-season equivalent of 20.5 goals and 44 points--or, in Brunner's case, 12 goals and 26 points over the course of 44 games played--should be able to command about $3 million, if not more than that, on the open market...

But the fact that he's played one NHL season and has had one solid playoff run is probably vexing both the Wings and Sheehy, as MLive's Ansar Khan suggests:

The Red Wings would be hesitant to sign him for more than $2.5 million per season, or for more than three years. Maybe Brunner can get a better deal in a thin free-agent market, especially at a time when goal-scorers are at a premium. But, is it worth it to leave a comfortable environment for a little more money?

“I guess I have to think about it in the next couple of weeks and talk to my agent and Kenny (general manager Holland), and then we’ll see what’s going on,'' Brunner said during locker clean-out day on May 31.

Brunner had nothing but positive things to say about his experiences on and off the ice.

“It was exciting and a lot of fun; my first NHL season and I get a chance to play with the Red Wings,'' Brunner said. “It was an honor to put that sweater on and I’m happy that it turned out the way it did.”

As Khan suggests, Brunner's fast, has a great shot and has a right-handed one at that, but that doesn't mean that he's perfect yet, and that may be the issue in a nutshell: how do you determine the "market value" of a player whose "upside" may or may not have been fully realized?

Brunner has good offensive instincts, a terrific shot. Being a right-handed shooter makes him more valuable to the Red Wings, whose roster is dominated by lefties. But, Brunner is not a complete player due to his defensive shortcomings.

Brunner appeared in a career-high 97 games between Europe and the NHL this season. Wherever he plays next season, he'll be better prepared for the grind.

“I hit a wall only because the amount of travel for me was tough to adjust to, and the time difference,'' Brunner said. “The good thing is I came back after that 15-, 20-game slump and played some of my better hockey again in the postseason.''

As Khan suggests in the balance of his article, the Wings liked Brunner, he adored playing for the Wings, and if the team's willing to keep him, he faces a very hard question (sort of like Drew Miller, but without the established NHL experience): should he stay with the Wings, or basically take his chances on a free agent marketplace whose buyers may or may not see Brunner as a flash-in-the-pan player?

Would somebody overpay for Brunner's services and give him a career-defining $20 million over four years? Sure, that's entirely possible, but it's also entirely possible that people will look at his incredible inconsistency (see: 2 goals after the halfway point of the season) and almost complete lack of NHL experience and say, "How are we supposed to invest a ton of money in a player with no real track record?"

The grass may be greenest in Detroit, even if he's going to earn a little less to remain in an incredibly supportive environment instead of being thrust into the spotlight as someone who has to deliver 30 goals and 70 points...But grass is green and money's greener.

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Comments

Ajax19's avatar

I like Brunner well enough.  I think he’s likely a better fit on a scoring third line and 2nd power play unit than as a top six forward.  I suppose that would make $2.5 million about the right price, if not a bit a high.  The Wings need scoring wingers.

It’s possible that a desperate team could offer Brunner Veille Leino type money - all it takes is one - and NHL owners and GMs aren’t really known for their fiscal restraint during the first week or so in July.

Posted by Ajax19 on 06/12/13 at 10:25 AM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

I think it was Shanny talking about Fed’s… saying “he wanted to be the guy somewhere, not one of the guys here”.
This isn’t the same scenario, but if the kid wants to be one of the guys… the decision is his. I’d offer him $2.5 a year for 3 years and not blink.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 06/12/13 at 10:26 AM ET

topshelf14's avatar

Give him Sammy’s contract for 2 years.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 06/12/13 at 10:30 AM ET

Avatar

http://sabres.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=568101

Really, I doubt any NHL teams are going to go $5m/yr for 4 years.  Maybe 1-2 though.

Someone might bite at 3.5/4m for 4 years but even that is quite the risk for what Brunner is.

Posted by neffernin on 06/12/13 at 10:44 AM ET

Alan's avatar

I like Brunner. He and Nyquist seemed to have decent chemistry playing together, and I for one would love to see more of that.

I’d offer him $2.5 a year for 3 years and not blink.

Agreed.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 06/12/13 at 10:50 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

If Brunner leaves, I’d miss his infectious smile and his “potential.” But his spot would be filled quickly, and effectively, by Tatar. Tomas has great chemistry with Andersson and Nyquist, and they’d probably be the most dangerous 3rd line in the league. And the $3M+/- saved on Brunner’s contract could be used to land a big scoring winger for one of the top two lines.

