Red Wings: Which Unrestricted FA’s Might Yzerman Re-Sign?

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MARCH 11: Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates a 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with Christian Djoos #44 at Little Caesars Arena on March 11, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MARCH 11: Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates a 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with Christian Djoos #44 at Little Caesars Arena on March 11, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has a number of decisions this offseason as a handful of unrestricted and restricted free agents are finishing their contracts with Detroit. With nine players on the main roster set to be UFA’s this offseason, how many make sense to keep on the roster, especially with Lucas Raymond signing his entry-level deal. With over $50M in cap space, here’s a look at who’s up for negotiations and who Yzerman might bring back or let walk.

Let ‘Em Walk

There are two players that are likely to end up on another team (or even out of the NHL) in the offseason. Valtteri Filppula ($3 million) is 37 years old, and with Detroit, he’s essentially been  someone with veteran experience to fill the gaps. With the way he’s played this year, it’s unlikely Yzerman will move to re-sign the aging forward. Darren Helm ($3.85 million) is in a similar situation. At 34, the only thing Helm is bringing to Detroit’s lineup is years of NHL experience. While he does have the fourth line grinder style that head coach Jeff Blashill seems to love, the lack of production (three goals and four assists in 36 games played) along with his better years behind him might prompt Yzerman to look for someone new.

Red Wings/Griffins Depth Signings

Alex Biega ($875,000) and Calvin Pickard ($800,000) are both UFA’s this offseason as well, but they are in a bit of a different boat than the others. Biega has spent a vast majority of his time on on the taxi squad, while Pickard has spent a majority of his time in Grand Rapids (the exception being to step in for Jonathan Bernier after his injury). These players are essentially non-factors. If they are re-signed, it will be for depth or to stay in Grand Rapids. Neither will be signed to fill a regular roster spot.

Bring ‘Em Back 

The remaining five UFA’s should find themselves back on Detroit’s roster, as long as it is for the right price.

At the beginning of the year, it might have been ridiculous to say – but Detroit could very well bring Marc Staal back ($5.7 million). Yes, the same player that is in Detroit because the Rangers wanted to offload a contract. Of course, if Staal is asking for even half of the contract he signed with the Rangers, Yzerman will likely laugh him out of the office. However, if Staal is alright with a Jon Merrill type contract or something slightly higher (ranging from $975K to $1.5M tops), this is  a realistic move that Stevie could end up making.

Luke Glendening ($1.8 million) is another player that will stay in Detroit on a short term contract. His penalty killing abilities and faceoff wins garnered attention from around the league at the deadline, although Yzerman didn’t end up finding a deal for him in such an odd season. Yzerman

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might re-sign Glendening on a cheap contract to attempt to flip him for an asset at the deadline in what is expected to be a more normal NHL season. Even if Yzerman is unable to move him again, Glendening could clock in at something slightly lower, similar to the range for Staal.

Sam Gagner ($850,000) and Bobby Ryan ($1 million) are both forwards that are good candidates for being brought back on similar deals. Gagner has shown flashes of offensive dominance (His hat trick comes to mind), and has found a comfortable spot as a strong bottom six forward on Detroit’s roster.  Ryan was consistently in Detroit’s top five for points before his season ending injury. His production and veteran presence were enough to attract trade rumors, although his injury ended any chance of that happening. According to the Athletic Writer Max Bultman, Ryan has loved his time in Detroit, and would be happy to come back next season. Even considering his age (34), Ryan would be a great asset for Yzerman to re-sign in the offseason, as his veteran presence and production could not only support the team in a transitional year, but also return a draft asset at the trade deadline.

Jonathan Bernier should also return. Bernier has often been the difference maker in close matchups (especially at the beginning of the season), and has been the reason Detroit has kept many games close. With the amount of cap space Detroit has next year, it is almost certain that Bernier will be brought back, even if it is a little more expensive than his current deal ($3M AAV).

With the amount of cap space Steve Yzerman has this offseason, it will certainly be a fun offseason, even if the roster stays mostly the same. However, as we’ve seen from the trade deadline, Yzerman can often be quite unpredictable.

Whatever he does, it’s expected to only make the Red Wings stronger.