With the news that Jeff Blashill will not be returning behind the bench for the Detroit Red Wings next season, general manager Steve Yzerman has already kicked off the offseason with a focus on bringing change to “Hockeytown”. Naturally, the leads to a level of uncertainty as Yzerman and fans ponder what this team might look like when the 2022-23 season begins.
If we’re being honest, we’re still a whole summer away from getting some concrete answers to these questions. But that fact will not stop me from trying to provide some insight and answers to some of your questions. After putting out a call for questions over on Twitter, we’re taking a look at five different questions pertaining to a wide-range of topics, including fringe players on this season’s roster, prospects, and even what the 2023 trade deadline might look like.
Let’s dive in.
Will Simon Edvinsson Make the Red Wings’ Blue Line Next Season?
I was told earlier this year that the Red Wings’ front office is “90 percent” sure that Simon Edvinsson could play in the NHL “right now”. That was before the season was over, and now the 19-year-old Swedish defenseman has a summer of training and skating with Lucas Raymond to look forward to.
With that in mind, I do think Edvinsson will make the Red Wings’ opening night roster next season. Now let’s be clear about two things:
- We should not expect Edvinsson to put forth a season similar to what Moritz Seider just had. Next season will be Edvinsson’s first in North America, where as Seider had previously played the 2019-20 season in the American Hockey League. That does not preclude Edvinsson from making a difference next season, but we can’t let Seider’s Calder-level season set the bar for the 2021 first round pick.
- 90 percent is not 100 percent. With a good, productive summer, that number probably moves up to 95 percent, but there still remains an outside chance that he’ll need a little time to get acclimated before making the jump to the NHL.
As for what pairing Edvinsson will play on next season, I think that will be a fluid situation throughout the season. While I have little doubt that he will play alongside Seider at some point in his career, I don’t know that they will start together. Instead, I could see Edvinsson starting alongside a stay-at-home defenseman like Gustav Lindstrom to form what could be a sneaky-good bottom pairing. Ultimately, the moves Yzerman does or doesn’t make next season, as well as Edvinsson’s play, will determine where the Red Wings’ top prospect will play next season.
Will Taro Hirose Be A Full-Time Red Wing Next Season?
Taro Hirose will be an unrestricted free agent in July. While I think the Red Wings’ front office may still see value in keeping him around as a fringe NHLer/top line AHLer, I think it will be Hirose that decides to pursue different opportunities elsewhere.
When you account for wingers that will definitely return to the Red Wings next season (Lucas Raymond, Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri), winger that will likely return (Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Zadina, Oskar Sundqvist), and potential prospects that could join the team (Jonatan Berggren, top pick in the 2022 draft), you’ll quickly find that there just isn’t any room for a player like Hirose. While Hirose spent the majority of his time in Detroit on the fourth line this season, he’s most effective when he has good offensive player to pass the puck to. He’s an underrated playmaker, and he isn’t going to have the opportunity to showcase it while playing with fourth liners or sitting in the press box.
I think a team like the Arizona Coyotes makes a lot of sense for Hirose. He isn’t going to demand a ton on his next contract, which definitely fits for the Coyotes as they will undoubtedly look to keep their payroll low next season. He has some untapped offensive potential that the Coyotes could look to capitalize on, given that they don’t project to have a very deep lineup next season. Lastly, there just wouldn’t be much in the way of expectations while playing for a rebuilding team like Arizona.
I really like Hirose and think he could have been handled better during his time in the Red Wings’ system. But as it is, if he’s going to become a full-time NHLer next season, he’ll have to find a spot with a team without much offensive depth. I hope he gets the opportunity, and I hope he makes the most of it.
Aside From Expiring Contracts, Are There Any “Bubble Players” That May Not Be Back Next Season?
I’m going to include pending restricted free agents in this conversation because, while their contracts may be expiring, the Red Wings still retain their rights.
