Red Wings Should Avoid These Prominent Free Agents

The Hockey Writers

As free agency approaches, the Detroit Red Wings have several roster-building priorities they need to accomplish. They need to improve “every area” of play, after all.

Related: Top 30 Free Agents for 2023

Some free agents could solve these problems. Others would not. Today, I am going to focus on the latter group: prominent free agents that wouldn’t be good fits in Detroit.

Dmitry Orlov – LD

THW Rank: 3

After joining the Boston Bruins, Dmitry Orlov went on a heater. The veteran defenseman recorded 17 points in 23 games and added another eight in seven playoff contests. 

Dmitry Orlov Boston Bruins
Dmitry Orlov skating with the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That performance will greatly influence his next contract. Orlov is going to get a huge deal from some NHL team. And that team shouldn’t be the Red Wings.

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Make no mistake, Orlov is an adequate second-pairing defenseman – but nothing more. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. The Red Wings shouldn’t shell out big bucks for a blueliner like this who turns 32 in July and plays on the already-crowded left side. 

Alex Killorn – LW

THW Rank: 4

Veteran winger Alex Killorn had a productive 2022-23 season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, posting 27 goals and 64 points in 82 games. It was a great year, but I have doubts that he can sustain this level of production moving forward.

Alex Killorn Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Yzerman issued Alex Killorn’s last contract. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The soon-to-be 34-year-old has been on the right side of the bell curve-shaped realm of possibilities for the past few years, and that luck can’t last forever. Killorn has a career shooting percentage of 12.5 percent, and converted at 18.9 percent last year. He’s due to regress, especially when you consider his age.

If there were a ton of high-quality free agent forwards hitting the market, he’d be worth the risk. But not when he’s one of the best forwards available and there will likely be a bidding war for his services. Pass.

Tristan Jarry – G

THW Rank: 11

There are worse goalies than Tristan Jarry. There are better goalies, too. 

The oft-injured netminder was limited to 47 games last season and produced a 2.90 GAA and .909 SV%. Those numbers are fine, as was his 0.11 goals-saved above average per 60 (GSAA/60). You don’t pay top dollar for “fine” results, though.

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The Red Wings are better off spending less to acquire a backup or 1B goalie to split time with Ville Husso. Dishing out term and a $4-5 million AAV for an average goalie isn’t great salary cap management.

JT Compher – C

THW Rank: 14

As a member of the Colorado Avalanche, J.T. Compher was a middle-six center who was counted on in defensive situations. His possession and expected goals-for rates were middling at best, though.

J.T. Compher Colorado Avalanche
J.T. Compher skating with the Colorado Avalanche. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If this sounds familiar, well, it’s because that’s also how you’d describe Andrew Copp. Compher is a right-handed Copp. The two former University of Michigan teammates are versatile, complementary forwards, but not drivers.

The Red Wings need a right-handed center like Compher. But he’s just out of their price range. After a career year playing alongside Mikko Rantanen, Compher is looking at a deal similar to Copp’s (4-6 years, $5-5.5 million AAV), and Detroit can’t afford another one of those. Well, they can, but it wouldn’t be wise to commit that much cap space to a middle-of-the-pack forward.

Radko Gudas – RD

THW Rank: NR

One of Detroit’s offseason priorities is to find a two-way right defenseman that would pair nicely with Simon Edvinsson in the top four. Radko Gudas is not that. The 33-year-old is an above-average bottom-pairing defenseman. 

Sure, he plays physical and has good possession numbers, but if you’re expecting him to take a step forward playing more strenuous and important minutes, you’re going to be disappointed. There are other right defensemen out there—free agents and trade candidates—who would be more effective in a top-four role. 

John Klingberg – RD

THW Rank: NR

During the 2022-23 season, 211 blueliners played 500-plus minutes of five-on-five hockey. Klingberg’s 67.79 Corsi-against per 60 (CA/60) ranked fourth-worst among those defensemen. His xGA/60 was dead last.

At this point in his career, Klingberg’s defensive woes outweigh his offensive and power play contributions. And that is not what you want from someone who would be partnered with Edvinsson.

More Red Wings Offseason Analysis:

It’s not the end of the world if the Red Wings sign any of these free agents. There are just better options out there.

Data courtesy of and Natural Stat Trick.

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