Ranking the Red Wings’ 2024 Offseason Priorities: Detroit’s Needs & Targets

The Hockey Writers

Many, many times, Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has said that he’ll do what’s best for the organization. Not what’s best for right now, or for next season, but at a macro level. This summer will be no different.

Within the scope of that overarching mission, Yzerman noted that he wants to accomplish the following objectives from a roster management standpoint:

  • Acquire more offensive depth
  • Improve defensively from top to bottom

How can he do this? I’ve outlined six priorities and ranked them according to their overall importance to the organization. Let’s dive in.

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More Red Wings Offseason Analysis:

Red Wings’ No. 1 Priority: Top-Six Scoring Forward

Rationale: Detroit’s five-on-five high-danger chances per 60 (HDCF/60) ranked 31st in the NHL last season (8.96). 

Potential Targets: LW Patrick Kane, LW Jake Guentzel, RW Jonathan Marchessault, RW Pavel Buchnevich.

Analysis: Kane and David Perron are both free agents, leaving the Red Wings with four top-six forwards—Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, Alex DeBrincat, and J.T. Compher—on the roster. One or both could return. Regardless, those two spots need to be filled.

Patrick Kane Detroit Red Wings
Could Patrick Kane return to the Red Wings? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Guentzel and Marchessault are elite scorers and come with big-game experience. Guentzel, in particular, ranked in the top 10 league-wide among skaters with 200-plus minutes played for individual higher-danger chances generated (iHDCF/60) at five on five. Part of that was playing alongside Sidney Crosby. But then again, he has thrived flanking Sebastian Aho in Carolina as well.

In addition, there’s Buchnevich—a trade target—who is an all-situations forward with size and has the versatility to play center if Larkin or Compher miss time.

(Note: Steven Stamkos and Sam Reinhart were excluded here because I fully believe they will re-sign with their respective clubs.)

Red Wings’ No. 2 Priority: Top-Four Right Defenseman

Rationale: Jeff Petry’s skill level and playing style don’t align well with Simon Edvinsson’s approach to the game. The Red Wings need a reliable, defense-first blueliner to partner with their top prospect on the second pair.

Potential Targets: RD Matt Roy, RD Brett Pesce, RD Chris Tanev, RD Dylan DeMelo, LD/RD Shayne Gostisbehere, LD/RD Jakob Chychrun, RD Rasmus Andersson.

Analysis: During his end-of-year press conference, Yzerman noted, “We need to be better at all aspects of keeping the puck out of our net.” 

Part of that is goaltending. It’s also adjusting game strategy and forwards covering their man better. But having a dependable blueliner to play alongside Edvinsson and take some of the load off the top pairing will go a long way in accomplishing Yzerman’s mandate.

I made the case for Roy last year, and I still think he’d be a great fit for the same reasons. If not Roy, then Pesce, Tanev, and DeMelo are solid options to anchor the second pairing and give Edvinsson more freedom.

Running it back with Petry (or Ben Chiarot) is a cap-conscious internal option, though not an ideal one. If this is the preferred route, then the Red Wings should consider bringing back Gostisbehere on a short-term deal for a third-pairing/power play specialist role. 

Red Wings’ No. 3 Priority: Another Top-Six Forward

Rationale: Same as above – high-danger chance generation was not great in 2023-24, and that’s a vital part of the game come playoff time.

Potential Targets: LW/C Matt Duchene, LW David Perron, LW Teuvo Teravainen, LW Warren Foegele, LW Jake DeBrusk, LW Tyler Bertuzzi, RW Tyler Toffoli.

Analysis: Consider this top-six forward to be secondary – they’ll mostly play on the second line, but could jump up if it’s absolutely necessary. 

One player I want to call out, in particular, is Foegele, who is coming off an impressive season with the Edmonton Oilers. The 6-foot-2 forward just turned 28, scored 20 goals this year, and finished fourth among NHLers who played 200-plus minutes at five on five in terms of iHDCF/60. 

