Detroit Red Wings: Contract Projections for 2024 RFAs

The Hockey Writers

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman stated that he wants to improve all areas of the team – offense, defense, and goaltending. It’s unclear how much cap space he’ll have available for additions, though. Several restricted free agents (RFAs) need to be signed first.

Similar to last year, I put together contract projections for Detroit’s RFAs—Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, Albert Johansson, and Jared McIsaac—with expected production, supply and demand of cap space, roster spots, and player roles factoring in. Let’s dive in.

More Red Wings Offseason Analysis:

Detroit’s Top Priorities: Seider & Raymond

A significant chunk of Detroit’s 2024-25 salary cap will be occupied by Seider and Raymond’s freshly signed contract extensions. I projected contracts for the two during the season, and after running the numbers again, nothing really changed:

  • Moritz Seider – eight years, $8.5 million AAV (Analysis)
  • Lucas Raymond – eight years, $8.125 million AAV (Analysis)

There have been questions and comments about Seider and Raymond signing shorter-term deals with lower AAVs instead. I want to reiterate why that would not be the optimal approach for the Red Wings:

  1. On average, players peak around 24-25
  2. Short-term/bridge contracts would end at the player’s peak
  3. The next contract would pay based on peak play, while the player starts to slowly and steadily decline
  4. Alternatively, eight-year contracts end around age 30; there’s more certainty in what the player will be thereafter to inform the next negotiation

The Red Wings should sign Seider and Raymond to long-term extensions now. Doing so might require some additional finesse from Yzerman with regard to the 2024-25 salary cap, but it’s what’s best for the organization and players in the long run.

Veleno’s Next Red Wings Contract

Last summer, Veleno signed a one-year deal in an attempt to bet on himself. He followed that up with 28 points in 80 games – an eight-point improvement.

As for this year’s negotiation, the main difference is that Veleno is now eligible for arbitration. Otherwise, he’s expected to be a bottom-six forward and penalty killer moving into the future and produce around 30-35 points per season.

Joe Veleno Detroit Red Wings
Could we see Joe Veleno further up in the lineup next season? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What does that equate to in a new contract? Well, that depends on the term. Signing a one- or two-year deal will make Veleno an RFA once again after that contract expires, so there’s value in that path. A longer-term pact could be beneficial as well, following the same logic noted above.

Regarding the long-term option, the best comparable is Calle Järnkrok when he was with the Nashville Predators. He signed a one-year deal after his entry-level contract, then followed that up with a six-year, $2 million AAV extension. Nashville knew what they had – a versatile, bottom-six forward. Järnkrok wanted stability. It was a win-win for both parties.

This is an option to consider with Veleno. It would cost a little more, but something similar. 

That said, my model suggests a two-year deal with an AAV range between $1.75 million and $2.73 million. A two-year contract extension at $1.9 million is the most likely outcome. 

However, this calculation could change if Peyton Krebs signs a new deal with the Buffalo Sabres before Veleno agrees to terms. The two players profile similarly.

Red Wings’ Options With Berggren

Of Detroit’s RFAs, Berggren is the biggest wild card. So before we dive in, let’s lay out the facts:

  • Berggren recorded six points in 12 games in 2023-24 and 28 points in 67 games in 2022-23.
  • He also has 63 points in 60 combined regular season and playoff games this year at the AHL level.
  • Berggren is eligible for arbitration.
  • Yzerman stated that Berggren will have a spot on the Red Wings next year.  

There was also the report that the 23-year-old and his representation rejected a contract offer, though that was likely a tactical ploy from Berggren’s agent.

Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if this went to arbitration. There’s a case to be made for how Berggren would have performed at the NHL level if he was in Detroit all season. And to that, the Red Wings can argue that there was a reason he wasn’t there. That dissonance—plus Berggren’s actual performance in the NHL and AHL—screams arbitration. 

For what it’s worth, the model predicts a two-year deal between $1.18 million and $1.6 million. It would not be surprising, though, to see Berggren bet on himself and take less on a one-year contract – just like Veleno last summer.

Red Wings & Qualifying Offers

As a refresher, qualifying offers are one-year contracts that come with a slight raise from the prior year. Players can either accept the offer or hold out for a better one. If the Red Wings decline to issue a qualifying offer to a player, they become an unrestricted free agent.

It’s fair to assume that the Red Wings will qualify Albert Johansson this summer. That would mean a one-year deal with an $813,750 AAV. The 23-year-old blueliner is expected to skate in Detroit in 2024-25.

Lastly, I don’t expect Jared McIsaac to receive a qualifying offer. The Red Wings tried to find ice time for him in Europe this year, and he was ultimately dealt to the Providence Bruins in an AHL trade (though Detroit retained his rights).

Final Word

If the Red Wings sign their RFAs to the projected contracts noted above, the organization will have $7,634,443 in cap space to fill out the remaining roster spots:

Red Wings salary cap data with restricted free agents signed
Updated salary cap picture with Detroit’s RFAs signed. (Tony Wolak/CapFriendly)

Filling the two open top-six forward roles will be a tall task for Yzerman. He’ll likely need to shed salary in order to do so. Bringing in a prospect or two on entry-level contracts to play further down in the lineup could help, but more work would still need to be done.

There are many ways to accomplish this, and there’s more to come from The Hockey Writers analyzing how the Red Wings can load up during the summer to break free from their rebuild in 2024-25.

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