Red Wings have lengthy list of useful players available in NHL free agency

Detroit News

Detroit — NHL free agency used to be one of the busiest and most exciting days on the calendar.

It’s still a great news day. Players move around the league, strengthening or weakening teams in the process, and the movement causes a ton of activity on social media.

But it’s a little different these days.

When unrestricted free agency begins on July 13 — moved up because the pandemic pushed back the NHL calendar — the Red Wings and 31 other teams will have a long list of good players available to sign.

But the star-quality, impact players, aren’t readily available. These days, those kinds of players rarely get to market, more often re-signing with their original teams.

There’s only one of that kind of player available this offseason — Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau. Chances are good, incidentally, the Flames will re-sign Gaudreau, who has expressed a desire to stay, if at all possible.

When focusing on the Wings, there are definite needs to fill for general manager Steve Yzerman. The Wings need a center, could use another impact goal-scorer, and one, if not two, defensemen.

And another goaltender to share the load with Alex Nedeljkovic.

It will keep Yzerman busy as he sifts through the available players, but don’t expect any splashy, big, bold headline signings. The Wings likely aren’t quite ready to make those types of commitments in their rebuilding.

Also, many of the players the Wings want to sign, will either re-sign with their current teams or be interested in someone else other than the Wings.

“I have this beautiful list of great players that would be a good fit for our organization. Can I get any of those players? I have no idea at this point,” Yzerman said at his season-ending news conference.

Here are 20 of the best UFA’s that could be available on July 13:

1. Johnny Gaudreau

Age on July 13: 28,

Position: Left wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $6.75 million

Analysis: He picked a great year to score 115 points, be an NHL-best plus-64, and be squarely in the Hart Trophy conversation. Gaudreau says he loves playing in Calgary, but he has deep family ties on the East Coast, specifically in Philadelphia. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him land there.

2. Kris Letang

Age on July 13: 35

Position: Defense.

2021-22 salary cap hit: $7.25 million

Analysis: This is a tricky one. Letang has played his entire career in Pittsburgh and the Penguins want to keep him. But the Penguins have salary cap issues, and Letang’s former agent, Kent Hughes, is now the GM of Letang’s hometown Montreal Canadiens. This isn’t going to be an easy choice for Letang.

3. Filip Forsberg

Age on July 13: 27

Position: Left wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $6 million

Analysis: Forsberg scored 40 goals, he’s still in the prime of his career, and loves it in Nashville. But this is the type of player that can (and will) land a big contract in free agency. Still, both sides appear to want to get a deal done, and Predators GM David Poile is good at getting players to stay in Music City.

4. Nazem Kadri

Age on July 13: 31

Position: Center

2021-22 salary cap hit: $4.5 million

Analysis: Could the Wings have some interest? Kadri is coming off a career-best season (87 points) and plays with an edge the Wings could use. But there are warning signs — Kadri’s age, the fact this has been an outlier season, and his lengthy list of suspensions. Colorado won’t be able to keep him given its cap difficulties.

5. Andrew Copp

Age on July 13: 27

Position: Center/wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $3.64 million

Analysis: The Ann Arbor native would be a great add for the Red Wings. But the way Copp played for the New York Rangers after being acquired at the trade deadline, and the way he contributed in the playoffs, it would be mildly surprising if the Rangers don’t re-sign him.

6. Vincent Trocheck

Age on July 13: 29

Position: Center

2021-22 salary cap hit: $4.75 million

Analysis: Trocheck has been linked to the Wings for a long time and it’s not a surprise considering he’d be a nice fit up the middle, his age, and he could grow with this team. But Trocheck wants to stay in Carolina, and if that doesn’t work out, there will be options with playoff contenders.

7. Evander Kane

Age on July 13: 30

Position: Both wings

2021-22 salary cap hit: $1.375 million

Analysis: GM Ken Holland made a shrewd move signing Kane late in the season, after San Jose terminated Kane’s contract. Kane scored 22 goals in 43 games with Edmonton, and had a great playoffs. So, does Kane take a little less to stay in a good situation in Edmonton, or chase money? It’ll be interesting.

8. John Klingberg

Age on July 13: 29

Position: Defense

2021-22 salary cap hit: $4.25 million

Analysis: Klingberg took a team-friendly contract last time, so he’s likely to be looking for something much bigger this summer. Klingberg’s offensive production has fallen over the last several years, but he’s still a top-four defensemen on most teams’ depth charts.

