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. This week, Devin Little, Rachel Anderson, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
Considering the Red Wings’ paltry goal differential (-122) this season, finding suitable roster upgrades won’t require a robust search. One way to do so is through free agency.
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team identifies their chief free agent targets from the dozens who are expected to hit the open market later this year. Which player are you signing?
Tony Wolak: D Justin Schultz
In my offseason blueprint, I mentioned Justin Schultz as a low-risk, high-reward option for the Red Wings. Since Detroit will have an abundance of cap space, they’ll have some wiggle room to offer Schultz a nice payday as part of a one-year contract.
A capable two-way defender, Schultz would provide the Red Wings with a second right-handed blueliner deserving of a top-four role. He can also quarterback the power play, whether that’s on the first or second unit. Plus, Schultz’s presence would also allow Detroit to ease in Moritz Seider if he proves himself to be ready for the NHL. There’s no sense in rushing the Red Wings’ top defensive prospect into a prominent role.
But the most important aspect of signing Schultz would be Detroit’s ability to ship him out to a contender at the trade deadline. The Red Wings are quickly running out of disposable assets worth high draft picks. A strong season from Schultz could net at least a second-round pick at the trade deadline – it’s no secret that teams covet quality right-handed defensemen with Stanley Cup experience.
Rachel Anderson: G Jacob Markstrom
Jacob Markstrom has been remarkably consistent with the Vancouver Canucks since the 2014-15 season, which makes him an eye-catching option. In 2019-20, he held a 2.77 GAA and has not gone above three goals per game since his first few contests in Vancouver in 2013-14.
Markstrom’s experience and consistency would be a major bonus for the suffering Red Wings. Goaltending has been far from adequate over the last few seasons. Jonathan Bernier has been solid for Detroit, but with Jimmy Howard’s performance coming apart, Bernier was left to carry the load. Markstrom, 30, would be a great grab while Detroit waits for their goaltending prospects to make the jump.
In addition, Markstrom has been able to transition and grow with a very young Vancouver team, so his ability to adapt is just what the Red Wings need as they move forward. As younger prospects get pulled up, the goaltending will be heavily relied upon as those in front adjust to their roles and the pace of the game.
Devin Little: No One!
At forward, the Red Wings have a handful of pending restricted free agents, plus at least four prospects that will be looking to crack the roster on a full-time basis. On defense, Detroit has Filip Hronek, Danny Dekeyser, Patrik Nemeth, Alex Biega, Dennis Cholowski, and Gustav Lindstrom under contract and set to return for the 2020-21 season. Madison Bowey is a pending RFA. They also have Seider, who could and should factor into how the defense shapes up next season.
There’s also going to be a great player coming at pick four of the 2020 draft. How will they factor in?
Simply put: the Red Wings don’t have the roster space to add via free agency. If you’re trying to get your young guys playing time, there’s no sense in adding a free agent.
The only position that the Red Wings need to address is goalie, and I’m on the record of being in favor of pursuing a trade for a fresh face in net.
The Red Wings should lock up their own free agents and then keep their remaining cap space available in case the right move comes along.