To the credit of this Detroit Red Wings team, they are much improved in 2021-22 after a number of down seasons. Through 37 games, they have a 16-16-5 record, which has them fifth in the Atlantic Division. Though they sit just four points shy of a wild card position, the team they are chasing in the Boston Bruins has four games in hand on them, making a playoff berth seem like a long shot at this point.
While another year of missing the postseason would certainly be disappointing to this fanbase, the way this team has progressed, along with how players like Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have looked thus far, has to have them feeling excited for the future. With that being said, they will still need to further improve this team in the offseason. As of now, they are set to have plenty of cap space this summer with eight skaters set to become unrestricted free agents at seasons end. While a few may be re-signed, there are several others who general manager Steve Yzerman may choose to move on from. Here are the three most likely.
This summer, Yzerman surprised many when he chose to acquire Nick Leddy from the New York Islanders. The hope was that the offensively talented 30-year-old would be a good mentor on the blueline for the Red Wings youth, particularly Seider. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone as planned as Leddy has struggled tremendously with just one goal and nine assists in 35 games while having a plus/minus rating of minus-16.
The fit between these two parties hasn’t worked out, and it is all but a guarantee that Leddy won’t be back next season. In fact, he could very well get dealt to a playoff contender ahead of the trade deadline, though his $5 million cap hit along with his struggles this season may result in the Red Wings receiving very little for him.
For a number of years, Danny DeKeyser was a very solid shutdown defenceman for the Red Wings, and one who was well deserving of his $5 million salary. That is no longer the case however, as the 31-year-old has really slowed down in recent years, and has even sat out games as a healthy scratch this season.
Unlike Leddy, it doesn’t seem likely many teams will have interest in DeKeyser at the deadline, meaning he will likely finish the season with the Red Wings. Perhaps a change of scenery in the summer will help him elevate his game, but there is little to no doubt he will be wearing a different jersey next season.
Thomas Greiss has been a solid NHL goaltender for a number of years now, and such was the case in his first season with the Red Wings in 2020-21 when he posted a respectable 2.70 goals-against average (GAA,) along with a .912 save percentage (SV%) in 34 games. Unfortunately, he has not been able to come close to duplicating those numbers in 2021-22, and at the age of 35 it is likely the Red Wings look elsewhere this offseason.
This offseason, Yzerman added 2020-21 Calder Trophy candidate Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes for a very cheap price, and to this point it looks like a great move. In 24 games with his new club, he owns a 2.86 GAA and a .915 SV%. Despite his solid play these past two seasons however, he is still relatively inexperienced at the NHL level, making it likely Yzerman adds a competent backup capable of taking over the starting role if Nedeljkovic is to falter at any point.
Playoffs a Real Possibility in 2022-23
As mentioned previously, the playoffs aren’t out of the question for this season, but they don’t appear all that likely at this point. However, Yzerman’s resume in the past speaks for itself, and he should and can be counted on to use the cap space he will have this offseason to fix holes on this roster. If their young talent continues to progress, there is plenty of reason to expect this team to get back into the playoffs next season. Exciting times lie ahead for this organization.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.