Detroit Red Wings: Realistic expectations for offseason free agent signings

(Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
(Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Detroit Red Wings, Bobby Ryan
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

With five new faces joining the Detroit Red Wings, what should fans expect to see? Keep yourself grounded with this realistic look at the team next season.

For the first time in nearly five years, Detroit Red Wings fans rejoiced at the start of NHL free agency. Where past years filled fans with dread, this year’s signings inspired oceans of confidence in general manager Steve Yzerman. Five players signed team-friendly deals with the Red Wings: Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, Thomas Greiss, and Vladislav Namestnikov.

While new faces are always exciting, keeping expectations realistic is the best way to ensure fans aren’t disappointed. From point potentials to return-on-investment value, take a look at some realistic expectations of the Red Wings’ newest free-agent class.

1. Bobby Ryan

What we hope to see: In a best-case scenario, the Bill Masterton trophy-winning Bobby Ryan plays far above his value, scoring anywhere from 45-55 points. His veteran leadership will provide a beacon of hope for a young Red Wings roster. If he outperforms his contract, there is a likely chance he will be traded to a contending team for a 3rd round pick in the coming years.

What we will likely see: Realistically, expecting Ryan to have a career renaissance is idealistic at best. Ryan is 33 years old and was just bought out from a contract with the Ottawa Senators. He isn’t going to be the type of player to light the lamp consistently, but he’ll be reliable as a depth player when he’s needed.

Expect Ryan to play somewhere in the team’s middle-six, serving as a veteran presence for a budding roster. If he isn’t traded, he will likely score anywhere from 35-45 points.

2. Jon Merrill

What we hope to see: Jon Merrill, who signed a $950K deal with the Red Wings, will serve as a solid bottom-four defenseman for the team. Like fellow Red Wing Patrik Nemeth, he’ll play a smart, focused game with little room for error.

If he outperforms his contract, he may serve as solid trade bait for teams looking for depth. Barring a trade or an underperforming season, there is a very strong chance Merrill will remain with the Red Wings for at least a few years.

What we will likely see: Merrill still has some gas left in the tank. At 28 years of age, he is currently in his prime years as a defenseman. Merrill may have shown the limits of his skill — but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He will be a good depth role, but it’s hard to expect him to leap off the page statistically night in and night out. Merrill will likely find a new home by the end of the 2020-2021 season.