Red Wings’ 2021 Offseason Wish-List

Back in November of last year, the Red Wings team here at THW submitted our Christmas wish-lists for the Red Wings’ 2020-21 season. For the most part, everybody got what they wanted as the team from Detroit improved their play on the ice and they improved their long-term outlook with moves that were made off the ice. Well, with “Christmas in July” just over a month away, it’s time to take a look at what the Red Wings could use heading into this year’s offseason.

Like Santa’s naughty or nice list, the Red Wings’ wish-list is quite long as they continue to rebuild their team and organization. Some things will be easy to obtain while others may not be. But like those of you who are still trying to get your hands on the new Xbox and/or PlayStation, general manager Steve Yzerman must not give up on his pursuit of better players, and he will be ready to pounce once the opportunity presents itself.

Here are just a few of the items that the Red Wings and their fans hope to cross off their wish lists.

Add A Blue-Chip Prospect in the 2021 NHL Draft

We will learn next week exactly where the Red Wings’ first round pick will land, and if any of you aren’t sure where things sit in terms of Detroit’s odds in the draft lottery, my THW colleague Tony Wolak wrote an article that perfectly illustrates where things stand. In short, the Red Wings are guaranteed to have another top-10 pick, but where exactly they’ll pick will once again be up to those little white ping pong balls.

The “lucky” thing about this year’s draft is that it is not absolutely imperative that Detroit locks down a top-two pick. The talent at the top of this year’s draft class is a pretty even spread, and I personally think that the best player to come out of this draft will be taken outside of the top-three, possibly even outside of the top-five. Whether the Red Wings pick first or eighth, they should still be in a good spot to get a really good prospect.

Tyler Wright Steve Yzerman Kris Draper Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Wright, Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper of the Detroit Red Wings, 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

However, successful rebuilds aren’t usually built on really good prospects. Any rebuilding team needs to accumulate “blue-chip” prospects – prospects that are in their own tier as the best of the best – in order to ensure success down the line. Sure, Detroit has a couple of those already in defenseman Moritz Seider (2019) and winger Lucas Raymond (2020), but adding another one, especially in this draft, would go a long way towards building the foundation of the next great Red Wings teams. The draft is essentially a game of darts and with 11 shots to take in this year’s draft, you have to hope that Yzerman and Co. hit a bullseye at least once.

Red Wings’ Goalie of the Future!?!

With all due respect to both Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss – who may very well share the honor of being the team’s MVPs this season – neither of them fit in to the Red Wings’ long-term plans. At 32 and 35-years-old, respectively, both were among the oldest players to suit up for Detroit this season. Going forward, it would be nice to get a younger goalie in place that could provide the team with a sense of stability as the team continues to experience a large amount of turnover year to year.

To that point, maybe that goalie comes from the 2021 draft. Both Jesper Wallstedt and Sebastian Cossa have emerged as legitimate first-round prospects, with Wallstedt landing in some scouts’ top-five. Landing either of these goalies would certainly breathe some excitement into a prospect pool that is currently filled with a lot of if’s and maybe’s at the goaltending position. However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to address a team’s needs in the crease.

Jesper Wallstedt Sweden
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

For starters, you’ve got guys like Linus Ullmark, 28, and former Red Wing Petr Mrazek, 29, that could sign with the Red Wings in free agency. While neither of them has the promise of longevity that a prospect like Wallstedt does, they both are still young enough that they could play a role for the Red Wings today AND tomorrow once Detroit starts entering the playoff conversation. Neither of these guys would be overly expensive to sign either.

On the other, more exciting hand, Yzerman could always see what’s out there on the trade market. All signs indicate that the Columbus Blue Jackets intend to deal a goalie from their tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. The Pittsburgh Penguins might be obliged to move on from Tristan Jarry after his playoff performance against the New York Islanders. Oh, and there’s an expansion draft set for this summer that should force a lot of teams to make difficult decisions regarding their goaltending situation. The Red Wings may never be in a better situation to capitalize and bring in a younger goaltender via a trade.

Add an Exciting New Assistant Coach to Blashill’s Staff

With the news that Dan Bylsma and the Red Wings parted ways after the season, there is now a vacancy on head coach Jeff Blashill’s staff, and it’s very easy for the imagination to run wild with all the possible candidates to fill that spot. While I’m not convinced that the eventual hire will be among the most imaginative candidates, I do think there’s a big opportunity here for Yzerman and Blashill to bring in a fresh face with fresh ideas. The Red Wings’ offense and power play were dreadfully stale this season, so you have to hope that the person they bring in will be able to reinvigorate Detroit’s attack.

Blashill Bylsma Red Wings bench
Coaches Blashill and Bylsma, Detroit Red Wings – Dec. 18, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While it would be exciting to see the Red Wings bring in somebody with experience as a head coach, much like Bylsma, it might make a bit more sense – and for my money, it would be more exciting – to see the organization bring in a relative newcomer. Detroit has an opportunity to think outside the box and bring in somebody the general hockey fan might not expect. The ultimate wish-list coaching candidate here would probably be Igor Larionov, who led Team Russia in the World Juniors and is set to do so again heading into next year’s Olympics. His ties to Detroit are well-known, and he would certainly bring a fresh approach to the Red Wings’ offense.

Unfortunately, as discussed in the most recent episode of THW Grind Line, that may not be in the cards for this season….

Compliment Dylan Larkin with Another Top Six Center

We can debate on and on about whether or not Dylan Larkin is a true top line center, but what I won’t debate is the fact that he is a top six forward. The real problem facing Larkin right now is that Detroit’s center group is essentially him and a few if’s and maybe’s. That’s no disrespect to Michael Rasmussen or Joe Veleno – they just simply haven’t proven themselves to be fit for a second line role quite yet.

The best-case scenario is that one of Rasmussen or Veleno comes to training camp in the fall and seizes the opportunity to be a second line center for this team; Veleno in particular could have a real shot at this if he has a productive and healthy offseason. However, an individual player’s growth is far from guaranteed, especially when that player has only played a total of five games in the NHL to this point. What is more likely to happen is that Yzerman looks outside of the organization to bring in a player that can help the Red Wings score more goals next season. Luckily, there are plenty of candidates.

Joe Veleno Grand Rapids Griffins
Joe Veleno, Grand Rapids Griffins (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Alexander Wennberg, Phillip Danault and Marcus Johansson are all free agents that could be of interest to the Red Wings (I, for one, could really get behind signing Wennberg if the Florida Panthers let him walk.) Yzerman could also look to acquire a player in a trade, but top six forwards tend to not be cheap, and I’m not sure that the Red Wings’ GM has any interest in spending the kind of assets it takes to acquire those kinds of players. For what it’s worth, I detailed one player that I’d like to see the Red Wings acquire to potentially fit in their top six.

Setting Expectations

While it would be nice to see Yzerman address every single need his team has in a single offseason, it is highly unlikely to happen. However, it’s certainly not out of the question for him to address a couple of things this team needs as the slow and steady rebuild continues in Detroit. Fans were excited for the start of the 2020-21 season because of all the moves the team made during the 2020 offseason; another offseason like that would go a long way towards building excitement for the Red Wings’ 2021-22 season.

But what say you? Are there items on your offseason wish list that aren’t included here? Sound off in the comments section down below, and we’ll send our accumulative list to Yzer Claus.

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