Our series looking at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Atlantic Division opponents turns now to the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are entering year five of the Yzerplan with pressure beginning to mount on former Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman.
This season might be a make or break season for the Red Wings to take a step forward and become a playoff contender. But with a stacked Atlantic Division, it will be a tough task to get back into the postseason.
2022-23 Record: 35-37-10 | 80 points | 7th in Atlantic
2022-23 Head-to head vs. Tampa Bay: 2-2-0
October 14 @ Detroit
January 21 @ Detroit
April 1 vs. Detroit
Detroit made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, bringing in Alex DeBrincat from Ottawa. The biggest piece going the other way from the current team was Dominik Kubalik who was entering the final year of his contract in Detroit. This trade was certainly more about the addition of DeBrincat rather than the loss of Kubalik.
The Red Wings also determined that it was time to move on from former sixth overall pick Filip Zadina. Things never got off the ground for Zadina in Detroit and the team elected that it was time for a fresh start for them and the player. Zadina and the Red Wings agreed to have his contract terminated with two years remaining on it. He became an Unrestricted Free Agent and eventually signed in San Jose where he will look to get a fresh start with the Sharks.
Additionally, Detroit decided to not re-sign goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic after things did not go as well as hoped in his one year in Detroit. He wound up signing a one-year deal in Pittsburgh.
For the second straight offseason, the Red Wings were very active in bringing in new pieces to help accelerate their hopeful return to the playoffs. Their offseason additions are of course headlined by the DeBrincat trade. DeBrincat brings nearly 40 goals a year to the Red Wings and will be a welcome offensive presence to add to Dylan Larkin’s wing.
The Red Wings also spent in free agency on the front end. JT Compher ended up signing a five year deal with Detroit and is expected to be their second line center after pricing himself out of Colorado. Daniel Sprong comes in as well after an impressive 21 goal season while playing on the Seattle Kraken fourth line a year ago. Between Debrincat, Compher and Sprong, the hope is that Detroit can score more than they did a year ago when they finished 24th in the NHL in goals.
DeBrincat was not the only piece brought in via the trade market this offseason in the Motor City. Detroit also made a trade for defenseman Jeff Petry who found himself in Montreal as part of the huge Erik Karlsson trade. Detroit is also only paying Petry less than 50% of Petry’s contract after retention from Montreal and Pittsburgh. Petry should prove to be a pretty solid value on the Detroit blue line.
The Red Wings also spent in free agency on a pair of veteran defenseman to bolster their blue line. Last year saw the young Moritz Seider averaging over 23 minutes per game on the back end. Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Holl were both brought in free agency to provide depth on the back end and hopefully help alleviate some of Seider’s minutes.
James Reimer was also brought in via free agency to slide into the spot occupied previously by Nedeljkovic. Depending on how well Ville Husso preforms, Husso should probably make a little more than half the starts, leaving Reimer probably starting a few less than the 43 games he started last year in San Jose.
Line Projections (via Daily Faceoff)
Alex DeBrincat – Dylan Larkin – David Perron
Robby Fabbri – JT Compher – Lucas Raymond
Michael Rasmussen – Andrew Copp – Christian Fischer
Jonatan Berggren – Joe Veleno – Daniel Sprong
Jake Walman – Moritz Seider
Ben Chiarot – Jeff Petry
Shayne Gostisbehere – Justin Holl
Verdict: This Team Should be Better but Making Playoffs will be Steep Challenge
Detroit have made some great moves on paper of the last couple of seasons. The problem may be that their moves were made for a team that they thought may be closer to contending than they really are.
The Atlantic Division is still stacked and it is hard to see them passing Toronto, Tampa Bay or Florida, leaving a wild card as their most likely path to the postseason. Even then, Buffalo should be strong again, Boston will never go away and Ottawa looks to be on a good trajectory as well. Even if Detroit is improved, this division will put a lot of good teams in their path and this may still not be the year for the Red Wings to make the jump into playoffs.