Predicting the future of Detroit’s upcoming FMUs

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The next offseason for the Detroit Red Wings promises to be busy again, as 20 players are expected to become UFAs or RFAs at the end of the season. Let’s take a (very) early look at the future of the Detroit UFAs.

Griffons players

The players who are not on the Red Wings roster are mostly non-factors; Barring a significant number of injuries, there’s a good chance most of those players will stick with minors this year. Brian Lashoff, Ryan Murphy, Daniel Renouf and Riley Barber will be at Grand Rapids for the vast majority of the year (again, excluding injuries).

Goalkeepers

Thomas Greiss and Calvin Pickard both become UFAs at the end of the season. Pickard is more on the side of the aforementioned Griffins players, as he will be in the grips of the Griffins for most of the season. There is a good chance Pickard receives another contract in reinforcement. Last year, when Jonathan Bernier missed a fair number of games, Pickard was a usable substitute.

Greiss is a little hard to predict, as his performance was all over the place last season. For two months at the start of the year (Jan. 13 to March 13), he was one of the worst goalies in the NHL. His save percentage was the second worst, standing at .883 in this stretch. Greiss also notched just one win in that span, with just one win for 11 losses (although it could be argued that goal support was the main reason for these modest stats). However, Greiss did pull off a full 180. As of April, his save percentage was .947 – 2nd best in the league among goaltenders with more than 5 starts. He suffered only one regulatory loss at that time.

If his year ends well, there’s a good chance Greiss will be offered a contract. If he can maintain consistent performance throughout the year, there could be a pretty heavy contract (although the term is probably not long, as he’s already 35 years old). However, if his inconsistency lasts all year, Detroit could be looking for a new goalie.

Defense

There are four UFAs coming up on the Detroit defense. Danny DeKeyser, Nick Leddy, Marc Staal and Troy Stecher.

I have already written how crucial this year is for DeKeyser and his future within the organization. In short, he needs to recover strongly from his back injury, which he struggled to do last year. Sadly, it looks like this will be his last season in Detroit.

Leddy is called up for a very specific role: mentoring Detroit’s rising defensive star Mortiz Seider. The problem is, if he fulfills his role well and Seider moves quickly to the NHL, he will have to create a new one in the roster to prove his worth to the team. And if he fails, he’s gone. With young talent making their way to the roster, Leddy could struggle to find a new role in the team’s long-term future. However, he could get a Staal-type overtime and serve as a guide for other young Detroit defenders for just a few years.

The Staal-Stecher duo return to Detroit this season, perhaps the best pure defensive duo on the team last year. Here is some statistical evidence:

Staal received a one-year, $ 2 million extension in the offseason, but there’s a chance it will be his last with Detroit. There is little room on the list to guide the defensive presence of the veterans; with the number of prospects building up in the defensive pipeline, it is only a matter of time before older players are replaced with prospects. Staal has been a pretty solid placeholder, but next season could be the last time Detroit has room for that sort of role.

Stecher is just a little younger (27 years old) and better. However, there appears to be a certain perceptual mismatch between fans and management. While fans cheered on Stecher’s safe and intelligent play for most of the season, the organization rewarded him with a few healthy scratches and no protection in the expansion draft. Even if Stecher is having another great season, he might not return, whether it’s his own or Yzerman’s choice.

The offense

Three of the Red Wings forwards will become free agents this season: Robby Fabbri, Vladislav Namestnikov and Sam Gagner.

Fabbri will almost certainly be offered a contract if not traded. There could be a mismatch between what Fabbri thinks he is worth and what Yzerman is willing to pay him, especially if 2021-22 is another season hit by injury. However, he is only 25 years old and he has been one of the best attacking forwards on the team. Fabbri is expected to finish a Red Wings beyond this year.

Namestnikov, on the other hand, probably won’t be a Red Wings after this season. So far he’s been relatively lackluster for the team, especially offensively: he has scored eight goals and nine assists in 53 games with a Corsi-for relative percentage of -4.9. While Namestnikov has exemplified an ability to play competently in almost every line he’s been placed on, his overall skills are somewhat replaceable. Like Staal, developing talent could steal a future spot on the list for Namestnikov.

To win could also be considered a placeholder. He was among the last six players last season, mostly finding efficiency on Detroit’s fourth line. Winning actually led the offense relatively well, although his seven goals and eight assists didn’t quite reflect that; he had a Corsi-for relative percentage of 4.9 in 2020-21. Winning will likely experience the same success in Detroit this year, riding the bike and distributing the puck well in the end. He will also likely see a significant increase in penalty minutes with the departure of Darren Helm and Luke Glendening. However, it’s hard to see that kind of role carry on beyond this season with the amount of talent gathered in Grand Rapids and Europe this year.

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