With the salary cap so low this off-season, there are a number of players who ought to have contracts by now, but don't. Based on their past production, they clearly would have been signed in mid-to-late July at latest in a less cap restrictive world. Dan Cleary is one of them.
The 34-year-old forward told MLive's Ansar Khan that the Red Wings can't afford to sign him, and he's looking into finding a deal with other teams. Cleary told Khan that he'll make a decision by this Sunday. That would make a lot of sense, as most training camps open for veterans early next week.
The Red Wings' cap crunch was largely created by signing forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss to contracts worth around $10.4 million in cap hits. They also signed goaltender Jimmy Howard to a long-term deal before the end of the regular season. These signings currently have the Wings slightly over the limit, according to Capgeek.
Cleary, the first native of the province of Newfoundland to win the Stanley Cup, was the the 13th overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He first became an NHL regular in the 2000-01 season with the Edmonton Oilers, before finding a niche with the Red Wings in 2005-06. Cleary topped 40 points three times in eight seasons with Detroit, and became one of the league's premier defensive forwards.