With NHL free agency opening in less than an hour, I’m having a hard time looking at the available players, the holes in the Red Wings’ lineup, and seeing a clear path for the team.
Detroit needs one or two more defensemen (depending on whether they want to count on any rookies making the roster in the fall) and a goalie. They’ve added Klim Kostin at foreword but probably want more help there, too. And, really, they need two goalies because they’ll want a veteran in Grand Rapids working with Sebastian Cossa.
There are a lot of goalies out there. Joonas Korpisalo, Tristan Jarry, Frederik Andersson, just to name a few. I’ve always been a Jarry fan and Korpisalo got hot last season. But I think the question the Wings will need to answer is whether they’re signing a “1B” goalie or a backup. Some of these players are going to want to be “the guy” and won’t be an option if Detroit is confident in Ville Husso being the starter going forward.
Which brings me to one of my concerns. Ville Husso’s 2022-23 season felt a lot like Alex Nedeljkovic’s 2021-22 season to me. Husso really fell off at the end of the year (though he was battling an injury for some of that). With that in mind, it feels like the Wings need to be in on a guy who could be the starter. I think that’s someone like Jarry but there are a lot of ways the team can go with it, so it’s hard to get a read.
However goaltending goes, given the players on the market, I think we’re looking a a contract similar to Husso’s to fill this gap.
For the veteran goalie in Grand Rapids, I think Nedeljkovic is ideal, but I think the bridge between him and the organization is burned at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a longtime AHLer in that spot.
On defense, Radko Gudas has been linked to the Red Wings for awhile. I really don’t like that but I’ve heard it enough that I’ve almost become used to it. It feels like “Hey, Ben Chiarot didn’t work out as well as we wanted so lets double-down on that idea.”
I’m tempted by Ryan Merkley but he couldn’t crack the lineup on a bad San Jose team. Would a change of scenery make any difference? Ethan Bear would be interesting. But the options are all older guys looking to get their game back or young guys who never proved they had it. Nothing jumps out at me as anything to get excited about.
It’s even worse at forward, where the options are a couple aging stars who probably want to chase a Cup and won’t be options for Detroit alongside a bunch of aging role players who are going to get absolutely paid because the talent pool is so shallow. Plus Tyler Bertuzzi. The Wings are probably going to be in on Alex Killorn, who put up 0.78 points per game last season and could certainly be a help to the team, but is also already 33 years old.
I come back to the idea of nothing to get excited about. I don’t see the Wings making deals that significantly move the needle as far as their performance. Whoever they get, they still look like a team that maxes out at fifth or sixth place in the Atlantic Division. With that in mind, my hope for 2023 free agency is just that they don’t wreck their cap situation for the future. It’s not a fun place to be but maybe Steve Yzerman can prove me wrong.