The Grind Line: Assessing Red Wings’ 2022 Free Agency Moves

The Hockey Writers

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Devin LittleKyle KnoppDelaney Rimer and Rob Klein are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Well that was a ton of fun, right?

Related: Red Wings Overhaul Lineup with Surprising Free Agent Signings

The Detroit Red Wings and general manager Steve Yzerman added six NHL-caliber players by the end of the second day of NHL free agency, ranging from top six forward to bottom pairing defensemen. Clearly Yzerman felt this team needed a facelift, and suddenly the Red Wings look like a team that could do some serious damage in the Atlantic Division next season.

This week, our grinders are here to share their thoughts on the Red Wings’ moves in free agency. Spoiler alert: we’re all pretty excited.

Devin Little: Reigniting Excitement in Hockeytown

Above all else, Yzerman’s moves in free agency have fans excited to see the Red Wings return this Fall. There is legitimate hope and faith that Detroit will ice a roster capable of pushing for a playoff spot, and that’s something that hasn’t been the case in the Yzerman era up until now. Regardless of how these signings pan out this season and beyond, the excitement I’ve seen from fans over the past few days is worth every dollar Yzerman spent.

Related: Yzerman Puts Red Wings Back on the Map with Free Agent Moves

Now to be clear, there are some signings that excite me more than others. David Perron wasn’t on my radar at all for the Red Wings, but I think he’s my favorite signing of the bunch. He can be a real pest out on the ice, alleviating some of the pressure on Givani Smith and Tyler Bertuzzi to play that role, and he’s a Stanley Cup champion, winning the Cup with the St. Louis Blues back in 2019. He should be good for around 20 goals and 50 points this season while providing veteran leadership for an upstart Red Wings team.

On the other side of things, giving a four-year deal to Ben Chiarot is my least-favorite signing of the bunch, but I understand the intent behind the signing. Assuming he pairs with Moritz Seider on the blue line, the Red Wings will ice a top pairing that will be a pain in the you-know-what to play against, and Chiarot is used to playing big minutes, averaging north of 20 minutes in ice-time over the last three seasons. I’m not convinced that this contract will age well, but that’s a problem we can discuss later.

Kyle Knopp: Here Comes the Sun

Yzerman and the Red Wings made a statement this offseason – although this team is still rebuilding, they are prepared to be competitive. At first, I was a little surprised by a couple of the signings, mainly Olli Määttä and Dominik Kubalik, but the more that I contemplate what they represent, the happier I am with the pickups. 

Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks
Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings did a great job of reinforcing its core, while not sacrificing the development of its incoming prospects. In need of a second-line center and a replacement for Sam Gagner, the Wings went out and got Andrew Copp and Perron who will instantly give Detroit an extra offensive punch behind Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Lucas Raymond. Picking up Kubalik is a solid replacement for departing forward Vladislav Namestnikov, as Kubalik brings a similar floor but with a much higher ceiling than Namestnikov, being three years younger. Although Kubalik hit a bit of a slump last season, putting him on the third line will allow him to remain an offensive threat without having the pressure of needing to produce in the top-six weighing on him. 

Finally, Yzerman was phenomenal in strengthening the defensive core around Seider. Replacing Danny DeKeyser with Chiarot, no matter what term on the contract, gives Seider a true top-line partner that will elevate his game instead of forcing him to always cover for his teammate’s mistakes. Määttä was initially a head-scratcher but with the departure of Marc Staal, Määttä’s presence will be that of another stay-at-home defender in the top-four. This will allow Filip Hronek more offensive freedoms to play to his style and drive the rush from the backend, something the Wings struggled with last year. With all these pieces in place, and a new coach to implement his systems, Detroit should be a lot more competitive this season as the rebuild continues to pick up steam.

Delaney Rimer: Yzerman Wins the Day

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Yzerman has done it once again. The Red Wings signed eight free agents, two of which formerly played for the Blues, growing the pipeline between the two teams even more. Since he was unable to check all of his boxes with the 2022 NHL Draft, Yzerman used free agency to fill all the spots that were still vacant.

The Copp signing was exciting to see happen, even if the term or salary was a little high for the liking of some. Bringing in a former Wolverine and Ann Arbor native gives Red Wings fans yet another “Hometown Kid” to love. Funnily enough, Copp was Larkin’s captain back when they donned the Maize and Blue and now Larkin will be his. On top of the sentimental value, he is the 2C that this team needs oh so desperately. He is a versatile player who’s coming off of his best career season, so it will be exciting to see what he brings to the table.

Andrew Copp New York Rangers
Andrew Copp, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Regarding all of the other signings, each player that was brought in will be making the 2022-23 Red Wings better. Perron is another strong forward who will add a veteran presence to the young offensive lines. This pickup could be regarded as one of the best deals of this free agency period with a two-year contract at $4.75 million, Yzerman got a great player for a great price. Left winger Kubalik will be a great addition to the middle-six and hopefully bring some luck on a power play unit. The Red Wings’ left side defense has been a known issue, so signing Chiarot and Määttä was an automatic improvement without them yet having played a game behind the winged wheel. Mark Pysyk is a solid third or fourth line right side defenseman that can help provide support for Seider by being efficient in his time on the ice. Ultimately, the areas that needed help were addressed and strong players were brought in to fill them. Kudos to Stevie Y for killing the free agency game!

Rob Klein: Time for Red Wings to Win

With a flurry of moves the Red Wings have signaled to their fans and the NHL that they have now transitioned from the rebuilding phase and moved on to winning mode. Yzerman, after three years of drafting high-end talent, has in one day addressed virtually every issue that was plaquing this team. 

Copp addresses the gigantic need for a second line center that can play a 200-foot game. His presence on a line with Perron instantly adds a second-line threat that can include Jakub Vrana or newly signed Kubalik all of whom instantly boost an anemic power-play from last season. The free-agency shopping list became complete with the signings of defensemen Chiarot and Määttä who fill needed experience on the left side of the blueline and should allow Seider and Simon Edvinsson to flourish. 

Even after these additions Detroit still has over $10 Million in salary cap flexibility for more deals, extensions or trades to keep improving the roster. Other teams in the conference have improved with free agency as well such as Ottawa and Columbus and now every two points during the regular season will be a battle for teams aspiring for a playoff appearance. While a playoff appearance is unlikely for the Red Wings this season, one day after free agency it’s nice to be on this end of the hockey spectrum than to hope for a favorable draft lottery result that we all know never seems to benefit Detroit anyways. 

What do you think? What are your thoughts on the Red Wings’ moves in free agency? Sound off in the comments section down below!

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