An Early Look at the Red Wings’ 2020-21 Roster

The Red Wings have hit the 2020 All-Star Break without a lot to show for their current campaign, so let’s go ahead and look at the next one.

Of the team’s current roster when healthy (in other words, I’m not counting some recent call-ups from Grand Rapids), just 11 players are signed for next season.  Eight players on the current roster are restricted free agents and five more are unrestricted free agents (plus a handful of RFAs currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins).

Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman would be well-served to try to get something for the five UFAs at the NHL’s trade deadline next month, which is both obvious and easier said than done.

Alex Biega and Jonathan Ericsson both cleared waivers at different points this season while Trevor Daley, Mike Green, and Jimmy Howard have been shells of their former selves this season.  That doesn’t mean that none of them will be dealt (Daley, it was reported today, has specifically asked for a trade to a contender), just the return is unlikely to be substantial.

As such, regardless of what happens at the deadline, I think it’s safe to look at 2020-21 as if these five will not return and will not otherwise impact the roster going forward.

The restricted free agents are harder to gauge.  Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, and Anthony Mantha have seemingly played their way into new contracts, so I’ll count them as returning.

Meanwhile Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini, and Madison Bowey (who, like Ericsson and Biega, cleared waivers earlier this year) have not taken the hoped-for step forward this season.  On the first-pass look at this roster, I’ll assume none of them return, either via trade or by not giving them qualifying offers.

Christoffer Ehn hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but with the Wings’ abundance of overpaid veteran fourth-liners, he might be expendable.

Andreas Athanasiou is the big question mark.  After last season, he seemed to have established himself, only to have regressed this year.  Due to his potential, he seems a likely trade piece, but it would be a case of Yzerman selling low, in which case he might prefer not to sell at all.

This leaves the Red Wings’ lineup looking (roughly) like so:

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha
Fabbri – Filppula – Zadina
Helm – Nielsen – _____
_____ – Glendening – Abdelkader

Hronek – DeKeyser
Nemeth – _____
_____ – _____

Bernier
_____

Before looping back to those remaining RFAs, we’ll first look to Grand Rapids for anyone ready to step up.

I would be shocked if Dennis Cholowski doesn’t get yet another shot to start the season in Detroit given the open roster spots on the blue line, especially with him having made it back to Detroit earlier this week with Green injured.  I also think the Red Wings would like for Moritz Seider to make the jump but I think they’re prepared to not rush him.  I’m going to reserve two spots for “the kids” with the expectation that Cholowski and/or Seider could be swapped out for someone else currently in the organization at any point in the season.

Up front, maybe Evgeny Svechnikov gets a shot, assuming he’s not traded between now and then and brought back as an RFA.  There isn’t anyone obvious ready to step in like there is on defense.  Likewise, there are no goalies in waiting.  The draft could change this dramatically, though.

Since we’ve already mentioned Svechnikov, lets circle back to those RFAs.  We could see a battle between Svechnikov, Perlini, and Erne.  That would fill the two forward slots and provide a spare.

On defense there’s room for Bowey.  Do the Wings like him enough to bring him back?  I’m not sure on that one but I think they’re not going to walk away from a cheap RFA in this situation.  Which also applies up front, actually.  Especially one they’ve proven they’re not afraid to waive and send to GR if need be.

That reason is the same one I think Ehn will be back in the organization next year.

So we’re back to Athanasiou.  The trend with him seems to have the Red Wings flipping him (perhaps with something else) for a goalie, such as the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev.  I don’t know how much I go for that specific deal, but there’s an open spot in goal and on defense so I’m going to assume that Athanasiou gets moved for either a goalie or a defenseman, with the other spot being filled by a free agent signing.

That gives us an opening night lineup that looks as follows:

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha
Fabbri – Filppula – Zadina
Helm – Nielsen – Svechnikov
Erne – Glendening – Abdelkader
Perlini – Ehn

Hronek – DeKeyser
Nemeth – Seider
Cholowski – Defenseman TBD
Bowey

Bernier
Goalie TBD

The good news is that, under this plan, the Red Wings mostly replenish their roster from within.  I’d like to see a roster spot for Smith given his play in his call-ups this season but I’m willing to wait for Darren Helm‘s contract to expire (or him to be dealt at the 2021 deadline) for that to happen.

The bad news is that this team still isn’t very good.  We could hope that it wouldn’t be as abysmal of a season as the team is having now, of course, but the biggest thing to look forward to would be the trade deadline, with Filppula, Helm, Glendening, Nemeth, and Bernier all on expiring contracts.

You could supplement the roster with free agent signings, and there is room for a couple of those.  Lets say an Athanasiou trade brings back a goalie and the Wings go all out to sign Torey Krug for the remaining blue line spot…  That’s a full roster that looks a lot like the current lineup, and Krug isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  Any other players added via the draft or free agency take the roster spot of an existing player.

Of course, the Red Wings were willing to let Eric Comrie go after two starts earlier this year, maybe they’ve seen enough of Perlini or Svechnikov or Erne to make the decision to cut them loose, or at least risk losing them via waivers.  We’ll have to wait to see if that’s the case.

Author: Clark Rasmussen

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.

3 thoughts on “An Early Look at the Red Wings’ 2020-21 Roster”

  1. Looks pretty close to me. I find it hard to speak of next year and not mention your nephew Michael Rasmussen. He still has time to get another 30 AHL games under his belt this year if he remains healthy. Having said that- with as bad as that roster is, there are some contracts holding up spots that you need to either just let fall off or bury them in Grand Rapids.

    On the note of bad contracts taking up room- I think by the end of this year Joe Veleno will be very settled into the AHL and will be banging on the door. Statistically speaking he started very tough and then started to come on before the World Juniors. At the World Juniors he seemed to get better as the games became bigger. The stats didn’t jump off the page because Group A was so strong this year and there wasn’t the 10-0 type game. However, I loved his game in the finals. I kind of started to see him as a young Val Filppula (minus the allergic to shooting the puck). But just a very solid NHL player. A young player with a strong two-way game, yet has pretty solid offensive production, but maybe topping out at 65 points. A league best 3rd line Center or an effective top 6 player.

    This team will be very bad next year and as each year goes by I start to wonder how much of an effect it has on a competitor like Dylan Larkin, not to mention that Anthony Mantha only plays 60 games a year and might be 29 by the time this team is good.

    Cross our fingers and hope for some serious luck in the next two draft lotteries.

  2. Close, however, Stevie isn’t likely to give away AA. He needs another shot – you just can’t replace 30 goals easily. Also, Ras goes to 3rd line center. Nielson and Abdekader sit much like Ericcson did this year.
    Smith to 4th line with Helm and Glen.
    Lines are:
    M, L, Bert
    Z, F, F
    Svech, Ras, AA
    Helm, Glen, Smith
    As weak as Bowey’s D has been at times, I’d keep him as 6D who has offensive ability.

  3. I think Joe Hicketts should be given another shot. He is playing well in G.R. Can’t be any worse than some of the D playing now.

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