Detroit — The calendar is flipping to June, so the rumors, trade proposals and free agent news around the NHL is going to increase daily.
That being said, the Red Wings are likely to be active this offseason.
General manager Steve Yzerman hinted as much at his season-ending press conference, noting he’ll work hard to tweak and strengthen the roster, either through trades or unrestricted free agency.
The problem is, though, there are 31 other teams looking to do the same.
“I look at the (free agent) group and there are players that would help us I’d like to sign,” Yzerman said. “The issue is there’s 31 other teams and the list isn’t really that long. That makes it challenging. I sit here and we talk about these players, know who they are and kind of have an idea if these guys would be a good fit for us.”
Yzerman wants to see some young players on the roster make significant strides next season.
“Hopefully these younger players we have on our team now play a bigger role next year,” Yzerman said. “Maybe one or two of our younger players, whether they were in Grand Rapids or coming from somewhere else, push into the team. We’ll slowly add to it and do the best we can to fill our roster.”
With personnel decisions expected to ramp up in the weeks ahead, here’s a look at the Wings’ roster and projecting who is staying or leaving with an eye toward next season:
▶ Dylan Larkin: Let’s see. Larkin is the captain. Coming off a great season. He signed an eight-year contract extension with a full no-trade provision. Yes, Larkin is pretty secure in being a Red Wing for a long time, which is fine with both sides.
▶ Moritz Seider: You simply don’t find many 22-year-old defensemen like this. And when you have one, a team isn’t going to trade the player away. Seider is a piece you build around, similar to Larkin.
▶ Ville Husso: The Wings finally have a starting, No. 1-caliber goaltender, so Husso isn’t going anywhere. The end of the season raised a red flag somewhat, but the Wings are hopeful that was a case of Husso learning how to be a goalie who can play 55 or more games a season.
▶ Andrew Copp: The offensive production slipped (only nine goals), but in every other area the Wings were more than pleased with what the free-agent acquisition brought to the Wings. Copp is also the type of character, and veteran presence, that this younger roster needs to have to look up to.
▶ Simon Edvinsson: He has only played nine games in the NHL, but his attributes of size, speed and physicality make him a potential cornerstone. He’s a Red Wing for the near future, and likely beyond.
▶ Jake Walman: The defenseman signed a three-year extension after a career-best season and formed a productive combination with Seider. The duo complements each other well, and there won’t be any chance of upsetting the chemistry soon.
▶ Ben Chiarot: Signed to a four-year contract last summer, Chiarot brought toughness and leadership to the lineup, as expected. But some deficiencies defensively, that were expected, were also present. But Chiarot isn’t going anywhere.
▶ Olli Maatta: Another positive free-agent signing from last summer, the Wings extended Maatta for another two years. He’s the type of consistent, dependable, veteran defenseman every team likes to possess.
▶ Michael Rasmussen: Even if other teams come around sniffing to make a blockbuster trade, it’s difficult to imagine the Wings including Rasmussen, a grinding 6-foot-6 forward who may still have some intriguing upside, as part of the package going the other way. Slowly but surely, Rasmussen keeps getting better.
▶ Jonatan Berggren: Berggren definitely showed enough in his rookie season, with 15 goals and some savvy offensive instincts, to be part of the nucleus heading into the near future. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a step forward Berggren takes in his sophomore season after hitting a bit of a wall in his first year.
▶ Robby Fabbri: Another knee injury shortened Fabbri’s season, something that has become an unfortunate recurring theme. With two more years at $4 million per, the Wings are hoping Fabbri stays healthy because he’s a valuable offensive piece when on the ice.
▶ David Perron: On and off the ice, Perron did everything the Wings would want as a free-agent acquisition. Now, Perron’s second and final year on his contract is coming up. If the Wings are out of playoff contention again, Perron would be an extremely popular trade chip at the deadline.
Safe but …
▶ Lucas Raymond: He isn’t likely going anywhere, let’s be clear. But if Yzerman is going to make a bold trade, something along the lines of what Calgary did last season with the Matthew Tkachuk trade to the Panthers for two established stars, a young, promising player like Raymond conceivably could be part of the package. Raymond is only 21 and has tons of upside. More likely than not, he’ll work toward that upside in Detroit.
▶ Joe Veleno: A restricted free agent, Veleno played his first full NHL season and showed attributes that could make him an NHL player for a long time. But at age 23, you do wonder what Veleno’s ceiling is, and maybe, although unlikely, there’s another young player out there who hasn’t reached his potential yet that could use a fresh start. Or maybe Veleno is a sweetener for a bigger trade.
▶ Dominik Kubalik: Coming off a 20-goal season and a dazzling world championships performance, Kubalik is heading into the final year of his contract with a reasonable $2.5 million cap hit. Big year coming up, as to whether the Wings extend Kubalik, who’ll be 28 come training camp, or he becomes a trade chip.
▶ Filip Zadina: His future has been speculated on for a while now. An injury-plagued year set Zadina back once again, but with two more years on his contract at $1.825 million per, the Wings will stay patient with the former first-round pick. Then again, Zadina appears to perfectly define a player who could use a new start somewhere else.
▶ Alex Nedeljkovic: A year ago Nedeljkovic would have been just below untouchable. But after a highly disappointing season and after spending part of the season in Grand Rapids, you wonder if there’s a future for Nedeljkovic, an unrestricted free agent, here. You have to believe there will be better, surer opportunities elsewhere, but maybe the Wings still see something in the 27-year-old.
▶ Gustav Lindstrom: A restricted free agent, Lindstrom only played 36 games because of injury and not being able to crack the lineup. Lindstrom has had opportunities but simply hasn’t been able to establish himself. He might be getting one more chance with the Wings though.
▶ Alex Chiasson: Most Wings fans probably didn’t know Chiasson was in the organization before the trade deadline. But Chiasson had six goals in the final 20 games and is the type of veteran who doesn’t necessarily need to play every night. Chiasson is an unrestricted free agent the Wings definitely may re-sign for his on-ice production and locker room presence.
▶ Pius Suter: An unrestricted free agent, Suter did enough to warrant another contract. He’s versatile, can contribute offensively, and is coachable. But the Wings will need room to bring in other faces and upgrades, and there might not be enough wiggle space in the lineup to extend Suter.
▶ Adam Erne: The fact the Wings waived Erne, an unrestricted free agent, around midseason doesn’t bode well for his future with the Wings. He’ll likely find a better option on the open market.
▶ Robert Hagg: He had some promising moments the second half of the season, when he showed some physicality and sound defense. But with so many young defensemen on the way and maybe a free agent, it’s difficult to envision Hagg landing back here.
▶ Magnus Hellberg: He had every opportunity to solidify the backup position behind Husso, but the veteran goaltender couldn’t find enough consistency. Hellberg is likely to find work, given the fact he always seems to be claimed when on waivers. Frankly you can see why, since he’s a good personality in the locker room.
▶ Jordan Oesterle: The Dearborn Heights native is an unrestricted free agent and has proven his versatility with the Wings in two years. That could bring Oesterle back. But the Wings may also seek an upgrade.