So, whether Brunner stays or goes, I think the Wings will be fine. The only negative outcome would be if Tick Tock overpays to keep him.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 06/12/13 at 11:06 AM ET

Avatar

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 06/12/13 at 12:06 PM ET

The problem there is that Tatar is expected to be on the roster next year as it is, in addition to Brunner and the fabled free agent signing, so having Tatar wouldn’t address the loss of Brunner.

I already expect that “we signed a scoring winger when we re-upped with Tomas” is going to be this off-season’s excuse if they don’t land a free agent scoring winger, and Tatar is only 5’10” and 186 pounds, how many gaps in the forward corps can he fill?

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 11:16 AM ET

awould's avatar

I would be happy keeping Brunner for $3MM. I hope they get it for $2.5 though. I think he’s still looking up at his ceiling and he’s a hard worker with a good attitude. If Filppula had those attributes, he’d be a 60-70pt guy every season.

Posted by awould on 06/12/13 at 11:23 AM ET

Avatar

  I’d offer him $2.5 a year for 3 years and not blink.

Agreed.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 06/12/13 at 11:50 AM ET

If that’s the offer then he’s gone. My guess is that for Detroit to be competitive in a resigning attempt they’re going to have to go $3.5mil per.

Posted by godblender on 06/12/13 at 11:25 AM ET

Crater's avatar

I’m okay with giving Brunner what it takes to keep him. I don’t think there will be a better UFA option available.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 06/12/13 at 12:11 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

The problem there is that Tatar is expected to be on the roster next year as it is, in addition to Brunner and the fabled free agent signing, so having Tatar wouldn’t address the loss of Brunner.

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 12:16 PM ET

I was talking about Tatar stepping in and taking Brunner’s spot on the third line, not his roster spot. That roster spot could go to either Miller or Cleary (preferably Miller).

Tatar is only 5’10” and 186 pounds, how many gaps in the forward corps can he fill?

Brunner is the same weight and just an inch taller. And from what I’ve seen of Tatar he’s just as fast as Brunner (maybe faster), but he plays a “harder” game. In 2011, Jim Nill said: “He’s the first guy in the corner getting the puck. He goes to the net.” He’s also getting time on the Griffins PK, something Brunner will probably never do.

So, as I said, I like Brunner, but I won’t be at all disappointed if he chooses to go after a big pay day and ends up somewhere else.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 06/12/13 at 12:50 PM ET

Avatar

That roster spot could go to either Miller or Cleary (preferably Miller).

But again, neither of those guys would address the loss of a potential 25-30 goal scorer if Brunner walks..

Brunner is the same weight and just an inch taller.

I was just going for humour on that bit, saying that if the Wings don’t re-sign Brunner they can try to use Tatar’s signing as an excuse OR if they don’t sign a UFA winger they can try to use Tatar’s signing as an excuse, but if they fail to re-sign Brunner AND fail to sign a UFA winger they can’t use him as an excuse for BOTH.

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 12:59 PM ET

Figaro's avatar

So, as I said, I like Brunner, but I won’t be at all disappointed if he chooses to go after a big pay day and ends up somewhere else.

I agree. I’d love the Wings to resign him.  I enjoy having him on the roster. I have every hope that he is adjusting his training program as we speak now that he knows what it takes to play in the NHL so he’ll come back stronger and fitter in September.  But, it’s very possible that another team with a less-savvy GM (and there are many of those…like say a guy or two…or three…in New York) will throw a big bag of money at his feet and Brunner will then seriously consider leaving Detroit.  We can’t afford to throw a big bag of money at his feet.  It’s up to Kenny to convince him that money isn’t everything.  And should he go, well, good luck buddy, thanks for playing well for us and all the best to you.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 06/12/13 at 01:23 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

two words.  Ville Leino.

If Brunner takes the biggest payday he can, he’s going to put that much pressure on himself as will the fans and eventually media if he slumps at all like Franzen, and he seems to. 

