We’re mere days away from the July 1st free agency period opening and the Red Wings going out to make a big ol’ splash with all their newfound cap space. Before getting too wrapped around the axle on our shopping list though, it’s good to take a look at what you’ve got so you can tell what you need. Before the Wings can shop for more scoring and better defense, let’s take a look in their cupboard.
|Roster Forwards||Prospect Forwards|
|Henrik Zetterberg||Evgeny Svechnikov|
|Gustav Nyquist||Dylan Sadowy|
|Justin Abdelkader||Tyler Bertuzzi|
|Tomas Tatar||Axel Holmstrom|
|Riley Sheahan||Dominic Turgeon|
|Dylan Larkin||Zach Nastasiuk|
|Tomas Jurco||Tomas Nosek|
I’ve listed all of the waiver-eligible forwards as on the roster, the guys who played at least 10 NHL games last season, and everybody else as prospects for ease. You’ll notice Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale are missing from this list. For the purpose of putting together a roster, they shouldn’t be considered. Both players will be on LTIR for the 2016-17 season.
The thing that stands out is that we’ve only got 12 forwards and a definite hole near the top. Forwards number 13 and 14 are the backup guys anyway so they can be filled with depth players, but even a really quick look at lines gives you something like:
If you can get past the idea that Athanasiou should probably be a center, you’ve still got Zetterberg as either the top or 2nd line center, despite the idea that he should likely be the Wings’ 3C based on his diminishing ability. There’s a lot of potential here, but just about every one of these lines is essentially playing one position too high.
|Roster Defensemen||Prospect Defensemen|
|Mike Green||Robbie Russo|
|Niklas Kronwall||Dan Renouf|
|Jonathan Ericsson||Vili Saarijarvi|
|Brendan Smith||Joe Hicketts|
Using the same definition of "Roster" as above, the list of waiver-eligible D-Men will likely be seven by the time the season starts (though it’s not unheard of for teams to carry 8D and 13F to make up the 23-man roster). Even if Detroit carries eight, that’s still a list of 10 players.
Obviously, Lashoff is the easy decision for waivers and will be exposed/sent down. We’ll debate endlessly on the other two to go, but as of right now it looks like Jensen and Sproul would be those two if the season were starting right now. Those are the two who’ll have a lot of fighting to do in training camp to stay above others.
Things get even more complex on the blue line when you consider that the Wings are absolutely looking for help/improvement. The defense corps failed to start transition and to put up points for the Red Wings, making up a good part of the team’s failure to score goals. We’ll argue nonstop about how much Jonathan Ericsson’s drop in performance hurts the team and how badly he needs to go, but the biggest worry is that to get a defenseman who comes close to being called an "impact" guy, the Wings are going to have to spend more-promising assets the other way and that they’re simply saddled with Ericsson’s deal.
It’s looking more and more like Jimmy Howard will be with the Wings next season and either be a deadline sell or fodder for the expansion draft. If the team can move Howard, they’ll have to pick up a good backup option to spell Mrazek, or they could possibly go with Jared Coreau, though I think they’d prefer to keep him in Grand Rapids for the time being.
As of right now though, Mrazek and Howard are the two goalies, so no updates there.
Conclusion - Need More Forwards
While the Wings might be able to get extra ability out of some of the guys still listed as prospects for forward, they’ll have holes to fill there. When you combine that with the concept that they might have to end up spending forward assets for a defenseman, it makes more sense that they would be digging deep into looking for impact signings at the forward position.
Well, that and the free agent defenseman crop is very bad this year. We’ll be looking at a bunch of free agent options as we prepare for free agency to open, but this is why we’ll be focusing so heavily on forwards.