Potential Detroit Red Wings free agent target Warren Foegele
Warren Foegele’s high-danger chance generation abilities should make him a top target this summer. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I know what you’re thinking – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl clearly impacted this. Not so fast. The truth is 56 percent of Foegele’s five-on-five ice time came away from McDavid and Draisaitl, and he still produced strong HDCF/60 without the two star forwards.

Then again, Perron could return and fill this role. Teravainen could slot in nicely as well. And finally, Robby Fabbri is an internal option to consider.

Red Wings’ No. 4 Priority: Checking Line Forward

Rationale: The Red Wings intend to deploy a checking line again in 2024-25.

Potential Targets: RW Christian Fischer, LW Reilly Smith, RW/C Tyler Johnson, RW Jack Roslovic, LW Yakov Trenin, LW William Carrier.

Analysis: Fischer would be an excellent option if he’s amenable to a short-term, low-AAV contract. He thrived in the checking line role alongside Andrew Copp and Michael Rasmussen, and had a positive impact on the locker room.

If not Fischer, then William Carrier is an intriguing player to consider. Like Guentzel and Foegele, Carrier finished in the top 10 for five-on-five iHDCF/60 (minimum 200 minutes played) while skating in the bottom six for the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s physical, difficult to play against, and, apparently, can generate offense.

If the Red Wings want to go the trade route, perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins would consider a change-of-scenery deal that sends Smith to Detroit and reunites Justin Holl with his former GM, Kyle Dubas. 

Roslovic and Trenin have shown well in the playoffs for their respective clubs and are strong defensively. Roslovic would be a great fit given his versatility.

Joe Veleno is an internal option, with a prospect or free agent sliding into the 4C role. Elmer Soderblom could suffice as well.

Related: Red Wings’ 2023-24 Grades: Forwards | Defense | Goalies

Red Wings’ No. 5 Priority: Goalie

Rationale: There’s risk in running it back with Ville Husso and Alex Lyon.

Potential Targets: G Filip Gustavsson, G Ilya Samsonov, G Anthony Stolarz, G David Rittich, G Cam Talbot.

Analysis: In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to go big-game hunting on the goalie market with Sebastian Cossa a year or so away from NHL action. That’s why Jacob Markstrom, Juuse Saros, John Gibson, and Linus Ullmark are not listed here.

Instead, the Red Wings should prioritize acquiring someone to share a tandem role with Husso. Lyon should be the insurance policy once again.

Gustavsson is reportedly on the trade block. Free agents Samsonov, Stolarz, Rittich, and Talbot could come cheaply as well. In fact, Stolarz might be the most underrated free agent available.

Red Wings’ No. 6 Priority: Depth Forward

Rationale: With a handful of rookies likely joining the team and veterans potentially departing, the Red Wings need a depth forward to push the young players and show them how to play the right way.

Potential Targets: RW Christian Fischer, C Austin Czarnik, LW Nic Aube-Kubel, LW/C Mattias Janmark.

Analysis: Depending on which veterans are re-signed or brought in, there may not be a need for this role. Still, if you’re going to have an extra skater in the press box each night, it might as well be someone with value whose development won’t be hindered.

Ideally, this player is a pro’s pro and holds the young players accountable. In addition, this player should have a specialized role when they’re in the lineup – whether that’s on the penalty kill, taking (and winning) defensive zone draws, or something else. Fischer, Czarnik, Aube-Kubel, and Janmark all fit that description and wouldn’t cost a ton to sign.

Related: Red Wings’ Top 3 Burning Questions Entering the Offseason

Final Word

If the Red Wings acquire players to satisfy each priority above, they’ll accomplish Yzerman’s objectives and be a much better team in 2024-25. Plus, they’d still have room to bring in a few prospects to round out the roster.

That said, doing so will be difficult given Detroit’s salary cap situation. Yzerman will have his hands full navigating the salary cap while trying to add to his team and re-sign Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider. It’s certainly possible to accomplish all of these goals – it will just take a lot of finessing on Yzerman’s part.

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

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