When I say “change is coming to Hockeytown”, I mean it. While naming a new coach is going to drastically change the look and feel of this team, the fact remains that this roster still isn’t good enough to compete with the best teams in the NHL. Furthermore, I believe that Yzerman has an appetite to send a shockwave through this team by moving out a player that most would assume is safe. Letting Blashill go got their attention; now it’s time to send a message.
In terms of players who are “on the bubble”, I think players like Mitchell Stephens, Lindstrom, and Givani Smith could be forced out under the right circumstances. All three of those players graded out as average or below average in my recent player evaluations/grades article, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Yzerman evaluated those players similarly. Removing those players isn’t going to send a shockwave through the team, however, so let’s get into those players.
In his question, Tom specifically mentioned Adam Erne and whether or not he could be moved out in the offseason. The gritty forward has one more season on his contract that costs $2.1 million against the salary cap. It’s important to note that another team has to be interested for a trade to take place, but it’s certainly not impossible that Erne finds a new home this offseason.
Other players that could be on their way out this offseason include Bertuzzi (if things change regarding the vaccine requirement to cross the border, keep an eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs), Filip Hronek, Zadina and Pius Suter. All of these players would fetch something of value in a potential trade (some more than others), and would send the kind of message I was referring to earlier. While I cannot say for sure that any of these players will be on the move this offseason, if Yzerman wants to make a bold move this offseason, he’ll have to pay a bold price.
Could the Red Wings Get A Leddy-Like Return at Next Year’s Trade Deadline?
Absolutely. In fact, the Red Wings are positioned to have the opportunity to get a Anthony Mantha-like return as well. The question is whether or not Detroit will be in a spot where selling off a big piece (or pieces) like that is the right strategy at the trade deadline.
Until Bertuzzi signs an extension with the Red Wings, I don’t think his name is leaving the rumor mill. Same thing with Zadina, though his situation is more about production than his contract status. Like I mentioned in the last section, Hronek and/or Suter could also be names worth watching if they remain with the Red Wings to start the 2022-23 season.
There is also the possibility that Yzerman goes out and acquires somebody that later gets traded at the deadline, just as he did with Nick Leddy. If the Red Wings are in a position to sell at next year’s deadline, you know Yzerman will, and next year may be his best opportunity to add jet fuel to the rebuild before it’s time to fully invest in making the playoffs.
Should We Be Concerned About Red Savage Developing (Or Not Developing) With a Bad Miami Team?
With six goals and 16 points in his freshman season with Miami University, Redmond “Red” Savage had a pretty good year with the RedHawks. On a personal level, he certainly was prone to errors that young players make when adjusting to the NCAA, and there’s little doubt that he still needs more time before we can start projecting him as a Red Wing. As this question points out, it’s now a matter of where his development is best served.
Miami University allowed 59 more goals than they scored this season, and they were routinely outworked, outplayed, and outproduced. Any fan who sat through the Red Wings’ entire 2019-20 season knows how deflating a horrible season can be, and it’s safe to say that prospects and young players aren’t necessarily going to learn winning habits under those conditions. I think the concern for Savage’s development under these circumstances is valid, and I’m sure it’s something that the Red Wings’ player development department has spent some time thinking about.
Ultimately the decision is in Savage’s hands. He is not under contract with the Red Wings, so the organization cannot assign him somewhere else. They are within their rights to discuss the matter with the soon-to-be 19-year-old, but if he opts to stay in Ohio, that’s his call to make. There’s something to be said for a player who wants to stick with their team/program through thick and thin, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that Miami will repeat their results from this season. I think this is a situation to monitor going forward, but I don’t think it’s quite yet time to sound the alarms. A good 2022-23 season will mostly erase any concerns going forward.
Red Wings’ Offseason Has Just Begun
Thank you to those of you who submitted questions for this article. I hope I sufficiently answered them.
As for a future mailbag article, stay tuned; the offseason has only just begun and much still has yet to happen. Once some of the dust settles on all the craziness that seems destined to happen in Hockeytown, perhaps I’ll open up my mailbag once again.
I’ll see you then.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.