Red Wings: Getting to know the new free agent signings

(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman has signed a slew of free agents for the team so far this offseason; get to know the new signings below!

Chaos reigned supreme on October 9th, the start of NHL free agency. From shocking signings to family-friendly discounts, free agency saw no shortage of surprises. Detroit Red Wings General Manager(GM) Steve Yzerman made it his priority to stock the roster with free agents on short, friendly deals that would bolster the team’s competitive ability.

He accomplished his goal in just three short days, signing two forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie. With the departure of longtime veterans Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley, and Jimmy Howard, these five free agents will find a home on the Red Wings’ roster in no time.

Today, we’ll be talking a bit about each of these players and what they can do to help the Red Wings succeed in the upcoming season.

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Bobby Ryan – Left Wing

Bobby Ryan was the first free agent to sign with the Red Wings this offseason, getting the offseason snowball rolling for Yzerman.

The Bill Masterton trophy-winner scored eight points in 24 games with the Ottawa Senators, putting up a hat trick on his first game back from a temporary leave of absence.

While Ryan won’t leap off the page statistically, he will serve as an excellent role model for the team’s younger players.

He’s a motivated, earnest player with a great heart and a passion for the Red Wings — and the perfect reclamation project for Steve Yzerman and company.

Best of all, Ryan seems excited to play for the Red Wings. In an interview with the NHL, Ryan had this to say about his conversation with Yzerman:

"I had spoken to Steve [Yzerman] first…I knew where I wanted to be based on my conversation, and the passion that kind of just comes through for the Red Wings through him is contagious. I left and walked out of the room and told my wife, ‘I think we’re signing in Detroit.’ …I didn’t feel like I needed to hear anything else from anybody.”Bobby Ryan in an interview with the NHL"

Jon Merrill – Defenseman

Jon Merrill, a Michigan native, was next on Yzerman’s free agency list. The 28-year-old defenseman wasted no time signing with the Red Wings, inking a one-year, $925,000 contract with Detroit for the following season. He called signing in Detroit “a dream come true,” referencing his life in Michigan and his enthusiasm for the Red Wings as a child.

In 49 games with the Vegas Golden Knights, Merrill scored seven points, serving a responsible stay-at-home role on the team’s bottom line. The 6’3″ blueliner will provide increased security for the team, playing a smart, levelheaded game while helping to mentor many of the Red Wings’ younger defensive prospects.

Thomas Greiss – Goaltender

Serving as a replacement for Jimmy Howard, Thomas Greiss will help to fill a desperate need in Detroit as he assumes his role between the pipes. During the 2019-20 season with the New York Islanders, the now-former free agent compiled a 16-9 record with a .913 save percentage. Greiss played a pivotal role in helping the Islanders reach the Eastern Conference Finals, serving a mirror role to fellow goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

Greiss, now 34 years of age, won’t likely experience a career Renaissance, but can still take the reins as a solid starter on most nights. With two years on his contract, Red Wings fans will get to see what Greiss can handle in Detroit through the 2021-2022 season, likely filling in once Jonathan Bernier becomes a free agent. Greiss, another incredible signing by Yzerman, will have plenty of opportunities to earn ice time with the Red Wings once the season starts.

Troy Stecher – Defenseman

It’s a wonder the Vancouver Canucks let Troy Stecher go. The 26-year-old free agent defenseman was a wonder during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, serving a solid role on the bottom-four pairings of the Canucks’ defense. He’s young, smart, and hardworking — key factors that will allow him to be a difference-maker on the Red Wings’ roster for the next two years.

He’s signed through the 2021-2022 season on an incredibly team-friendly deal, giving Yzerman more freedom to sign and upgrade the team around him. Stecher will likely slot in alongside fellow signee Jon Merrill on the second defensive pairing.

Vladislav Namestnikov – Center

What do Vladislav Namestnikov and the Detroit Red Wings have in common? They both share a connection with former NHL forward Slava Kozlov. Kozlov, who played on the infamous Russian Five with the Red Wings, is actually Namestnikov’s uncle. Namestnikov grew up in the Michigan area, and when he received a call and offer from Steve Yzerman, he decided to entertain no further offers.

Namestnikov, who split time between the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche last season, ended his year with 31 points in 63 games. He’s a shifty, speedy center that will likely slot in on the Red Wings’ second line, feeding key passes to Filip Zadina and Robby Fabbri. Namestnikov’s a versatile player that will serve the Red Wings valuably in the coming season.

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The question will be which one of them pans out the best for the Detroit Red Wings organization in 2020-21.