In a few short months, the NHL free agency period will be on its way. The Detroit Red Wings have taken a formulaic approach to free agency for the last few seasons. Like clockwork, they’ll re-sign a few veteran pieces to short-term deals and then add a few new faces to the lineup. This year’s free agency might take a slightly different approach. With Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana needing fresh contracts, general manager Steve Yzerman will need to prioritize his restricted free agents to make sure they’re locked up as key pieces for the future.
With that being said, who should stay and who should go?
Red Wings Free Agency Wishlist: Part One
This two-part series will cover the best-case scenario for the Red Wings. The first part will cover current contracts, while the second will explore options available in free agency. The Red Wings have just nine contracts signed through the 2021-22 season. In all likelihood, they’ll retain several of the deals. Today, we’ll look at who Yzerman will keep, who will leave, and how the lineup will shake up following these movements. (As a side note, this series will work under the assumption that Moritz Seider will fit in the Red Wings roster for 2021-22. With the way he’s progressed, it seems like Seider is more of a when than an if with the 2021-22 lineup. In addition, it will assume that Vladislav Namestnikov was taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.)
Restricted Free Agents: Who Stays & Who Goes
Yzerman has the most flexibility with the Red Wings’ RFA class. He holds the bargaining power and can make team-friendly offers to incentivize the potential for longer-term deals. Having said that, one player has already opted to play overseas. Christian Djoos, who was acquired earlier in the season, has opted to sign with EV Zug of the National League for the following season. This leaves the Red Wings with nine RFA contracts to work through.
Who Stays: Jakub Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi are essentially guaranteed contract extensions. Bertuzzi may sign a similar contract to his previous one-year deal. Vrana, on the other hand, may earn himself a deal that mirrors Anthony Mantha‘s contract. With his production in mind, Yzerman will likely offer him a four-year contract. It’s team-friendly, rewards Vrana for his production, and keeps him for the long term. Michael Rasmussen played his heart out this season, ending the year on the team’s top line. He’ll earn at least a two-to-three-year deal that will incentivize him to score more and make his presence known.
Filip Hronek will also receive a multi-year deal. His production as one of the most reliable defencemen on the Red Wings’ roster will earn him at least a three-to-four-year deal. Adam Erne will likely receive a team-friendly $1-1.5 million contract for at least a year or two after leading the Red Wings in goals. Dennis Cholowski and Gustav Lindstrom will receive, at the very least, one-year deals.
Who Goes: Mathias Brome is the most likely name on the list to part ways. He wasn’t able to break through the Red Wings’ lineup and couldn’t produce much in terms of scoring. Another name that might face a tough departure in Detroit is Evgeny Svechnikov. Despite his play this season, he was placed on waivers twice. At 24 years of age, it’s hard to imagine that he’s going to develop any more as a goal-scorer. If he doesn’t re-sign in Detroit, it’s likely that he’ll be left to pursue free agency on his own.
Unrestricted Free Agents: Who Stays & Who Goes
Unpredictability is in the air with the UFA class. Many of the names are long-term Red Wings vets. Others are new faces that have made a home for themselves. A lot can change in a season. The departure of Mike Green, Trevor Daley, Andreas Athanasiou, and Justin Abdelkader dramatically changed the roster’s lineup in 2020-21. This season may offer a few surprise changes of its own. With nine UFAs to work through, Yzerman has his work cut out for him.
Who Stays: The Red Wings should have two top priorities with free agency: re-signing Jonathan Bernier and Bobby Ryan. Bernier has stated openly that his top destination is Detroit. He’s beloved by his teammates and has carried the roster through some of its toughest games. Ryan is a new face but has already made a name for himself. He’s optimistic, a solid scorer, and a wonderfully welcome veteran presence in the lineup. Another veteran that should remain in Hockeytown is Sam Gagner. He’s a terrific two-way player with eye-catching advanced metrics. Mentorship opportunities with Michael Rasmussen could arise with Gagner’s re-signing. There’s a chance that the Red Wings re-sign Luke Glendening for one more season, as well. He’s a fan favourite and a hard-working faceoff expert that could help to back the bottom-six with shot-blocking skills.
Who Goes: The 2020-21 season might be the last time we see Valtteri Filppula in a Red Wings uniform. He was solid at best, but abysmal at worst throughout the season. Alex Biega will likely part ways, as well. At 33 years of age, his place with the organization is becoming less clear by the day. Darren Helm is another player to fit this description. The 34-year-old has been a mainstay for the last decade, but his time in Detroit appears to be coming to an end. While Marc Staal has mentioned that he’d like to sign again in Detroit, it might be hard to find room for him on the roster.
2021-22 Red Wings Roster Prediction: Part One
With these signings, this is how the lineup will look before opening night. Three spots have (potentially) been left open to fill in with free-agent signings.
[blank]-Michael Rasmussen-Joe Veleno
Moritz Seider-Troy Stecher
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