Welcome to The Hockey Writers’ 2023 Free-Agent Targets series for the Detroit Red Wings. During it, we will be looking at a handful of free agents from each NHL team who the Red Wings should consider pursuing this summer.
In this first edition of the series, we will be focusing on three pending free agents from the Toronto Maple Leafs who Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman should have on his radar this offseason. They each would help fix a notable need that Detroit currently has.
The Detroit Red Wings should be hunting for at least one bottom-six forward this offseason. This is because Pius Suter, Adam Erne, and Alex Chiasson are all pending unrestricted free agents (UFA). As a result, one player who the Red Wings should consider making a push for is Noel Acciari. The 31-year-old put together a solid year split between the St. Louis Blues and Maple Leafs, as he had 14 goals, 23 points, and 244 hits in 77 games. Adding that mixture of secondary scoring and physicality to their bottom six would be excellent for the Red Wings.
When looking at a specific spot for Acciari in the Red Wings’ lineup, it is fair to argue that he would be a strong option for their third-line center role. However, due to his versatility, he also would be an option to play right wing on their third line or fourth line. With that, his effective defensive play would guarantee him playing time on their penalty kill. Overall, Acciari is a solid all-around player who should be on Yzerman’s radar this summer.
One specific area that the Red Wings need to improve this offseason is the right side of their defensive group. Their depth on the right side took a notable hit after the Filip Hronek trade, and Gustav Lindstrom’s future with the club is uncertain. As a result, one player who the Red Wings should be looking at is veteran defenseman Luke Schenn. The 33-year-old had a strong year split between the Vancouver Canucks and Maple Leafs, as he had four goals, 22 points, and 318 hits in 70 games played. Adding his sound defensive play, leadership, and immense physicality has the potential to be massive for a young Red Wings club.
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If the Red Wings signed Schenn, he would be in the running to receive second-pairing minutes. He displayed this season that he can handle a bigger role, so he has the potential to be a great match for Detroit. With that, he would instantly become one of their primary penalty killers because of his excellent shutdown ability.
The Atlantic Division is extremely deep, and the Red Wings would be wise to improve their top six this summer to try to keep up with their rivals. They specifically could use some help down the middle, and Ryan O’Reilly would be a strong addition to their club because of it.
When seeing how well O’Reilly performed for the Maple Leafs after being traded (20 points in 24 total games), it is clear that he is still an effective top-six forward. When looking for a specific spot for him in Detroit’s lineup, he could form a strong trio on the club’s second line with former teammate David Perron and Andrew Copp or Jonatan Berggren. This is especially so when noting that O’Reilly and Perron had excellent chemistry on the Blues. With that, O’Reilly would also be utilized on both the Red Wing’s power play and penalty kill because of his solid all-around game.
Related: Red Wings’ 2023 Offseason Trade Targets: Edmonton Oilers
The Red Wings have some excellent free-agent targets from the Maple Leafs. Adding O’Reilly would be the biggest splash, but signing Schenn or Acciari would not be a bad consolation prize, either. We will now need to wait and see if Detroit brings in any of these three this offseason.