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Detroit Red Wings Best And Worst Free Agent Signings

Detroit Red Wings free agent signings

Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we look at the history of Detroit Red Wings free agent signings.

Detroit Red Wings Free Agent Hits and Misses

The Detroit Red Wings have made numerous signings. Some names to highlight are Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, and Dominik Hasek. If you are ever curious, look at the 2002 championship team. That team was loaded. But now that there is a salary cap, it requires a bit more creativity to bring players in. The team did well in that regard and also whiffed badly. So who are the best and worst Detroit Red Wings free agent signings?

Best Signings: Brian Rafalski

In the salary cap era, this is the best signing. While also boasting Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings were bringing in a high calibre defenceman. In the summer of 2007, Brian Rafalski sighed a five-year $30 million dollar contract with a $6 million AAV. After spending the first seven years of his career with the New Jersey Devils, the Michigan native returned home.

After signing with the Devils in ‘99, he tallied 32 points his first year. He then would perform well in the playoffs, helping the Devils capture their second Stanley Cup. He would post 40+ points six times before moving on to Detroit.

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In four years with Detroit, he surpassed the 40-point mark in each of them. His best season came in 2008-09 with 10 goals, 49 assists, and 59 points. What was more impressive is Rafalski finished in the top 10 in Norris Trophy voting in his first two seasons. Rafalski played a big part in helping the team win the Stanley Cup in 2008 and returning to the finals again in 2009. In 292 games played, he scored 35 goals, 169 assists, and 204 points. In addition to that, he posted 40 points in 62 playoff contests.

Honourable Mention: Chris Osgood

The goalie that returned for his second stint with the team. Chris Osgood returned to the Red Wings in August 2005 on a one-year deal. Having spent time with the team from 1993-01, returning to the team was a no-brainer.

Osgood helped the Red Wings capture back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998 before being plucked away by the New York Islanders. After returning to the club as a free agent in 2005 and earned an extension after that. He would help lead the team to another Stanley Cup in 2008. Replacing Dominik Hasek is no easy task to do, but he achieved that. In the 2008 playoffs, he posted a 14-4 record with a 1.55 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. His best season came in 2008-09, but was still a rock in net for the remainder of his career in Detroit.

Worst Signings: Stephen Weiss

This is the worst signing for the Detroit Red Wings. The forward signed a five-year contract worth $24.5 million dollars. After spending his career with the Florida Panthers and being a force in the playoffs in 2012 (3G, 2A, 5P in 7GP), he was brought in as the second-line centre.

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This was a disaster from the start. He was injured for the majority of his first season and only scored two goals in 26 games. The following season he managed to score nine goals in 52 games. In regards to his performance, the team bought out the finals three years of his deal. During his tenure, he managed 11 goals, 18 assists, and 29 points. Brutal all around.

Honourable Mention: Jordin Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo was such a fun player. He played the game hard and use this physicality as part of his game. But he was not worth the contract he signed. In 2012, he signed a three-year $5.7 million dollar contract. The goal was to add that physical element and get some muscle in the lineup.

Mike Babcock was not a fan. Prior to being waived, he managed to suit up in 52 games over two seasons. Spending time in the press box, he was waived for the purpose of a compliance buyout. A disaster of a tenure he managed three goals, six assists, and a boat load of penalty minutes.

Final Thoughts

The Detroit Red Wings in this case made very good signings that resulted in winning, and two signings that barely saw the ice. A historic franchise the Red Wings are and even though the signings these days are not as lucrative, they still have done good work.

Detroit is entering a new era, but is in good hands with Steve Yzerman. The man went on a spending spree this summer and is trying to restore the glory days of Detroit Hockey.


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