This season was one to forget for the Red Wings and their fans. Not only were they by far the worst team in the NHL, but were on pace for one of the worst seasons the NHL had seen in recent memory.
They had a lot of trouble scoring when it wasn’t Larkin, Mantha, or Bertuzzi. Robby Fabbri was a solid in-season trade that paid off as he had 31 points in 52 points. The only other Red Wings forward to have more than 20 points was veteran centre Valtteri Filppula.
The problem hurting the Red Wings is that they have a lot of money still tied up with players way past their prime. Getting Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley off the books for next season will help clear up space, but their forward group still has some terrible contracts.
Frans Nielsen only had nine points in 60 games last season and still has two years left at a 5.25 million dollar cap hit. Justin Abdelkader only had three assists last season and is set to make 4.25 million a season for the next three seasons. No team will trade for those contracts without getting a fantastic sweetener in the deal, and still, the Red Wings might see themselves having to retain some salary. That might even be more unlikely now that the cap will be staying at 81.5 million for the foreseeable future.
They already bought out Stephen Weiss and owe him 1.6 million against the cap for one more season. If they decide at some point to buy out one of their bad contracts, they shouldn’t have too much of a problem doing that. However, as of right now there’s no rush, as the Red Wings will still have an abundance of cap space to work with this off-season.
The first thing the Red Wings need to sign a couple of their big RFA’s which include Mantha, Bertuzzi, and Fabbri. These are just estimates, but it won’t be hard fitting their salaries under the cap this off-season.
There are going to be lots of teams facing cap crunches this summer due to the flat cap, and the Red Wings might be able to help some teams out if they receive some ice incentives along with it. The Maple Leafs, Lightning, and Blues could be some of those teams that might need to dump some cap that the Red Wings could easily fit on their roster next season.
If the Red Wings agreed to take on a player like Alex Steen, who had one year left on his deal at a 5.75 million dollars, they might be able to get a 2nd round pick or a prospect as an incentive, while giving up next to nothing back to the Blues.
This off-season shouldn’t be about trying to get better quickly, as the Red Wings are still a few years away from being a playoff team again. Instead, they should be focused on developing their young players, and leaving roster spots on the NHL team open for younger players to try to snag. Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, Moritz Seider, and whomever they select with the 4th overall pick should have a chance to compete for ice time with the Red Wings next year.
The 4th overall selection will be another big moment for the franchise. Obviously it’s disappointing to be the last place team in the league and not even end up with a top three selection, but they will still be getting a solid player at #4.
Many believe Erie Otters defenceman Jamie Drysdale and Saginaw Spirit forward Cole Perfetti to both still be available at #4, with both players projecting to be impactful NHL players soon. If it was between those two, as much as the Red Wings could use Perfetti’s goal-scoring ability, Drysdale has some elite skating and amazing hockey sense. The Red Wings should be really excited about the possibility of Seider and Drysdale leading the way on the back end moving forward.
If they do decide to look into some of the players in the free-agent pool, it should be on short term deals that could be traded either at the 2021 or 2022 deadline for picks and prospects. It will be tough for the Red Wings to convince some of the higher-end free-agents to join a team that will likely be sitting at the bottom of the league next season.
The Red Wings should seriously consider this off-season using some of their cap space to acquire picks and prospects, as well as giving some healthy competition to some of their young players for spots on the NHL roster. Even if that means having some of their NHL players with high cap hits be healthy scratches for significant parts of the season. It’s all about looking into the future because the next couple of seasons could still be real rough for this franchise.