The Detroit Red Wings have several players who are heading into the final year of their contracts. As a result, we may see the Red Wings have a fairly different roster during the 2023-24 season. Of the nine players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) next summer, these three most likely will not stick around. Here’s a look at each of them.
Tyler Bertuzzi is about to enter the final year of his contract and is eligible to become a UFA next summer. Although the gritty winger has said previously that he “100 percent” wants to stay with the Red Wings, that doesn’t automatically mean a new deal will come to fruition. Bob Duff of Detroit Hockey Now recently reported that the 27-year-old is looking for “both money and term” on his next contract and that a trade centering around Bertuzzi “could happen” because of that.
With Bertuzzi’s name in the rumor mill, it appears that Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman may be considering the possibility of moving him. Ultimately, if Detroit does not see the Sudbury native as a long-term part of their future, it would be best to part ways with him before potentially losing him for nothing through free agency next summer. Although the Red Wings have made significant improvements to their roster this offseason, they are still rebuilders and would benefit from landing a sweet return for the winger.
If the Red Wings find themselves out of the playoff race this season, expect to see Bertuzzi moved at the 2023 Trade Deadline. Every contender would love to have him, as he offers a nice blend of offense and physicality. We will have to wait and see what happens with him from here.
After recording a 20-point campaign in 45 games during the 2020-21 season, Adam Erne inked a two-year, $4.2 million contract extension with the Red Wings last summer. It seemed that he finally cemented himself as a solid third-line option for Detroit, but things dramatically changed on that front last season. In 79 games, he had six goals, 19 points, and a disastrous minus-22 rating. Heading into this season, he is expected to play fourth-line minutes, and that will not help his chances of bouncing back.
Ultimately, when looking at the Red Wings’ forward depth, Erne may benefit from a change of scenery. Due to his down year and fairly expensive cap hit, a trade centering around him before the start of the season seems unlikely. However, if he has a decent campaign, he could potentially find a new home at the deadline. It’s just going to be hard for him to land substantial minutes when Lucas Raymond, Jakub Vrana, and Dominik Kubalik all rank ahead of him on the depth chart at left wing.
The Red Wings also already have a potential replacement in the lineup for Erne with Givani Smith. Although Smith has yet to replicate Erne’s offensive production, his immense physicality will help his chances of eventually earning a permanent spot in their bottom six. That certainly doesn’t help Erne’s chances of landing another contract with the Red Wings after this season.
One of the Red Wings’ biggest splashes this offseason was when they signed Ville Husso to a three-year, $14.25 million contract. The 27-year-old just had a breakout campaign with the St. Louis Blues in 2021-22, where he sported a 25-7-6 record, 2.56 goals-against average (GAA), and .919 save percentage (SV%). After a season like this, he is expected to be Detroit’s new No. 1 goaltender. As a result, questions do naturally come up about Alex Nedeljkovic’s future with the team from here.
Nedeljkovic is entering the final season of his contract and will be eligible to be a UFA next summer. The Parma native struggled in his first year with the Red Wings, as his 20-24-9 record, 3.31 GAA, and .901 SV% show effectively. If he does not find consistency this season in a tandem with Husso, it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see Yzerman elect to move on from him.
Nedeljkovic’s chances of sticking around in Detroit will be dependent on if he can turn things around after his disappointing 2021-22 season. If he does, we could see him get an extension, but the Husso signing may have already lowered the probability of that occurring. Thus, it seems more likely than not that this will be his last year as a Red Wing.
Alas, it will be intriguing to see how these three players end up performing this season for the Red Wings. Out of the trio, losing Bertuzzi would sting the most, but given the rumors surrounding him, it seems likely. As for Erne and Nedeljkovic, we will need to see if they can bounce back from here.