Might want to see what’s really under the hood before you decide to drive it cross country.  Just because you drove it around the block doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong with it.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/12/13 at 02:36 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

OTC exactly right, Tatar will have more goal scoring success than Brunner I think.  His hard-nosed game suits the NHL and his temperament doesn’t get beat down, he’s hard-headed and hard charging.  Can’t wait for that little Taz to play full-time, loved watching him during his call-up.  He and Andersson, holy shit, they were SLICK.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/12/13 at 02:38 PM ET

Avatar

2 years, $3.5M a year is fair, IMO
He gets slightly overpaid, but seriously, the Wings dropped $40M on Franzen’s head before he’d done much in this league. He’s every bit as good as Franzen at this point. What he lacks in size he has in speed and playmaking ability
And everyone is always defending Franzen’s $3,9M cap hit, that goes until the end of time

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/12/13 at 02:49 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

ghost of HFboards past.  I agree but Franzen can play center (by definition a more defensive role) as well.  He brings more tools in his bag, including size that he never uses, but he doesn’t get muscled as often as Brunner was.  Brunner skill is on the rush.

But I agree 3.5 is a little more than I was thinking but 3-3.25 is reasonable I think given his playoff performance too.  The kid is definitely a gamer.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/12/13 at 03:17 PM ET

SK77's avatar

He gets slightly overpaid, but seriously, the Wings dropped $40M on Franzen’s head before he’d done much in this league.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/12/13 at 03:49 PM ET

Uhm, they dropped bags of money on him because he put up 23 points in 23 games in the 08/09 Playoffs, after netting 59 points in 71 regular season games.

Brunner is a cool dude, but head to head at this point in time Franzen is the better player putting up comparable points, ability to play center, larger body, and more responsible defensively.

3.25-3.5M for Brunner kinda sorta makes sense ... tough call to make with it being his first season in the NHL and that big stretch in the regular season where he didn’t do crapola. Lucky for his agent that Brunner racked up some goals in the Playoffs!

Posted by SK77 on 06/12/13 at 03:26 PM ET

henrymalredo's avatar

With thw Wings’ lack of true goal scorers, I think they definately have to keep Brunner.  A full training camp should help him next year.  I will get a little worried though if he isn’t resigned before he hits free agency.

Posted by henrymalredo from Lansing on 06/12/13 at 03:29 PM ET

Avatar

Uhm, they dropped bags of money on him because he put up 23 points in 23 games in the 08/09 Playoffs, after netting 59 points in 71 regular season games.

Actually, he was re-signed before that playoff performance.  He re-signed right at the tail end of the 08/09 regular season.

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 03:37 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Actually, he was re-signed before that playoff performance.  He re-signed right at the tail end of the 08/09 regular season.

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 04:37 PM ET

Blah blah blah facts blah blah.

Thanks, Garth.

Posted by SK77 on 06/12/13 at 03:40 PM ET

Avatar

Franzen was signed on the strength of a hot end to 08 and great 2/3rds of a season in 08/09.
Bottom line is, they gave a Hossa-like contract despite having nowhere near Hossa’s track record.

Overpaying Brunner over a 2 year deal wouldn’t bother me much

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/12/13 at 03:49 PM ET

NIVO's avatar

sign him up for 2.5-3m/4 yrs. I think most agree thats fair. He is definitely an asset.

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 06/12/13 at 04:17 PM ET

Crater's avatar

a Hossa-like contract despite having nowhere near Hossa’s track record.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/12/13 at 04:49 PM ET

Hossa is making like 2 million more (cap hit) than Franzen. So I’d say they did not give him the Hossa deal. They offered the contract to both, Hossa turned it down.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 06/12/13 at 04:45 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Might want to see what’s really under the hood before you decide to drive it cross country.  Just because you drove it around the block doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong with it.

Well, It’s a fine time to point that out, HTO. Where the hell were you when I bought my last car. smile

 

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 06/12/13 at 05:47 PM ET

wedge56's avatar

Well if other teams are willing to overpay for scoring prowess, why not the Wings?  Not like we lit up the scoreboard a whole bunch this past season.  $3.5 for 3 and I could probably get my arm twisted up to $4 for 2.  He is the closest thing to a sniper we have on the team and his forecheck was getting better at the end of the season.  No reason he can’t command Hudler money.

I think $2.5 per is darn near an insulting offer for what we saw of him this year. 

I think Miller is gone.  I know he wants to stay, but he could double his money for someone else and we are not going to double his salary.  Everyone seems to know Filppula is gone already.  I don’t think he wants to play for Detroit as he might believe he would be relegated to 3/4 line duty again if the young guns keep improving while he keeps standing still.

Sammy gets bought out.  There is all we need to make Brunner’s salary.

Posted by wedge56 on 06/12/13 at 11:45 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.