Stevie Y had a quietly productive offseason. Following the Nick Leddy and Alex Nedeljkovic trades, he secured extensions for Sam Gagner, Michael Rasmussen, and Marc Staal before hitting the free agent market. A few contracts later saw Jorden Oesterle and Pius Suter don the Winged Wheel, joining the 2021-22 Red Wings on two-year deals.
Hey, that rhymed!
Anyway, who are these guys? Where did they come from, and what kind of impact will they have on the Wings? Will there be any more rhymes? All of these questions and more shall be answered in due time, dear readers.
Who the heck is Nick Leddy?
When news broke of the Leddy trade that saw a second-round pick and Richard Panik go to the New York Islanders, the collective response of Wings fans was a resounding “meh”. Leddy had a less-than-stellar season last year with the Isles. While he was able to string together 31 points (more than any player on the Wings, might I add), his defensive lapses left a lot to be desired. Still, Leddy is a clear upgrade on the Wings’ defensive front.
There’s a lot to like about Leddy. First and foremost, he excels at zone transition. He can break up an offensive rush or cut through the defense in an instant. The play below shows just how capable Leddy can be on offense as well as defense. I know many of us aren’t used to exciting defensive transitions, so I will preface this by saying that it might startle some of you:
Expected Goals Thread - Week 8— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) November 26, 2018
## Highest xG Values - Goals:
1: 11/23, NYI vs. NJ
Leddy (G), Filppula (A)
5v5, 10.77 ft, 21.8 angle
xG value: .944 pic.twitter.com/KID2YtsXsk
Wait, you might be asking. You’re allowed to do that?
Not to be Bobby Buzzkill, but this highlight came from 2018. Leddy is 30 now. Last season wasn’t Leddy’s most spectacular. If he continues this downward trajectory, it might be hard to justify shipping off that second-round pick.
You can look at this one of two ways. Maybe you’re of the opinion that Leddy was added to give Moritz Seider a good role model. He’s one of the better defenders on the Wings’ roster already, and he’s only got a year left on his contract. Or, perhaps, you’re a firm believer that Yzerman is playing 4D chess. Maybe he’s taking the pressure off Leddy before trading him to a Cup contender while retaining salary.
If you’re of the former mindset, I can see the justification if I squint hard enough. If you’re of the latter, what kind of return do you expect to get from trading Leddy? Another second-round pick would make the trade essentially a wash. What happens if Leddy loses another step? What do you get in return? Too many questions. Not enough answers.
Let’s move on.
Let’s talk about Alex Nedeljkovic
Now this is more like it. In 48 hours, Yzerman transformed one of their biggest question marks into a huge strength. Shortly after trading for (and signing) Alex Nedeljkovic, the Wings drafted Sebastian Cossa, a highly touted goaltending prospect. These two moves have built some security between the pipes for Detroit for years to come.
The trade for Nedeljkovic is a low-risk, high-reward move. For those out of the loop, Nedeljkvoic was a Calder Trophy finalist, posting the highest save percentage and lowest goals-against average in the NHL. On the surface, this trade looks like a head-scratcher for the Carolina Hurricanes. According to Athletic beat writer Sara Civian, the team chose to trade the Calder-finalist because they weren’t confident in paying him the big bucks after just one strong season.
I can’t say I blame them; with the Hurricanes in win-now mode, putting all your faith in a goaltender that’s only started 27 NHL games is a bit risky. Additionally, the team placed Nedeljkovic on waivers earlier in the season. It’s clear there was a disconnect between the two camps. Bad news for the Canes, but good news for the Wings.
At 25 years of age, Nedeljkovic is a spectacular get for Hockeytown. He has the ability to serve as a 1A-1B goaltender with Thomas Greiss right off the bat. His age fits perfectly along the timeline for the Wings’ rebuild. While Cossa develops in the OHL, Ned will shoulder the burden through the final stages of the rebuild. If Cossa develops into a solid goaltender and Nedeljkovic continues his current trajectory, the two will make a fearsome duo for the Red Wings.
