The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Top Priority of 2024 Offseason

The Hockey Writers

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Tony Wolak, Devin Little, Logan Horn, and Evan Sabourin are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

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The Detroit Red Wings’ offseason began two months ago when they fell just short of making the playoffs. However, the organization has done little of note since then despite having a number of things on their to-do list this offseason.

So while we wait for the Red Wings to make some news, our team of writers is here today to discuss what they think the team’s top priority should be this offseason. It is one thing to have success, but it is another thing to build on it. Here’s what our writers think general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman should do to build on the Red Wings’ progress this season.

Tony Wolak: Top-Six Forward(s)

Overall, the Red Wings need to improve defensively. But from a player acquisition standpoint, adding a top-six forward (or two) is paramount.

Detroit’s unrestricted free agents—Patrick Kane, David Perron, Daniel Sprong, and Shayne Gostisbehere—combined for 65 goals last season – 23.6 percent of the team’s total offense. Those goals will need to be replaced somehow. This likely won’t be from one player, but adding a top-six (or top-line) forward will put a big dent into that total.

The Red Wings also need someone who can consistently generate high-danger chances at even strength. Despite scoring so many goals last season (their 275 total goals ranked ninth in the NHL), Detroit actually struggled to create high-quality opportunities at five on five – they ranked 31st in the league in this regard (7.44 high-danger chances per 60 at five on five).

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

Acquiring one—if not two—top-six forwards will go a long way in improving the Red Wings’ offensive depth.

Devin Little: Go Get A Goalie

I think we can all agree that getting new long-term deals in place for Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond is of the utmost importance for the Red Wings this offseason. Their deals will shape the team’s roster for the foreseeable future, and these are two player the team has drafted and developed into budding superstars. However, I think any additional considerations are moot unless Yzerman is able to add some security to the team’s goaltending situation.

Both Ville Husso and Alex Lyon are signed for next season. Let’s think about what we know about these two goaltenders:

Husso: has proven himself capable of stealing games, but is wildly inconsistent; struggled to stay healthy last season; seems to be a good teammate, but has a .895 save-percentage through 75 games with the Red Wings.

Lyon: has proven himself to be an NHL goaltender over the last two seasons, including this season with the Red Wings, but looked burnt out when Detroit rode him through the winter; probably shouldn’t play more than 40 games a season; good, not great.

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

The Red Wings could improve their blue line, add skill and toughness to their forward group, and see growth from some of their top young players next season, but none of it will matter if they don’t have someone that can reliably stop the puck. In my opinion, the Red Wings cannot rely on Husso and Lyon as their tandem next season, and Sebastian Cossa – the team’s top goalie prospect – is likely still a year away from challenging for an NHL roster spot. While I’m particularly keen on asking the Minnesota Wild about Filip Gustavsson’s availability, I think the Red Wings have to do something to insulate their goaltending situation before the start of the season.

Logan Horn: Going for Term with Seider & Raymond

Now is the time for Detroit to extend their best young players for as long as possible. There are countless examples recently of teams gaining some short-term value from going for bridge contracts on their stars, think the Canucks with Elias Pettersson having two 90+ point seasons on a $7.35M price tag. However, if the player pans out, you are going to need to really pony up on the other side of that bridge, with someone like Pettersson earning a significant raise for the next eight years.

The Red Wings could have a very similar situation with their young stars if they don’t sign them for seven or eight years. Going long on a player’s second contract can often let the team mine a significant bit of extra value, especially considering the imminent salary cap increases. The deal New Jersey signed with Jack Hughes was seen as an overpayment when it was announced, but it is already beginning to look like a massive steal for such a gifted player at just $8M/year.

I believe it is in the team’s best interest to sign both Seider and Raymond to eight-year deals, especially since the market is going to be changing very soon with the flat cap era ending and teams getting antsy about all the new money they’re allowed to spend. If you want a deep dive into Detroit’s restricted free agent situation, check out this awesome piece that Tony wrote.

Evan Sabourin: Take Care of Business

Extension. Extension. Extension. Seider and Raymond are the new faces of the franchise and they need to be signed long term. That is priority number one. Raymond was a breakout star this past season and he has the potential to be a consistent 40-goal scorer. Those don’t grow on trees and he needs to be paid now. Same thing for Seider. These are the cornerstones for the future.

I think bringing Kane back should be priority number two. He added that electricity this past season that Hockeytown hasn’t seen since the days of Pavel Datsyuk. It would be great to get him on a two year deal as the Wings start to usher in some of the youngsters in the next two seasons. We all saw what he did for Raymond. Let’s keep that going. 

The goaltending situation needs to be addressed. Lyon proved last season that he can’t handle a number one role. While he was good for spells, he really struggled down the stretch. A consistent goaltender would’ve helped the Red Wings end their eight-season playoff drought. It’s hard to have faith in Husso as he just hasn’t performed up to expectations. He couldn’t stay healthy and that has to be concerning for the front office. 

Now it’s your turn. What do you think the Red Wings’ top priority should be this offseason? Let us know in the comments section down below!

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