The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/12/13 at 10:49 AM ET
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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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.