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Red Wings 2024 Free Agency Primer

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s frantic offseason schedule rolls on, as the dust from the 2024 NHL Draft has barely settled, but we sit here on Sunday morning with eyes glued to what could be on the horizon in the next 24 hours and change.

This offseason is the most intriguing for Detroit in quite some time. The Red Wings utilized the last two summers to sign a glut of NHL free agents, boosting the team’s short-term fortunes through useful bandaids to patch the many roster holes created by years of selling at the trade deadline, along with several bigger swings to plug holes that didn’t have an incoming fix (namely second-line center).

This summer represents a bit of a crossroads; there is likely to be some impact coming from the prospects knocking at the door in the next season or two, but depending on how the Red Wings handle their outgoing unrestricted free agents, there still could be significant money available to be a player in free agency. Some have pointed to next summer as the better opportunity to spend the available bucks, however, the “next” summer always looks more enticing than the current one, as many top targets will re-sign over the next 12 months.

Detroit’s behavior in the last week has indicated they have plans to be quite active this week. We’ll take a look today at the big picture heading into the official start of the free agency period on Monday, as many names have been linked to the Red Wings. But we’ll remind folks that this is the season of deception and outright lying by agents to serve their clients in the best way possible. Nothing means anything until an official transaction is filed.

Where things stand

The Red Wings currently have the third-most cap space in the league at $32.767 million, per CapFriendly, but are among the league leaders in total available roster spots. Realistically, you can expect that between Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, about half of that cap space will be spoken for (less if they end up on shorter deals, maybe more if they both take seven- or eight-year deals).

With RFAs penciled in, Detroit’s depth chart currently looks like:

DeBrincat – Larkin – Raymond
Rasmussen – Compher – Fabbri
Veleno – Copp – Berggren

Chiarot – Seider
Edvinsson – Petry
Maatta – Holl


Along with $13-16 million play with however they see fit. They’ll need at least four more forwards in the mix, and are rumored to be seeking improvements on defense or in goal, too, which could necessitate moving more salary out to free up an extra roster spot.

There are some rumors that Detroit may utilize a buyout to free up extra space. The most likely candidate appears to be Holl. Husso is an option if they don’t like his injury prognosis (yet he can’t be too injured to buyout), and Copp a longshot (as it would be spread over six seasons). I think Detroit has the flexibility to get by without a buyout, but that depends on how aggressive they are with other moves.

What of Detroit’s pending FAs?

I covered this in an article earlier this month, but things changed slightly with the shocking trade of Jake Walman. I can’t believe they needed to add a sweetener, but I think ultimately that may have just been the price to not have to retain any money (Vancouver had to retain 15% on Ilya Mikheyev to even return a 4th, St. Louis made the same move to ditch Kevin Hayes on a nearly identical salary). I hope the Red Wings are planning to get near the cap ceiling to make that move, but we may not have that answer for a while.If I could change the percentages in the original article, the one trending in the most positive direction is Patrick Kane, whose agent Pat Brisson told The Athletic that they’re still discussing a deal to stay. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s close, but there’s something there. In the aftermath of the Walman trade, Pierre LeBrun suggested Detroit was still trying to retain Shayne Gostisbehere, but there’s been no further news since.

Meanwhile, there’s been little on David Perron, who has been rumored to nearly half the league at this point. He’s about as good as you can get for a veteran depth piece coming fairly cheap. No word on Christian Fischer or anyone else further down the depth chart.

Big game hunting

The Walman move (freeing up $3.4 million for the next two years) slightly elevated the ceiling of players Detroit could add through free agency this offseason. Due to the volume of roster spots available, I would guess that they are better off spreading the money to replicate the depth they had last season. However, for the right price, it’s hard to rule out any of the big fish. Let’s look at a few that have been attached to Detroit.

Steven Stamkos – When Tampa Bay cleared over $10 million in just over an hour through the trades of Mikhail Sergachev and Tanner Jeannot on Saturday, I thought the writing was on the wall that Stamkos would be back with the Bolts. But an ugly, public negotiation further spiraled, as Lightning GM Julien BriseBois threw cold water on speculation that the moves had anything to do with retaining their captain. The Lightning are evidently pushing for a long-term deal for low dollars (something like 8x$3 million) which Stamkos is not interested in. Given that he’s coming off another 40-goal season, that makes sense — he’ll easily top that on a 3-4 year deal elsewhere. Stamkos has a history with Yzerman and had an apparent interest in Detroit the last time he was set to hit free agency (only to re-sign at the last minute, so be warned). But there’s a lot of smoke to this one, and while it’s always hard to predict a franchise player choosing a new team, he might not come as pricey as other 40-goal scorers, and he has the cache to entice other veterans down the line.

Jake Guentzel – With Sam Reinhart looking highly likely to re-sign with Florida, Guentzel is the prize of the free agent class. However, the latest rumors are that Tampa Bay freed up that money not for Stamkos, but to woo Guentzel, and Carolina is said to have matched the 8x$8M offer he’s seeking. Others have said Detroit would be interested, and while I find it unlikely, he’s the best player available by some margin. He’s shown good health where a long-term deal wouldn’t be frightening, but it would make filling the rest of the roster more difficult.

