2013 NHL Free Agency: The Curious Case Of Damien Brunner

May 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Damien Brunner (24) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks in game four of the second round for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Damien Brunner broke into the NHL in 2012-13 season and had a productive year with the Detroit Red Wings. He started the year strong but waned mid-season. He picked it up in the play-offs impressing fans with a Game 4 overtime winner against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.  He went on to turn in an excellent play-off performance scoring 5 goals in 14 games.

So why isn’t Brunner a Detroit Red Wing? It is not because the Red Wings didn’t want him. Brunner turned down a contract offer from the Red Wings for a two or three-year deal in favor of testing the free agent market, prompting GM Ken Holland to tell MLive that Brunner was moving on. According to reports, Brunner is targeting a 4 to 5 year contract worth near $5 million a season.  Reportedly, the Red Wings offer wasn’t far off in dollars but missed the mark on the number of years.

Free Agency hasn’t been kind to Damien Brunner. He has been rumored to be signing with several teams but each team went in a different direction.  The most recent interest was from the New Jersey Devils who were looking add a forward in response to the sudden retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk. Most agreed the Brunner would be a good fit for the Devils who desperately needed scoring help. But yesterday The Devils signed Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal for $2 million plus bonuses.

So with free agency is winding down and hockey training camps will be starting soon, does Damien Brunner still have a chance to play with the Red Wings? As the season gets closer, chances of Brunner returning to the Wings wanes. Ken Holland has been busy filling up his roster and making a big splash in free agency by signing forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Steven Weiss.  If Brunner is going to wait until the Red Wings meet his contract demands, he will be waiting a long time. Brunner’s quest for a big pay-day may cost the 27-year-old forward a season in the NHL.

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  • Brendan Bosh

    poor DB

  • Randy Burbach

    A perfect example of an athlete overestimating his worth – probably at the prodding of an agent

    • jefnvk

      I agree. Don’t forget, though, he went from big fish in a little pond to relatively unknown smaller fish in an ocean. Can’t help but think maybe he was just used to getting what he wanted in the Swiss league, and thought it was going to happen here too.

  • Don Rogers

    Good riddance….he’s a one way player….soft as Swiss milk chocolate, no grit,
    can’t check and a greedy SOB…..not a team player…..he’s expendable.
    Wings have talent they need to find room for, i.e. Nyquist, Andersson, Tatar to
    name a few. Helms will be back as well.

  • r a

    I could not disagree with you more, Brunner is a commodity that the wings need, a scorer, if you don’t believe me see the lack of scoring in the previous years playoffs (it did them in every time). What I don’t understand is that the why the Wings are so anxious to sign Cleary, an aging forward with bad knees. Brunner led the team in scoring in the playoffs and I have a feeling if he goes elsewhere he will be the modern day version of Adam Oates who the Wings let go for nothing in the 80′s and he went on to be a league leading scorer. He may well be a one way player but that is just the type of player that the Wings can afford to have. If you’ll remember they said the same thing about Yzerman (one way player) and look how he turned out. I’m not saying that he is going to be Yzerman or Yzerman-like but he most likely will on the offensive side of the ice. That all being said, I think his demands (if true) are ridiculous for a second year NHL player. The reason I say “if true” is because this story says different than others as to length of contract and amount. I’ve heard he wanted 3 million, this one says 5, I’ve read he wanted 3 years and the max the Wings would offer was 2. All I do know is that he is not a Red Wing right now and signing Cleary instead is a waste of money if it is at the expense of signing Brunner. If I were the Wings I would wait and see if Brunner comes down which I am sure he will. All that does is give the young guys more time on the ice to develop instead of signing a mediocre weak knee’d forward in Cleary.

    • r a

      PS: if we didn’t have Brunner we might well have face another first round exit in Anaheim (he scored the overtime winner, which Wings were famous for blowing in the previous couple of seasons)

  • ehh

    He wants 5 million? idk about that. The offer from the wings was around 2.75 million a year. He’s worth about 2.5. He wants 3.5 I think, and that was even non-negotiable. He worked well with the team cuz he shot and he was set up all day on the 1st line and would be useful for the wings, but with no experience to go off in the nhl, being exclusively a shooter who hasn’t shown he can maintain puck possession on the smaller rink, he should not receive more than 3 million for 3 years. Someone may pay him more, but he didn’t earn it with his play last year. I hope the wings to resign him, but only if he comes back and accepts the same kind of deal that was on the table, which was for 2.75 a year. If he maintains his goal scoring for a few more years then i see him getting a big contract, but trying to get it now makes you think that it was more of a fluke and he knows he can’t maintain those numbers.

  • sheep1451

    Take whatever money they were going to offer Cleary, add 15% to it, and offer it to Brunner. I’d take Brunner over Cleary 10 times out of 10… For what Cleary brings, we should be able to get that on an entry level deal from any one of a dozen GR Griffins. Brunner on the other hand can score. Maybe we overpay a little. I don’t know. Get the other kids signed, trade away someone like Lashoff to make room for him – and let’s go.