Red Wings: Projecting the 2020-21 Roster – Version 1.0

While the Detroit Red Wings wait to hear what happens next with this season, we can look forward to the offseason and beyond. 

They already locked down last-place overall and a top-four pick in the upcoming draft. Plus, Steve Yzerman has had (mostly) a full season to evaluate the organization. Could change be coming?

Related: Red Wings Draft: 6 Exceptional First Round Options

Let’s take a look at how the 2020-21 roster could shape up given Detroit’s current roster and what’s possible during the offseason. As expected, things will change between now and then. This is just an early look at what could be for the Red Wings.

Red Wings’ Projected 2020-21 Forwards

Before diving into Detroit’s forward lineup, I ran a Tankathon simulation and the Red Wings got the first-overall pick and Alexis Lafreniere. Lucky? Yes. Likely to happen? I’m not going to answer that. But anyway, we got him.

Anthony Mantha Dylan Larkin Filip Zadina
Alexis Lafreniere Michael Rasmussen Tyler Bertuzzi
Robby Fabbri Valtteri Filppula Darren Helm
Frans Nielsen Luke Glendening Evgeny Svechnikov
Justin Abdelkader Christoffer Ehn  

Apart from Lafreniere, Michael Rasmussen slotted in the second-line center is probably the biggest surprise above. From what I have heard, the former first-round pick from 2017 impressed Red Wings management with how he handled top-line responsibilities in Grand Rapids this season and will be given every opportunity to lock down a middle-six center role in Detroit next year. He could play on the second line or the third, but bet on Rasmussen sticking around after camp.

Additionally, it may be strange seeing Evgeny Svechnikov penciled in on the fourth line with Darren Helm above him on the depth chart. Helm actually carried his weight at even strength this season and would balance his line well with playmaker Valtteri Filppula and shooter Robby Fabbri. Svechnikov, meanwhile, needs to prove that he can contribute at the NHL level.

Evgeny Svechnikov of the Detroit Red Wings.
Where does Evgeny Svechnikov stand with the Red Wings? (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Missing from the lineup are Adam Erne, Dmytro Timashov, and Brendan Perlini. Could all three pending restricted free agents be non-tendered? Maybe, but probably not. That being said, this is the reality of the Red Wings’ forward logjam that Yzerman will need to navigate this offseason. And we haven’t even accounted for Givani Smith, Taro Hirose, or Joe Veleno pushing for a roster spot.

In a similar vein, it would not be surprising to see a buyout. Frans Nielsen and Justin Abdelkader are providing negative value for their respective contracts and Yzerman has a history of buying out tenured players, just ask Vincent Lecavalier. It actually *could* happen.

Related: State of the Red Wings’ Prospect Pipeline

Red Wings’ Projected 2020-21 Defense

On defense, the Red Wings should stand to improve by quite a bit next season. Danny DeKeyser will be fully healthy and the Red Wings could also add a free agent to round out the blue line.

Danny DeKeyserFilip Hronek
Patrik NemethMoritz Seider
Trevor van RiemsdykMadison Bowey
 Alex Biega

First, we’ll start with Moritz Seider. Yes, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to project him on the second pair alongside Patrik Nemeth. He has been the Griffins’ go-to defenseman this season, frequently playing upwards of 25 minutes a night. Seider has been as-advertised and should be on the fast track to the NHL.

As I mentioned above, the Red Wings could (and should) add a free agent blueliner, even after re-signing veteran Alex Biega. Inking a defenseman like Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one-year, prove-it contract would give Detroit some flexibility in the long term and another trade chip at the deadline. Andy Greene, Zach Bogosian, and even Mike Green could be options as well.

Alex Biega of the Detroit Red Wings
Alex Biega has been a sneaky good addition for the Red Wings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Adding in a free agent, Seider, and a healthy DeKeyser will greatly improve Detroit’s paltry defense. Having more depth—and frankly, talent—will allow the Red Wings to deploy better matchups on any given night. That, and we’re almost guaranteed to see better offensive contributions from the back end.

Wait, what about Dennis Cholowski? Based on his play this season, I believe the Red Wings will want to keep him in the minors a little longer. There are still too many defensive gaffes in his game to warrant an automatic NHL job.

Don’t Forget About the Goalies

It’s too bad Jimmy Howard couldn’t have gone out on a better note. It’s unlikely he’s retained this offseason, let alone willing to come back for another season. 

Detroit Red Wings Jonathan Bernier Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard’s days in Detroit are likely over. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Instead, Yzerman will need to find another goalie to pair with Jonathan Bernier. And while Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, and Robin Lehner will garner the most interest, the Red Wings should not be looking at that tier.

  1. Jonathan Bernier
  2. Thomas Greiss

In addition to Thomas Greiss, short-term options like Anton Khudobin and Brian Elliott should be considered. All three would be adequate partners for Bernier and able to split time evenly.

Final Word

I’m an optimist. With the roster above, I believe that the Red Wings can be somewhat competitive next season. Having Lafreniere is a major component of that, though.

Either way, they stand to improve from rock bottom, which is all we can ask for at this point. It’s only up from here, folks!