Red Wings’ Berggren Enters Critical Point with Organization

The Hockey Writers

In a season headlined by a ton of new faces such as Alex DeBrincat, Shayne Gostisbehere, J.T. Compher and even Patrick Kane, a lot of chatter surrounding the Detroit Red Wings pertained to a lesser-known forward outside of Detroit: Jonatan Berggren.

The Swedish forward made his NHL debut last season at 22 years old and recorded 28 points in 67 games. While those numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, Berggren showed a ton of promise as a playmaking winger that could produce in a middle six role. However, as you almost certainly know by now, he was assigned to the American Hockey League (AHL) to start this season and has made infrequent appearances in the NHL this season.

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Berggren responded by becoming a consistent offensive force for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season; he currently has 19 goals and 46 points in 43 games in the AHL, and that’s after he set the Griffins’ rookie scoring record two seasons ago with 64 points in 70 games. With 113 AHL games to his credit, it has become quite clear to many folks inside and outside of the Red Wings organization that he is too good to remain in that league for much longer. To fully realize his potential, he needs to start seeing consistent action in the NHL.

The Red Wings, led by general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman, seem to agree as Berggren was called up to the NHL the day after the trade deadline. The former second round pick back in 2018 has since played a game with the Red Wings (minus-2, 13:22 time on ice) and is now three games away from becoming waiver-eligible, meaning that, if he plays three more games with the Red Wings, Detroit would have to put him up for grabs if they wish to reassign him to Grand Rapids.

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

Because of this, the relationship between Berggren and the Red Wings has entered a critical point. How things unfold between now and the end of the season may very well determine the 23-year-old’s future in the organization.

Berggren Rejects Contract?

In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, there were whispers of a rejected contract offer, prompting some to believe that Berggren would be on his way out before the deadline arrived. That obviously did not happen, but now the question becomes where the player and organization go from here.

Jonatan Berggren Detroit Red Wings
Jonatan Berggren, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

There are many reasons to take those contract reports with a grain of salt. What we do know, however, is that Berggren is a pending restricted free agent coming off of his entry-level contract (ELC), meaning that the Red Wings are very much in position to retain his rights beyond this season. Pending a trade or an offer sheet out of left field, his next contract will be with the Red Wings.

That brings us to Berggren’s call-up.

Berggren Set to Stake His Claim

With Dylan Larkin out for another week, Berggren will almost certainly stick with the Red Wings for this week’s games. That includes Tuesday (Mar. 12) against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday (Mar. 14) against the Arizona Coyotes, and a big game on Saturday (Mar. 16) against the Sabres that would officially remove Berggren’s waiver immunity. That means that the next time he plays for the Griffins, if there is a next time, will be during their playoff run after the Red Wings’ season concludes.

Including their game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Mar. 10, the Red Wings and (if all goes well) Berggren will play 19 games until the end of the regular season. There will be big games with playoff ramifications along the way, including teams they are battling for a spot in the playoffs and teams they could face in the first round if they make it there.

This should provide both the team and the player ample opportunity to figure out what the future looks like. Yzerman stated after the trade deadline that he didn’t add any players because he believes the best additions he could make are players that are in Grand Rapids, including Berggren. With the former 33rd overall pick now in the NHL, the onus is on the player to prove that the GM was right to avoid seeking outside help at the deadline.

Depending on how the next month plays out, we may have a better idea of what Berggren’s future with the Red Wings looks like. Both sides would likely prefer for him to be a Red Wing for a long time, but the fit has to make sense for both sides, and you can usually tell when a player and a team just aren’t quite right for each other.

Six years after Berggren was drafted by the Red Wings, it feels like his moment to stick in the NHL has arrived. How he handles it will set the foundation for the rest of his career.

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