Red Wings Should Pursue Radko Gudas to Beef up the Blue Line

The Hockey Writers

It’s no secret that the 2022-23 Detroit Red Wings lacked team toughness. Both Dylan Larkin and Derek Lalonde acknowledged this in their end of season availability. Ben Chiarot was signed as a free agent to help bring grit and toughness to this team.

Radko Gudas Florida Panthers
Radko Gudas Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Radko Gudas is set to become a free agent this offseason. While Gudas has a desire to remain with the Florida Panthers past this offseason, there is always a chance that a player changes their mind and goes to play with another team. Gudas has great on-ice metrics, provides some even strength offence and has a strong physical presence.

Gudas is a Great Even-Strength Defender

Gudas is an average-sized, right-handed defender at 6-foot and 208 pounds. From 2020-21 to the 2022-23 season, he spent the majority of his ice time with Gustav Forsling, Josh Mahura and Keith Yandle. Forsling and Yandle are known for their offense and Mahura just spent his first full NHL season with the Panthers. This means that Gudas plays well with young defenders and offensive-minded rear guards who make mistakes on defense more often than most.

Radko Gudas vs Ben Chiarot 2020-2023 (Evolving Hockey)

As far as analytics go, his numbers are very promising given his role. Gudas is better than league average in goals for per 60 minutes, expected goals for per 60 minutes, Corsi for per 60 minutes, expected goals against per 60 minutes and Corsi against per 60 minutes. As you can see above, when compared to Chiarot he is miles ahead in every category.

Gudas Chips in Offensively

In addition to being a good defender, Gudas chips in decent offensive stats. Gudas has averaged 0.24 points per game over his entire career; compare that to Chiarot who has averaged the exact same 0.24 points per game. Hypothetically speaking, if the Red Wings traded away Chiarot and signed Gudas as his replacement, they wouldn’t lose out on Chiarot’s perceived offense and would have a player who is better defensively.

Related: Red Wings’ Chiarot Is Not a First-Pairing Defenceman

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Looking at Gudas’ ice time over his career might give fans a clue as to why he’s been so effective. In his 11-year career he’s averaged 18 minutes of ice time per game. Chiarot has averaged 18:54 over his 10 years in the NHL. That’s not a huge difference at first glance. If we isolate the last four seasons including 2022-23, this is how it shakes out:

Player 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23

Chiarot 23:08 21:47 22:51 20:36

Gudas 16:43 17:34 18:01 17:22
AVG TOI Per Year

If the Red Wings want to keep Chiarot and turn him into their own “Gudas,” they need to first reduce his ice time dramatically. Gudas is so effective because he isn’t out on the ice for more than he should be. From last season to this season, Chiarot’s ice time went down by 2:15. This is a positive sign. Once they shifted the pairings and put Jake Walman with Moritz Seider, Seider started to flourish. However, if the Red Wings were to acquire Gudas, he could be paired with Simon Edvinsson and then Chiarot could stay with the team and get third pairing minutes with whomever he is partnered with.

Gudas is a Human Wrecking Ball

Gudas is most notorious for his reckless abandon when throwing the body at opponents. If you want grit, he’s got it. You want someone who isn’t shy of hitting? He’s got that, too.

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To give perspective, Chiarot has 1,090 hits in 565 career games. Gudas has played 682 games but has 2,562 hits. I don’t think that leaves much room to debate which player is more physical. The limit on Gudas’ ice time is part of the reason why he can hit so much. Because he isn’t trying to play 20-plus minutes a night, he doesn’t need to try to conserve energy, he just focuses on playing his defensive and effective game.

At the very least, the Red Wings need to be in contact with Gudas’ representation to inquire if he is interested in coming to the Red Wings. Gudas could be one of the missing pieces that the Red Wings need to turn into a Cup contender. Maybe if the Panthers win the Stanley Cup he’ll be looking for a new challenge at this stage of his career.

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