This offseason has been nothing short of eventful for the Red Wings. From new arrivals to sad departures, change has been the name of the game this summer. In a matter of 48 hours, the goaltending pool went from a question mark to an exclamation point as Alex Nedeljkovic and Sebastian Cossa entered the fold. With Valtteri Filppula signing in Switzerland and Darren Helm leaving for Colorado, the last bastions of the 2008 Cup run have all departed.
We’ve got a brand new team on our hands, folks — and change is still in the air.
There’s a lot that has to be done to turn this team into a contender. According to CapFriendly, just 10 contracts remain on the payroll after 2021-22 (11 if you count Filip Hronek and his inevitable signing). After 2022-23, only two remain — Jakub Vrana and Michael Rasmussen. This clean slate allows Yzerman to build the roster as he sees fit. If the 2021-22 offseason is anything like the great departure in 2019-20, fans are in for quite the shake-up.
With that said — who’s gone after 2021-22? There will be eight unrestricted free agents after this offseason. Barring trades, who is likely to stay and who is likely to go? Let’s make some preseason predictions:
Namestnikov has been somewhat of a journeyman in the NHL, playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avalanche, and now the Wings. This season, Namestnikov will turn 29. It’s entirely possible that he’ll want to seek out a longer deal with a team. Unfortunately, the Red Wings are not in a place to offer longer-term contracts. Namestnikov is a perfectly capable player, but if he’s looking for stability, he may need to find it somewhere else.
At 32 years of age, Gagner may find himself as the second coming of Luke Glendening on the fourth line. Similar to Namestnikov, Gagner is a strong depth player. He’s shown some spectacular two-way play in his early-30s and has been a voice of positivity when things get rough. He’s currently on a cost-effective deal at just $850K for a year. The biggest roadblock in the way of a Gagner extension is the rise of the youth movement. If they begin to show signs of NHL readiness, it might be hard to justify a contract extension. Still, a one-year, league-minimum deal doesn’t seem like much of a head-scratcher.
The long-term Red Wing already appears to be on the outside looking in. The current defensive makeup includes Filip Hronek, Nick Leddy, Jordan Oesterle, Marc Staal, Troy Stecher, and Gustav Lindstrom. Plus, the current lineup doesn’t even account for newcomers Moritz Seider and Wyatt Newpower. Something’s got to give to get these players their roster time — and it’s hard to make a case for DeKeyser. DeKeyser just finished a season that featured a trip to waivers and a shockingly hilarious goal in his team’s own net.
There’s always a chance he can reclaim a spot, but for now, it doesn’t look good for the Western Michigan defenseman.
Are you noticing a trend here? The overloaded defensive corps is only going to get worse as the years go on. Staal’s surprisingly solid season suggests that he’s a shoo-in for next season — but it’s hard to see where he fits in moving forward. As Seider, Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, and a slew of other defensemen enter the fold, guys like Staal might not be the right fit for a perennial playoff team. It also doesn’t help that he’s turning 35 next season.
Here’s the thing: unless Leddy makes an outstanding impression for himself, I don’t see him remaining in Detroit for more than a season at most. He’s a great defenseman, don’t get me wrong — but at 30 years of age, he’ll look for term, a luxury the Wings simply cannot afford right now. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Leddy traded midway through the season. While it would be nice to keep him around for a while, Yzerman’s current goal is to maximize the return on his assets. A Leddy trade could do more than makeup for the second-round pick he offered in return.
While Greiss picked up his numbers during the latter half of the season, the first left a lot to be desired. Greiss is somewhat of an enigma. He’s shown flashes of the stellar goaltending he had with the New York Islanders, but was also one of the worst goaltenders of 2020-21.
He ended the season with the third-worst Goals Against of the season. With Nedeljkovic ready to take the starter’s reins, it appears that Greiss will play somewhat of a backup role this year. If he can’t show that he’s still capable of putting together strong numbers, the Wings may look to find temporary help somewhere else.
Who do you think stays with the Wings?
297 votes total