9. Patrice Bergeron

Age on July 13: 36

Position: Center

2021-22 salary cap hit: $6.875 million

Analysis: Bergeron is on this list, but let’s face it, it’s a pretty easy decision for him. He’s either going to stay with the Bruins, or retire. Boston desperately needs to him for at least another year, in that he’s still an elite player and the Bruins will be decimated with players recovering from surgeries early next season.

10. Evgeni Malkin

Age on July 13: 35

Position: Centre

2021-22 salary cap hit: $9.5 million

The latest: Another tricky one. Malkin wants to finish his career in Pittsburgh and the Penguins wouldn’t mind keeping him — at the right price. He had 42 points in 41 games, even as injuries have begun to pile up and his production has slipped at even strength. Still, Malkin is the type of guy that would look very weird in anything but a Penguins’ jersey.

11. David Perron

Age on July 13: 34

Position: Left wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $4 million.

Analysis: Perron has been one of the NHL’s underrated players for a while now, and he’s played his best hockey while a member of the St. Louis Blues. It would be shocking if Perron and the Blues end that relationship at this point.

12. Rickard Rakell

Age on July 13: 29

Position: Both wings

2021-22 salary cap hit: $3.78 million

Analysis: Rakell was a good trade deadline acquisition for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins want to keep him. But good luck with the salary cap constraints. Rakell has proven to be a dependable 20-goal scorer and seemed to fit well with Malkin.

13. Darcy Kuemper

Age on July 13: 32

Position: Goaltender

2021-22 salary cap hit: $4.5 million

Analysis: Colorado has been in need of steady goaltending for a long time, but after acquiring Kuemper from Arizona last summer, Kuemper (37-12-3, .921 SVS) solidified the position and helped push the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Avalanche want Kuemper back, but again, this organization has some big free agent decisions to make.

14. Jack Campbell

Age on July 13: 30

Position: Goaltender

2021-22 salary cap hit: $1.65 million

Analysis: The Port Huron native showed he’s an NHL No. 1 goaltender (well, for the most part). But the Leafs, as usual, are so tight under the salary cap and Campbell will likely need to take a bit less than what the open market would offer. There seems to be a desire on both sides to get a deal done.

15. Claude Giroux

Age on July 13: 34

Position: Center/right wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $8.275 million

Analysis: After departing Philadelphia at the trade deadline, Giroux made a nice impact for Florida other than the Panthers not winning the Stanley Cup. Giroux isn’t likely to leave, it’s a good fit for him in Florida, but the Panthers are going to be tight under the salary cap soon.

16. Valeri Nichushkin

Age on July 13: 27

Position: Right wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $2.5 million

Analysis: Nichushkin has shown throughout the season and these playoffs how valuable he can be to a team. He’d look good in a Wings’ uniform, but the problem is, there are going to be a lot of teams interested in him and that’ll drive the price pretty high.

17. Ondrej Palat

Age on July 13: 31

Position: Left wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $5.3 million

Analysis: The connection to Yzerman will make you wonder if Palat could be a fit with the Wings. But given Palat’s age, and the fact he will be so attractive for a playoff contender looking for his type of production and character in the middle of the lineup, the Wings aren’t likely a good fit. Because of Tampa’s salary cap crunch, it’s likely not going to be able to afford Palat.

18. Andre Burakovsky

Age on July 13: 27

Position: Left wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $4.9 million

Analysis: Another of Colorado’s superb role players that may have priced himself out of the Avalanche’s lineup. Burakovsky is only 27, so he’ll be popular on the market, and he’s versatile. The Wings would be interested.

19. Nino Niederreiter

Age on July 13: 29

Position: Both wings

2021-22 salary cap hit: $5.25 million

Analysis: Niederreiter always seems to play well against the Wings, but they’re not alone. Niederreiter scored 24 goals and has proven to be a capable second-line scorer. If he doesn’t re-sign in Carolina, there will be plenty of other options.

20. Mason Marchment

Age on July 13: 27

Position: Left wing

2021-22 salary cap hit: $800,000

Analysis: Some team is going to take a big chance on Marchment, who came out of nowhere to score 18 goals and strengthen the Panthers. But was it a product of the Florida lineup? Could Marchment duplicate that season on a lesser team?

Twitter: @tkulfan

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