Discussion

Red Wings facing key decisions

Updated: May 30, 2013, 12:05 PM ET
By Craig Custance

CHICAGO -- When slipping on his Detroit Red Wings jersey before Game 7, it definitely occurred to Daniel Cleary that it could be his last game with the Red Wings. Cleary is 34 years old and is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the only thing certain about his future was that continuing to play this year depended on a win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Thanks to Brent Seabrook's overtime goal, it didn't happen.

"I wanted to give it as much as I can. I wanted to keep going," Cleary said after the game. "I thought we had a good team and a good chance."

As hard as it was to lose the way they did in Game 7 to their rival Blackhawks, it doesn't get any easier this offseason for the Red Wings. The duo of GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock did a masterful job this year, a season of transition, developing young talent and giving that talent an opportunity to succeed. In some sense, the best part about the surprising playoff run for the Red Wings was that it provided invaluable experience and on-ice development for a slew of inexperienced players such as Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson and even midseason addition Danny DeKeyser, who broke a thumb in the first round against the Ducks and was working hard to get back into the lineup as the season came to a close.

The whole year -- from fighting to get into the postseason to the disappointment that came with blowing a 3-1 series lead -- was new territory for a number of these Red Wings. This simply is no longer a club dominated by seasoned veterans. Consider a guy such as Brunner, who was playing in his first NHL season after starring in Switzerland and was asked to take on the role of an offensive producer.

"You can't compare it to what I've been through," said Brunner, who led the Red Wings with five playoff goals. "It's a different game, you have to learn so much over. The game style is more of a grind. More games, more travel."

For a guy like him, the future is bright. For a guy like Cleary, it's uncertain.

Here's an early look at priorities for what could be an interesting offseason in Detroit:


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