Red Wings: What to Watch for the Rest of the Way

The Hockey Writers

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, and with Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman standing pat outside of sending forward Klim Kostin to the San Jose Sharks, there are plenty of different things to keep an eye on the rest of the season for Red Wing fans.

Does the Playoff Drought End?

The Red Wings have not made the playoffs since the 2016-17 season, but as of March 9, they are in a wild-card spot. The team is on a five-game losing streak and has not looked particularly good. They are missing captain Dylan Larkin due to an injury that has greatly impacted the lineup. They must return to how they played during their six-game win streak before the current losing streak.

Related: How Can the Red Wings Overcome Dylan Larkin’s Injury?

There will need to be several players that step up until Larkin returns to the lineup, and the team’s defense needs to step up and be better as a whole. There are currently a few teams that are closing in on the Red Wings in the standings, and if the team wants to end their drought, they will need to play better than they have as of late.

Is Berggren Here to Stay?

Yzerman’s biggest move at the trade deadline this season was calling up Jonatan Berggren from the Grand Rapids Griffins. Berggren has spent most of the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Griffins after a solid rookie season last year with the Red Wings. Recently, rumors circulated that Yzerman could look to trade Berggren due to him turning down a contract extension, but that did not happen.

Jonatan Berggren Detroit Red Wings
Jonatan Berggren, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The catch with calling Berggren up is that if he plays in four games with the Red Wings, he will have to be sent through waivers and would likely be claimed by another organization. So, the likely situation is that he will stick with the team for the remainder of the season to showcase himself to hopefully earn a full-time shot next season and a contract extension as he is a pending restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the season.

Does Anyone Else Get a Call-Up?

There could be a slight chance that Berggren is not the only Griffins player to get a call-up the rest of the way, with defenseman Simon Edvinsson being the most likely option to be called up at some point in the last 19 games of the season. Yzerman seems quite happy with how the 2021 first-round pick has played this season in the AHL. The only issue is that the Red Wings already have seven defensemen on the roster (with Justin Holl playing sparingly). If they were to call him up, head coach Derek Lalonde would have to decide who to take out of the lineup. But with how the Red Wings’ defense has looked lately, mixing things up in the defensive group may not be the worst idea.

Outside of Edvinsson, no surefire players could find their way to Detroit, but players like Marco Kasper and Albert Johansson could be long-shot call-ups.

RFA Decisions for Yzerman

Yzerman has four players who will be RFA’s at the end of the season: Berggren, Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, and Joe Veleno. He seems to be more likely to get something worked out with hopefully a couple of these players before the end of the season than he is to get the unrestricted free agents (UFA) taken care of. Raymond and Seider have had solid seasons for the team and are widely considered pieces that will be part of the team for the long haul and likely get extensions done.

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But with Berggren, he will have to prove that he can play a solid two-way game in the NHL in the time he is given in the future to earn himself an extension. Veleno has been another player who has had a solid season for the Red Wings after signing a one-year extension last offseason as a prove-it type deal. The former first-round pick must continue showcasing his game to get another contract. He will be given the chance to prove he can do so, it seems, after being bumped up in the lineup in the Red Wings’ first game without Larkin, where he was paired up with Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane against the Arizona Coyotes on March 8.

How Does the Goalie Situation Shape Up?

Entering the season, the plan was for both free agent signings, Alex Lyon and James Reimer, to compete for the backup spot behind Ville Husso in the net. But Husso has struggled with injury issues this season, and Lyon has taken over the number-one spot in his absence. As of late, it seems like Lyon has hit a wall with his game and has not been the same goalie he was earlier in the season (albeit with some spotty support in front of him).

Alex Lyon Detroit Red Wings
Alex Lyon, Detroit Red Wings (Evan Sabourin / The Hockey Writers)

Hopefully, Husso being on the mend could create a situation where he comes back and helps ease the load for Lyon, leaving Reimer as the team’s third goaltender. If he can come back and play like Yzerman hopes he can, it could benefit the team and its playoff chances. But banking on that to happen may be a stretch for the team after he had struggled before his injuries.

Plenty to Keep an Eye On

Red Wings fans have been able to get excited about this season, so there are plenty of things to keep an eye on. As of late, though, things have not looked the greatest for the team, and the hope is that they can turn things around and keep themselves afloat in a playoff spot.

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