It seems odd to be writing about the start of a new Detroit Red Wings season, understanding that it is the first week of December, but that sums up the year of 2020.
As we approach the start of a new season, one can’t help but put last years’ debacle behind. The Detroit Red Wings were historically bad in all categories; in fact, 2019 may have been the worst NHL regular-season performance of all-time.
During this offseason general manager, Steve Yzerman continued overhauling the Red Wings roster and adding much-needed draft capital while taking on an atrocious $5.7 million that is owed to veteran defenseman Marc Staal. We can deal with a glorified version of Jonathan Ericsson for one more season, knowing that in doing so, the organization landed a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Yzerman also agreed to terms with two of the teams’ top three forwards. Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi had been pending restricted free agents (RFA) at the beginning of the offseason, and both secured new deals. Mantha landed a multi-year extension that averages $5.7 million for each of the next four seasons, while Bertuzzi signed a one-year bridge deal worth $3.5 million and will once again become an RFA at seasons’ end.
The Detroit Red Wings also signed a couple of experienced defenders to plug and play. Troy Stecher, along with Jon Merrill, will help fill out the backend of Detroit’s lineup until the abundance of stock-piled defensemen become seasoned enough to stick at the NHL level.
Yzerman also took a shot on veteran winger Bobby Ryan along with a very intriguing centerman Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov is slated to start the second-line season with Robby Fabbri and Bobby Ryan unless head coach Jeff Blashill slides Bertuzzi down a line to balance the lineup.
That is a bunch of the good, but now let’s talk about four contracts that can’t expire fast enough.
The year 2021 signals the end of Stephen Weiss‘ ties to the Detroit Red Wings. The organization is still on the hook for $1.66 million per season after buying the free-agent bust.
After enjoying 11 productive seasons with the Florida Panthers, the Detroit Red Wings hoped to bolster the middle of their lineup by signing Weiss to a five-year deal that averaged $4.9 million per season to play as the teams’ third-line center. Weiss’s addition was also supposed to allow Detroit to load up their top line when necessary, playing Datsyuk and Zetterberg together, followed up by a reliable scoring center.
It seems like a lot of money for a third liner but thinking back to 2013-14, Ken Holland had been fixated on trying to re-tool for another Stanley Cup run and adding another veteran player with the potential to score 60 points in a season lengthening out Detroit’s lineup.
During his final four full seasons with the Panthers, Weiss recorded 227 points in 314 games. Weiss had been limited to just 17 games in the season before becoming a free agent; he’d never recover, only recording 29 points in 78 games with Detroit before being bought out.
It’s exciting to finally get Weiss off of the book at seasons’ end, but it sort of churns my stomach to see the organization forced to pay Justin Abdelkader until the conclusion of the 2026 season. Holland did leave this organization in shambles, didn’t he?