Off-Season Plan for the Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings are going to be drafting 6th overall in this year’s NHL entry draft. Now, Detroit has been such a powerhouse in the NHL for so many years, but now it seems like the Red Wings are slowly starting to accept that a rebuild is the best thing for this franchise. They showed that at the trade deadline when they traded away Tomas Tatar to the Golden Knights for a 1st round pick (2018), a 2nd round pick (2019), and a 3rd round pick (2021). A great return for Tatar if you were to ask me. Now that the Red Wings seem to have committed to building a team to really compete in a few years from now, this off-season will be about them getting younger and figuring out what to possibly do with a couple bad contracts.

With the draft, if the projected top 5 go top 5, that would leave 2 great defensemen for them to choose from at number 6, Quinn Hughes or Evan Bouchard. Which is perfect, as currently 3 of the Red Wings top 6 defensemen (Kronwall, Ericsson and Daley) are all 34 years of age or older. They do already have 2 top defensive prospects in Filip Hronek and Vili Saarijarvi, and the possibility to add another one makes the future of the Red Wings blue line very exciting. If they take Hughes, they will be taking a great skating defensemen who makes really smart plays with the puck. If they take Bouchard, they will be selecting a bigger, stronger defensemen that makes an amazing outlet passes and has a big shot from the point. I believe that Bouchard is a better choice for the Red Wings because he is a right handed shot (and you can’t have enough of those) and because both Hronek and Saarijarvi aren’t the biggest and strongest guys. Bouchard will give them a young, big, hard hitting defensemen to build the defence around.

They also will have the Golden Knights 1st round pick, which is going to either be 30th or 31st overall. With that pick, if he is available, I believe someone like Oshawa Generals RW Serron Noel would be a great pick. He is a big strong power forward but does need to learn to play a bit better without the puck. He will have time to get better in that area before he is ready for the NHL, as when a team has 2 first rounds picks I think they feel safer with picking someone with the 2nd first round pick that is a bit more of a long term project. Ok, thats enough draft talk for the team that a good friend of mine now refers to as the “draft wings”.

Moving on to the team they have right now, i’ve heard a few people say this year that Detroit would be a good fit for John Tavares, and I do somewhat agree. Tavares might want to go to a team ready to win right, which the Red Wings might not be, but it’s close to Toronto where the majority of his family lives. He would also be going from a team that has had a lot of arena troubles to a team that has a brand new arena (might not actually be a factor but who knows). Only problem with Tavares to the Red Wings is how could they possibly afford him.

Cap Friendly projects the Red Wings to have about 17 million dollars of cap space this summer, and maybe even closer to 21 million because the Red Wings will be putting Johan Franzen on LTIR. That 17-21 million dollars of cap space will quickly shrink as they will have to resign Pending RFA’s Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. Once all have resigned (which could drag out a while, just look how long it took for Athanasiou took to resign last year), the total of all 3 contracts could equal around 12-15 million dollars per season. The Red Wings will have enough room to sign all 3 players, but not a lot of room left over.

A big reason for that is because of some bad free agent signings in the past 2-5 years by GM Ken Holland. When he realized that his team was getting older he spent big money in free agency to try to keep this team in playoff contention for a little while longer. It didn’t work, and now the Red Wings are stuck with some bad contracts because of it. There is Trevor Daley, who has 2 years left at 3.166 million per season, which isn’t terrible but he is 34 so it wouldn’t be surprising if he started to decline big time in the next two seasons. Stephan Weiss’s contract was really bad and it was bought out by the Red Wings, so his cap hit is 1.666 million dollars for the next 3 seasons. Then there is Frans Nielsen, and his contract isn’t looking so good these days. He has 4 years left on his contract making 5.25 million dollars a season. Did I mention that he hasn’t gotten more than 41 points in a season during his first 2 seasons with Detroit…. and that he is 34 years old right now. I have trouble thinking Ken Holland didn’t know that this contract was going to one day look really bad, however I don’t think he thought it would happen only 2 years into the contract.

Those contracts, and the contracts of players like Abdelkader and Ericsson (4.25 million each, not terrible but a little to much) are the main reasons why the Red Wings are going to have trouble making big changes to their team this off-season. They do have two 2nd round picks this year and next year, plus three 3rd round picks this year. They could try to throw 1 or 2 of those picks in as part of a trade with a team with a lot of cap space to try to dump one of those terrible contracts, but it would be difficult.

Do I think that John Tavares would make sense for the Red Wings? Yes I do, I just don’t see how they would fit him in the cap with these team right now. I think this off-season the Red Wings should focus on trying to find more ice time for top prospects like Hronek and Saarijarvi. They also have a RW prospect named Evgeny Svechnikov and a young C named Michael Rasmussen, both players have a ton of skill and have the chance to one day be real stars in this league. As for goalies, this upcoming season is the last in Jimmy Howards contract, so the Red Wings might want to start trying to figure out who they are going to go with after next season, because I can’t see Detroit resigning him.

The Detroit Red Wings actually have a lot more highly skilled prospect than you might think, and I believe that this off-season should be focused on setting up a good opportunity for some to make the jump to the NHL next season and have success. Along with that, they have to give contracts to Larkin, Mantha and Athanasiou. If Holland can also move at least one of the bad contracts I mentioned earlier, I think the Red Wings will be very happy about the steps made this off-season to help this team moving forward.

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