Red Wings: Don’t Expect Yzerman to Stray Far From Home in Free Agency

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With $37.6 million in cap space and more than a few gaps in the roster, the Detroit Red Wings will have a busy few weeks of free agency. However, don’t expect GM Steve Yzerman to look too far from his own pending free agent list to fill roster gaps.

14 Pending Free Agents

To find some stopgaps for the roster, Yzerman has the opportunity to retain some of last season’s players. The team has six unrestricted free agents and eight restricted – meaning Detroit doesn’t really have to look around the league to find many players.

A handful of the pending UFAs found a decent amount of success in Detroit and would be solid options for Yzerman to bring back next season.

Although he missed the latter half of the season due to injuries, Bobby Ryan had a solid rebound year in Detroit. He scored seven goals and seven assists in 33 games. In fact, if it weren’t for injuries, Ryan might’ve been flipped for assets at the trade deadline, as his experience and depth scoring attracted attention around the league.

Adam Erne had himself a breakout season. He led the team in goals with 11 (He also had nine assists), by far the most efficient player in the bottom six. While his 15.5 shooting percentage might be a bit tough to repeat, Erne still had a positive offensive impact on the team’s bottom lines, achieving a corsi-for percentage of 6.1

While not quite as efficient, Sam Gagner also had a solid year in Detroit’s lower lines. He scored seven goals and eight assists in 42 games, with a corsi-for percentage of 4.9. Perhaps his greatest asset was his mailability; Gagner was just as comfortable playing center as he was playing wing.

It became a bit of a joke near the end of the season, but Luke Glendening truly was an asset on the bottom six. His faceoff prowess and penalty kill abilities were a good addition to the team. Although he scored six goals and nine assists in 54, his offensive skillsets aren’t quite up-to-par; his inability to efficiently drive offense on the lower lines might be a bit too much to ignore (-10.1 corsi-for percentage).

Stay in Contention for the Draft Lottery

The awkward truth is that the rebuild stills needs that top tier talent; the game breaking center that can will wins into existence. There just isn’t a prospect like that in Detroit. Yet.

With the 2022 NHL Draft, there seem to be a few of those elite prospects available. Shane Wright and Connor Bedard sit atop a stacked 2022 draft class which seems to have a few opportunities for “game breaking” talent.

If the Red Wings go out and sign a bunch of top-end free agents, they risk missing the chance at a Wright-type player in 2022. If Detroit wants to become a championship contender instead of a playoff contender, this sort of talent is key. While Detroit fans are all too familiar with the risk associated with putting hope in the lottery, it’s still important to leave it open as an option.

There Will Still Be “Outside Hires”

With all that being said, there are still gaps that will need to be filled by some sources outside of Detroit. While there are some locks to be re-signed (Jakub Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek, Gustav Lindstrom), there are just as many players that have likely played their last game as a Red Wing (Valtteri Filppula, Alex Biega, Mathias Brome, Darren Helm, Christain Djoos). NHL teams need depth, so the Wings are going to find some UFAs around the league. This week is bound to be an interesting one.

Player stats sourced from

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