NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the Detroit Red Wings.
The Detroit Red Wings will look a lot different this season.
They were active in the trade and free agent markets, adding goalie Thomas Greiss; defensemen Jon Merrill, Marc Staal and Troy Stecher; and forwards Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov.
At the same time, they subtracted goalie Jimmy Howard; defensemen Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson; and forwards Justin Abdelkader and Brendan Perlini.
They are taking a patient, methodical approach to their rebuild. General manager Steve Yzerman declines to give a timeline for a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the Red Wings have missed the past four seasons.
They need to wait for the development of top prospects like forward Lucas Raymond, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and defenseman Moritz Seider, the No. 6 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
But that does not mean they were content to stand pat after last season, when they went 17-49-5, finished last in the League and had the worst points percentage (.275) since the NHL salary cap was introduced in 2005-06.
“We’ll just kind of continue to do what we’re doing,” Yzerman said. “We’ll look for ways to improve the team. The plan isn’t just to sit and not try to improve and get better from year to year. We’re going to try and get better from year to year.
“The reality is, you’re limited to what you can do, and you’re limited, or you’re restricted, by the time it takes for each prospect to develop. [Becoming a contender is] just not as simple as just going out and making a bunch of trades and getting really good players and signing a bunch of free agents.”
The idea is to improve in the short term but keep flexibility in the medium and long terms, buying time for the next wave of players.
None of the new arrivals came with a long-term commitment. Greiss, Stetcher and Namestnikov each is signed for two seasons. Merrill, Staal and Ryan each is signed for one.
Greiss upgrades the goaltending and joins Jonathan Bernier to make Detroit strong at the position. Staal, Stecher and Merrill add experience and depth at defenseman. Ryan provides scoring punch on the wing, especially on the power play, and Namestnikov is a smart, skilled player who can play in any situation at center or on the wing.
“It’s going to be awesome,” forward Anthony Mantha said. “We know Bobby can shoot the puck. Obviously, he’s been around for a long time, and we know what he’s capable of. And just in summer practice, Namestnikov keeps the puck, and he likes to control it. And I think in Detroit, we’re not having enough players that keep the puck like he does. Hopefully they can have a big impact for us in the near future.”
Yzerman left open the possibility the Red Wings could do more before the season, which is targeted to begin Jan. 1.
“We’ve got a lot of bodies right now,” Yzerman said. “I do think there’s room potentially to add, and I would consider it as we go along or as we get closer to knowing when we’re going to start.”
The Red Wings need more growth from some younger players who are already on the roster and playing leading roles: Mantha, 26; forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, 25, and Dylan Larkin, 24; and defenseman Filip Hronek, 23.
Many of their top prospects are playing in Europe, but at least a couple could play in Detroit this season. Forward Filip Zadina, the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, has been loaned to Trinec of the Czech Extraliga but can come to North America once the NHL and AHL seasons start. Seider has been loaned to Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League but can return to North America after Rogle’s season ends.
“We’re going to be contenders at some point,” said Mantha, who signed a four-year contract Nov. 3. “The rebuild needs a couple years to get there, and then the team’s going to be good and that’s when the opportunity’s going to come. If it’s Year Two, Three or Four, I’ll be around, and hopefully I can help this team.”