Jonathan Marchessault – Unlike the two above, there’s been no rumored connection between the two parties. Marchessault has expressed a desire to stay in Vegas as an “Original Misfit,” but they don’t have the cap space to accommodate him without moving money out. At 33 years old, he’s older than the typical Yzerman free agent target, but he doesn’t have hard miles on him as a player who didn’t emerge until he was 26. He notched a career-high 42 goals this year and would be a hybrid Perron/Kane replacement as a top-six winger that wouldn’t command max term.

Names in the rumor mill

Jake DeBrusk – DeBrusk is one of the best-remaining forwards to be attached to the Red Wings (along with half of the league) in the tier of the “next best” players, who might not command as much as the category above. Still, with three 25+ goal seasons under his belt at 27, he’s projected to be somewhere around $6 million and five years.

Matt Roy – Quietly, the former seventh-round pick from Canton, Mich., via Michigan Tech has become a top-four mainstay on a good team in Los Angeles, and at 29, is set to cash in. Given that Detroit has a bigger need on the right side (where he plays) than the left, Roy can’t be ruled out as an option who might take a bit less to come home, continuing a theme that has run a few offseasons. Still, you can count on his next deal being at least four years and starting with a $5 or 6 for salary.

Viktor Arvidsson – There are tales of Detroit’s interest in Arvidsson stretching all the way back to his draft season, and it’s a link that makes some sense this summer. Arvidsson missed 60+ games this season due to injury, but still managed 15 points in 18 games for Los Angeles. At 31 and coming off that injury, he may not command his biggest payday, but he’s a proven, consistent commodity, even if his addition would leave Detroit a little small among their top-six wingers.

Trade candidates

There was a lot of trade chatter this weekend around these players, but none ultimately moved. However, a few of these trades still make sense even without returning premium draft capital, so let’s take a look.

Jacob Trouba – We touched on this yesterday after the usually plugged-in Larry Brooks reported the teams were far down the line in a deal where New York would retain $2.5 million to make the Rochester, Mich., native a Red Wing at $5.5 million for each of the next two seasons, but the most recent reports say that Trouba (who has a no-move that become a partial no-trade on Monday) is mulling things over. If it happens, you’d hope it’s something of a buy-low proposition, as Rangers fans tired of his occasional ill-timed penalties. I’m not sure how popular it would be with Red Wings fans, but a two-year deal at $5.5 million is more palatable than what some of the (specifically right-handed) UFA defenseman will get, and it’s a clear upgrade over Petry and Holl (who would be more likely to be bought out, in my opinion). He brings a physical element that few players in the league could match.

John Gibson – Gibson is another name hotly linked to Detroit, and a trade not connected to the draft makes a lot of sense. The Ducks are ready to turn the net over to Lukas Dostal, and Gibson has ties to Michigan as a former NTDP goaltender. I would assume the trade would have to center around Ville Husso, who has one year remaining at $4.75 million, going to the Ducks to back up Dostal, while the Red Wings take on three years of Gibson at $6.4 million. Gibson has had ups and downs in Anaheim, but has largely been without a competitive team in front of him, and could be the right age to give Detroit a good option until Sebastian Cossa or Trey Augustine take over the net.

Martin Necas – Necas was the hottest name on the trade market heading into the draft, with Carolina looking to pick up an early first-round pick, but he stayed put. He is an RFA who is reportedly unhappy with his role in Carolina, mostly sitting on the 3rd line after putting up 71 points in 2022-23 and 53 points last season. He would likely cost premium assets, but at 25 years old, that’s impressive production for his age and he fits a window that matches up with Detroit’s potential years of contention.

Rutger McGroarty – The insiders assured us that McGroarty was on the move this weekend, yet his rights stayed with Winnipeg. The issue here appears to be that he feels he’s ready for the NHL, but the Jets’ model is to start prospects in the minors. The Red Wings will always be a factor for a player who has played for the U.S. NTDP and the University of Michigan, let alone both. There hasn’t been much word on his future destination, but depending on how free agency goes, the former World Junior captain would be a great fit in Detroit’s middle-six next season.

Other intriguing targets

I’ve not heard any smoke behind these names, but just to throw out a few more options:

Elias Lindholm – Lindholm is an interesting case, as he would have been among the top available free agents a year ago as a 29-year-old center coming off 82- and 64-point seasons. After Vancouver moved a premium to acquire him, he had a difficult time finding a role among a crowded forward group, producing only 12 points in 26 games with the Canucks. He did have 10 points in 13 playoff games, but Vancouver appears to be moving on and Lindholm’s price tag is anyone’s guess.

Other top-six forwards of note: Teuvo Teravainen, Chandler Stephenson, Tyler Toffoli, Sean Monahan, Anthony Duclair, Adam Henrique, Warren Foegele, Jeff Skinner

Brandon Montour – Like Lindholm above, Montour’s next projected deal is all over the map. Will teams pay him for the 73-point season he had in 2022-23? Or does his 33 points in 66 games this season lower the ask? He’s a right-shot defenseman, so he won’t be short on suitors.

Other right-handed defensemen of note: Brett Pesce, Sean Walker, Alexandre Carrier, Matt Dumba, Justin Schultz

Tyler Bertuzzi/Anthony Mantha – This section has a theme, as these are two more players heading to market who once would have commanded a bit more. Bertuzzi should be able to get term somewhere, but he had a slow start with the Maple Leafs before turning it on late. Mantha was moved from Washington to Vegas and struggled to find his footing. Would Detroit entertain a reunion with either?

We’ll begin to find out when the free agency period opens at 12 p.m. ET on Monday.

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