The Detroit Red Wings currently sit in a beautiful position as they head down the backstretch of the 2021-22 regular season.
Many of us understand this team isn’t quite ready to make any noise in the postseason just yet, but head coach Jeff Blashill has guided this youthful roster to a .500 record now well into January. If you had told me back in September that the Detroit Red Wings would be sitting as the third wild card race just a point or so behind Boston, I would not have believed you.
If you’ve read my work over the years, you know I’ve often been critical of Jeff Blashill, especially in the latter years of Ken Holland’s tenure with the Detroit Red Wings. Still, I feel Blashill has done an excellent job keeping this roster focused and competitive most nights this season.
We need to give credit when credit is due. Now, I’m not convinced that Blashill will be around once the Red Wings become serious contenders, but for the pro-Blashill-fans, ironically, I’m also not sure he’s just a ‘tank-driver’ either.
To firmly transition from being just a cute wild card story to serious playoff contenders, they need to make a splash in free agency. We’re nearing the point in this rebuild where Steve Yzerman can add a cornerstone at a hefty price and still keep the band together.
As it stands now, the Detroit Red Wings have the opportunity to make a significant splash in free agency if they so choose.
The Detroit Red Wings currently have over $11 million available in salary cap space. Plus, players like Marc Staal, Thomas Greiss, Danny DeKeyser, Troy Stecher, Vlad Namestnikov, Nick Leddy, Sam Gagner, and Carter Rowney are all set to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) at the end of this season.
Those players collectively will free up just over $21 million. Let’s keep in mind the Detroit Red Wings will need to extend the likes of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Pius Suter, and Alex Nedeljkovic the following offseason.
The only two pending UFA’s I see Detroit signing to a multi-year extension of those players mentioned are Namestnikov and Leddy. Sure, the Red Wings may choose to bring someone like Gagner or Staal back on one-year deals, but neither will break the bank, and both will serve as depth pieces that can help mentor the influx of youth this roster has seen over the past couple of seasons.
Also, don’t be alarmed to see Steve Yzerman flip some of these pending UFA’s for draft capital as the trade deadline approaches.
That being said, let’s jump right into things. Here are four pending UFA forwards the Detroit Red Wings may sign this offseason (if they hit the open market).