The Red Wings brought in Stephen Weiss to take over the second line center duties and Henrik Zetterberg would be able to cover for him if he went down with injury, but for the bottom two centers there would be no back-up without a fifth center.
This is the reason that for the past two years Cory Emmerton has beat out Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist for a permanent spot on the roster and why Joakim Andersson was the first called up this past season.
This past season the Red Wings decided to roster only 4 centers and it cost them when Darren Helm went down at the beginning of the season. Joakim Andersson had to be called up to the NHL and preformed admirably as the 3rd/4th centerman, but it was a situation that the Red Wings should not have been in.
In the playoffs, Mikael Samuelsson was the “center” for one game when Cory Emmerton was benched. Samuelsson ended up playing only 4:20 the entire game and other centers were called upon to fill the center role on the fourth line, needless to say it did not go well.
Centers are the most valuable forwards on the ice because they can play any position if needed, but moving a winger to the center position usually causes issues with line chemistry and in positioning, which is why Cory Emmerton will still be with the Red Wings come October 2nd.
Another reason would be because of Darren Helm. He is making his return to the Red Wings in the upcoming season and while they will once again have five healthy centermen on their NHL roster there are concerns about Helm’s back. His injury could flare up again and cause him to miss time or it could be hurt before the season in training and keep him out of the line-up indefinitely.
Having another center like Cory Emmerton would be a solid back-up plan because of his NHL experience and he will not hurt the books because of his low salary.
The fifth center position is too valuable to give to a winger and it will be Cory Emmerton’s salvation for next season and will keep him with the Detroit Red Wings for at least one more year.
The Red Wings still need to offload a couple NHL plays to stay under the roster limit, but I would be surprised to see a center be the odd man out.