Evaluating the State of the Red Wings’ Goaltending Situation

The Hockey Writers

Things are looking pretty different for the Detroit Red Wings in terms of their goaltending pool after free agency and the draft. Ville Husso remains as the main fixture as two new goaltenders signed contracts and two others departed the organization. As the Red Wings are looking to be more competitive with each passing season, every addition to the roster has a purpose to serve.

Alex Lyon Florida Panthers
Alex Lyon with the Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was no surprise that there were a lot of goaltender changes made during the offseason, but some of the new signings have raised some questions. So, what does the upcoming season look like in regard to the Red Wings’ goaltending situation?

New Faces in Town

Between the 2023 NHL Draft and free agency, four new goaltenders have been brought into the Red Wings system. The draft acquisitions are not going to make an immediate impact on the NHL roster, but the free-agent signings are here to round out the tandem in Detroit.

2023 Draft

Two young goaltenders were part of the Red Wings’ haul this year- addressing one of the organization’s primary needs heading into the draft. Trey Augustine of the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) was drafted 41st overall, and then Rudy Guimond (USHS-Prep) was drafted much later at 169th overall. While they are at quite different points in their development track, they are both very solid additions to the prospect pool.

Related: Rimer’s Reactions to the Red Wings 2023 Draft Class

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Augustine, in particular, is very interesting and is likely the second-best goaltending prospect that the Red Wings have after Sebastian Cossa. It’s too soon to say when he will make the jump up to professional hockey as he is just beginning his NCAA career this upcoming season, but his skills are undeniable. He had a phenomenal season with the USNTDP, where he had a .928 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.34 goals-against average (GAA), so I’m very curious to see how he fares at the collegiate level.

Free Agency Pickups and Departures

Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg parted ways from the Red Wings during free agency as they were not offered new contracts. Neither of these departures were surprising due to the nature of their roles in the organization. Both of these former Red Wings will be joining the Pittsburgh Penguins on one-year contracts for the 2023-24 season. Nedeljkovic’s contract has an average annual value (AAV) of $1.5 million, and Hellberg’s is $875,000. 

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Nedeljkovic had spent a majority of the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL) after a rough start in Detroit. He saw some success at the AHL level and played 26 games with a .912 SV% and a 2.71 GAA. However, he didn’t make the progress general manager Steve Yzerman and Co. needed to see in order to offer him a new NHL contract. Hellberg is a bit of a different case, as he has been bouncing around between teams for quite some time but has yet to find a long-term role to fill. 

The 2023 free agency class was not necessarily impressive, especially in the realm of goaltenders where the only standout candidate was Connor Hellebuyck. Even though it was incredibly slim pickings, Yzerman and the front office signed two new goaltenders on the first day of free agency. The first signing was former San Jose Shark James Reimer on a one-year contract with an AAV of $1.5 million. This was not necessarily a thrilling acquisition in the eyes of many as the 35-year-old is coming off of a losing season with a .890 save percentage, as well as some controversial statements regarding his participation in pride nights. 

Alex Lyon signed a two-year contract with an AAV of $1.8 million. Lyon most recently played with the Florida Panthers during a stretch of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he posted a .888 SV% and 3.63 GAA. In the regular season, he played 15 games with the Panthers, and his numbers were great. He had a .914 SV%, a 2.89 GAA, and a 9-4-2 record through that 15-game span. Previously he had played with the Philadelphia Flyers for four partial seasons and the Carolina Hurricanes for another.

The State of the Crease

Ville Husso was acquired by the Red Wings at the very beginning of free agency last season and has been the primary netminder since. Personally, I had thought that he would round out a 1A/1B tandem with Nedeljkovic, but that did not end up being the case. He was the dominant presence in net, as he played 56 games in the 2022-23 season, ending with a .896 SV% and a 2.93 GAA. I was content with how his season went, especially when it is taken into consideration that he was playing the longest NHL season of his career behind a slightly struggling defense.

Related: Red Wings’ 2023 Signings: In Their Words & Others

With Reimer and Lyon joining the team, some weight will hopefully be lifted off of Husso’s shoulders, and his workload will be decreased. Even if neither goaltender is perfect, hopefully, there will be two reliable players to fill in on the nights when Husso needs a rest or to come in when he’s having an off game. To me, both of these signings are designed to be a short-term solution to the Red Wings’ goaltending problem. Additionally, they will serve as a bridge into the next big goaltender that Detroit will bring in, whether it is a rising prospect or a big-name signing in the future.

Ville Husso Detroit Red Wings
Ville Husso, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I expect that Reimer will be the second-string goalie in Detroit, and Lyon will be with the Griffins to start the season. Since Reimer has more NHL experience (14 seasons), it makes sense for him to get the roster spot over Lyon. I feel as if Lyon has the potential to come in and be a solid second-string goaltender at some point, and since he got a two-year contract, I have to assume that the front office shares this opinion. For the time being, he will likely be the emergency call-up goalie in case anything were to happen to Husso or Reimer.

Ultimately, I do not think that either of these signings will dramatically change the way things look in the crease for the Red Wings. Both goalies are in their thirties and aren’t what you would call NHL-caliber goaltenders at this point in their careers. Husso will likely still be able to catch a break here and there more frequently than last season due to these new additions providing some cushioning. With the defense being strengthened in the offseason and the addition of Reimer and Lyon, it will be interesting to see how the Red Wings fare this upcoming season.

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