What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Raymond Harrison and Devin Little are the muckers who form THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
As the 2019-20 season winds to a close, general manager Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings are beginning to shift their focus towards the offseason. The team could have a ton of changeover during the summer, as 23 players in the organization are set to enter some form of free agency. Likewise, the Red Wings are projected to have over $38 million available in cap space.
While veterans like Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson are at the tail end of their careers and set to be unrestricted free agents (UFA), the Red Wings have an interesting decision to make with their restricted free agents (RFA).
Ten players who appeared in NHL games with the team this season are impending RFAs. We are going to address whether or not we believe the team will, or should, bring these players back.
To avoid redundancy, we are going to leave Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi off of this list because they are core pieces of the Red Wings and will undoubtedly re-sign with the team. Let’s dive in.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $900,000
Raymond Harrison: Fabbri has been the steal of the season with 31 points in 51 games since joining the Red Wings. He is the fourth-best forward on the roster (with all due respect to an injured Filip Zadina) and is one of the only sources of secondary scoring the team has. There is no doubt that he will be a member of the team heading into the 2020-21 season.
Devin Little: Please, sign him now! Fabbri represents the best of the trades Yzerman has made this year. He’s a top-six scorer on the team and could become a depth scorer as the organization adds higher-end pieces.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $1.4 million
Raymond Harrison: Nobody expected Erne to explode offensively with the Red Wings, but his season has been pretty miserable. He has five points in 56 games and is out for the foreseeable future with a broken hand. He has dished 142 hits, which is something, but I would rather the team use his roster spot on somebody with a higher upside.
Devin Little: I’m pretty neutral to Erne. He’s young enough to believe there’s an untapped gear to his game, but he also hasn’t shown the ability to be anything more than a depth rough-and-tumble option in the bottom-six. I’m sure the team will re-sign him, but I wouldn’t give him more than a year.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $874,125
Raymond Harrison: Perlini has been the opposite of Fabbri. Where Fabbri thrived with increased opportunity, Perlini has failed to stand out. He has four points in 38 games this season with the Red Wings and has been a healthy scratch for the last four games.
Some of his underlying metrics, like a 14.07 CF/60, suggest that he has been better than his scoring statistics show. Nevertheless, I’m skeptical the team will re-sign him due to a lack of roster spots. He had his chance to earn a role, and while his deployment has been unfavorable, I think it is worthwhile for him to move on.
Devin Little: I want Perlini to break out so badly. He has the physical tools to be a strong power forward, but he hasn’t been able to put those tools to use in the NHL. I think Yzerman should extend him a qualifying offer, but also put out feelers in the hopes of gaining a draft asset in return.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $694,444
Raymond Harrison: I like what Timashov has brought to the team in his first four games. He is physical, deceptively quick on his skates, and has created a couple of premium scoring chances in limited minutes. I would like to see his role expand a bit over the final few weeks of the season, as he is a player I hope the team re-signs.
Devin Little: I LOVED that the Red Wings claimed Timashov off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s the type of bottom-six forward the team should be investing in. We’ll see how he fits in over the last month of the season before Yzerman commits to him, but I think he is a worthwhile player to re-sign.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $1 million
Raymond Harrison: I think the Red Wings will re-sign Bowey if only because of their lack of available blueliners next season. As of now, Danny DeKeyser, Patrick Nemeth, Filip Hronek, and Alex Biega have NHL contracts, while Gustav Lindstrom, Dennis Cholowski, and Moritz Seider are candidates for playing time in the system.
For that reason, re-signing Bowey to a cheap contract is a viable option. I know he is a divisive player, particularly regarding his abysmal defensive capabilities, but the Red Wings lack other options.
Devin Little: I like Bowey. I think he fits in with where the Red Wings are at in their development. He’s probably nothing more than a sixth defenseman on a contender, and even that is a bit of a stretch, but he provides some offense from the back end which only Filip Hronek is providing.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $759,167
Raymond Harrison: Ehn adds nothing exceptional to a roster. If the organization wants to keep him as a depth piece in the AHL, so be it, but he should not be taking up an NHL roster spot next season.
Devin Little: Ehn’s fine, but if he’s going to clog up the lineup and inhibit a prospect from getting NHL reps, I’d rather the Red Wings move on from him. They have had too many players like this over the years, like Joakim Andersson or Landon Ferraro.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $925,000
Raymond Harrison: I understand why the Red Wings wanted Hirose to develop in the AHL this season, but next year, I hope there is a spot for him at the NHL level. He is undersized, but he offers more offense than any of the players currently in the Red Wings’ bottom six. He has 15 points in his past 17 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Devin Little: Sign him and play him. Hirose doesn’t have the high-end ceiling of others in the system, but he does offer an offensive upside that has already gathered results at the NHL level. He could become a fine home-grown playmaker on the third line.
2019-20 salary cap hit: $863,333
Raymond Harrison: I am not ready to close the book on Svechnikov, and neither should the Red Wings. It has not been a perfect season for the former first-round pick in the AHL, but he has had several promising stretches. In the middle of February, he tallied eight points over a five-game span.
I hope the team re-signs him for one more season, to give him another chance at cracking the NHL roster. If he can’t make the team out of training camp, he will likely be out of the organization anyway, as he loses his waiver exemption after this season.
Devin Little: Sign him to a “show me” deal. It’s now or never for Svechnikov. He has the skill to become a fine middle-six winger with the ability to finish, but he needs to seize the opportunity. If he can, the Red Wings offense will be much better for it.