The question remains in his ability to remain a consistent threat between the pipes. Nedeljkovic has the potential to share a similar trajectory that Alex Lyon once did. The Philadelphia Flyers watched Lyon excel in 2017-18. After an outstanding AHL campaign and a solid NHL rookie season, Lyon faltered. Since that season, he’s spent time between the NHL and AHL and has yet to put together an NHL season above a .900 save percentage.
While Nedeljkovic is far more talented than Lyon, it’s important to not put the cart before the horse. He’s a good goaltender full of promise, but fans shouldn’t expect him to immediately seize the starter’s reins in Hockeytown. Still, this was a superb trade that has a high likelihood of paying off. One team’s question mark is another’s exclamation point.
Okay, but what’s the deal with Jordan Oesterle?
Jordan Oesterle is somewhat of a late bloomer, earning his first full-time NHL roster spot at age 26. Three seasons later, the Dearborn Heights native is set to return to his hometown. Oesterle played three full seasons for Western Michigan University (boo, fire up Chips) before signing a deal with the Edmonton Oilers. His newest teammate, Danny Dekeyser, is of the same alma mater. Neat!
Oesterle, to put it simply, is a depth defenseman. His defensive metrics aren’t the flashiest, and he’s not much of an offensive weapon. He’s good for about 15-17 minutes a night against depth players. To be blunt, it’s incredibly unlikely that Oesterle has the kind of season Troy Stecher did last year. Keeping expectations realistic with Oesterle will be very important.
The stats above paint a clearer picture of Oesterle’s performance last season. He wasn’t the most stalwart of defensemen, but he does have a bit of an eye for offensive production. His Goals Above Replacement (GAR) indicate that he scores at a higher rate than the average replacement-level defenseman. Having said that, his defensive metrics leave a bit to be desired. He’s like a bargain bin Mike Green in that sense.
With that said, he’s going to make for a solid bottom-pairing guy for the Wings. When partnered with someone like, say, Troy Stecher, he might make for a pretty decent depth acquisition. Additionally, Oesterle played a little bit of time on the Coyotes’ second power play unit last season. The Red Wings ended last season with the second-worst power play in the NHL. When you hit (near) rock bottom, the only place to go is up. After the remarkable inefficiencies of last season, it couldn’t hurt, right?
Pius Suter? Who?
You might remember Pius Suter as the guy who scored his first three career goals in one game against Detroit. He was not a very popular guy in the eyes of Red Wings fans that night. After a series of very odd moves by the Chicago Blackhawks’ front office, Suter was not qualified, making him an unrestricted free agent. Now, the Red Wings have a promising young center in Suter, who just finished fourth in scoring for the Blackhawks with 27 points in 55 games.
Suter initially went undrafted in the NHL, playing in the National League in Switzerland. He finished the 2019-20 season as the scoring leader of the NL with 30 goals and 53 points. With Chicago, Suter spent almost all of his time centering Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. While players of that caliber likely helped to inflate his numbers, the fact that he could perform as amicably as he did speaks to his ability as a center.
In the past, analysts compared Suter’s play style to (don’t panic) Frans Nielsen. Now, it appears he’s coming into his own in that regard. When asked about Suter, Yzerman had this to say during his most recent press conference:
“We got to watch him play firsthand eight times. He had some success against us...I think he fits our need at center. He’s got good hands, versatiliy, and hockey sense. With [Suter] in the group, we’re going to generate more offense.”
Suter’s two-year contract will see him hit free agency at the same time as Tyler Bertuzzi, Jordan Oesterle, and Dylan Larkin. While it isn’t a sure thing yet, it appears that Suter will slot in as the team’s second-line center. If he’s on the hunt for opportunity, he’ll have plenty of it in Detroit. The team with one of the worst offenses in the NHL will need all the help they can get. Suter has excelled at both even-strength and power play scoring. Next season will be his chance to show he’s anything but boring.
Are you happy?
Who are you most excited to see next season?
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