Before anyone contemplates which unrestricted free agent forwards Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman might pursue, the question that must be answered: Why would a free agent come to Detroit?
Not always, but generally the money is similar no matter where the player signs. With some older players, an NHL team may get his attention by offering an extra year on his deal.
But what most free agents are looking for is the money in concert to playing a prominent role on a Stanley Cup contender. The Red Wings can provide the money and a chance to play a prominent role. But they may not be a contender for another three seasons. That’s not what a player in his late 20s or early 30s wants to hear.
As a rebuilding team, the Red Wings aren’t going to be chasing after older stars like Patrice Bergeron, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux. But the Red Wings need help at center, and they wouldn’t mind another scorer.
“So much uncertainty, and then we got free agency coming up on July (13),” Yzerman said. “I have this beautiful list of great players that would be a good fit for our organization. Can I get any of those players? I have no idea at this point.”
The Red Wings won’t do a deep dive into free agents. It is too soon. But Steve Yzerman knows his team needs to be more competitive than they were last season.
Here are some potential unrestricted free agent forwards the Red Wings could look at:
Center Vince Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes
He has Michigan roots. Born in Pittsburgh, moved to Detroit when he was 13. Played in the Little Caesars program. His Ontario Hockey League career was spent in Saginaw and Plymouth. Most importantly, he registered 51 points this season. He has scored 20 or more goals four times. Trocheck also registered 185 hits this season. Would be a significant upgrade over Pius Suter at No. 2 center. Trocheck offers grit and fire. Very good on faces. He has been at 54.4% for Carolina over the past three seasons. Quality defensive player. Hard to play against. The negative is he turns 29 this summer.
Center or wing Andrew Copp, New York Rangers
Grew up in Ann Arbor. Played quarterback for Ann Arbor Skyline. But he was more accomplished in hockey. Played at the University of Michigan. He is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and the Red Wings want more size at the No. 2 center. Copp can play all three forward positions. Perhaps he wants to play in front of friends and family. The negative is he has played extremely well with the New York Rangers since they acquired him from Winnipeg. Rumor has it that the Rangers will make him a big offer after the season. He has enjoyed his time there.
Center or left wing Nick Paul, Tampa Bay Lightning
He’s a 6-foot-3, 228-pound forward who scored 16 goals and delivered 106 hits this season. He could give the Red Wings more bite while chipping in offensively. He only made $1.5 million last season. The Lightning probably can’t afford to sign him, although they might move players to keep him.
Double hit on Nick Paul pic.twitter.com/9EiSmNKrMI
— alberto (@twistedleafs) May 7, 2022
Right wing Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
File this one under long shots. Top contenders will be chasing him. But the Red Wings have the cap space to pay him the salary that the Predators don’t seem to want to give him. The Red Wings can also play the Swede card. He could be part of a team that boasts six or seven Swedes in a couple of seasons.
Center Ryan Strome, New York Rangers
Has averaged 54 points per season for the past three seasons for the Rangers. Had his best scoring output this season with 21 goals. But he plays with Artemi Panarin. How much does that pad his numbers? Strome definitely has skill.
Left wing Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
He is 31 years old, but is a consistent offensive player. Palat had 49 points this past season. Yzerman knows him well from his days as Tampa Bay’s GM. Assuming Palat believes in what Yzerman can do, could Palat be a short-term solution on a short-term deal?
Left or Right wing Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche
He is 6-foot-4 and the Red Wings want to add some size. He’s 27 and his game is just coming together. Intriguing roll of the dice. He had 25 goals and 89 hits last season. You may not have to break the bank to land him. He’s coming off a $2.5 million contract.
Left or right wing Andre Burakovsky, Colorado Avalanche
He just turned 27 three months ago and averaged 20 goals per season in his last three seasons with Colorado. He’s 6-3 and boasted 61 points this season.
Right wing Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto Maple Leafs
The 27-year-old undrafted former KHL standout keeps improving. He scored 21 goals this season for the Maple Leafs, who may not have the cap space to keep him. The 6-2 forward got his 21 goals average 15 minutes per game. Likes to hit.
Ilya Mikheyev is my favorite player of this series so far. never misses a chance to throw a hit so far in these playoffs. Has 11 hits through 3 games. Had 52 hits through 53 games this season.
— Rob (@Robs_hot_takes) May 7, 2022
Left wing Andrei Kuzmenko, St. Petersburg, KHL
Reports say at least 20 teams are pursuing the undrafted free agent from the Kontinental Hockey League. Surely, the Red Wings have some interest. Kuzmenko posted 20 goals and 53 points in 45 games this season. He is only 26. The negative is that KHL players seem to have mixed results. Some top players from the KHL have success in the NHL and some don’t. Also, reports have linked Kuzmenko to Vancouver, Edmonton, Nashville and Toronto. There’s been no mention of the Red Wings.
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