3 areas the Detroit Red Wings need to focus on improving this summer

Following what feels like a heartbreaking ending to a roller coaster-like season, the Detroit Red Wings have work to do to improve in three specific areas this summer.
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The Detroit Red Wings need to add a top center this summer.

I know I sound like a broken record. I've been saying this over the past three years, and here I am again banging the drum for a center who can drive Detroit's second line, someone who can be Robin to Dylan Larkin's Batman.

Two years ago, Yzerman signed Andrew Copp to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $5.625 million. Yikes. Copp was supposed to fill that second-line role, and he plays a two-way style that Yzerman appreciates and pursues when he's looking to add forwards, but Copp has proven to be way overpaid for what little production he provides. In year one with the Red Wings, he tallied just nine goals over 82 games. This past season, he notched 13 and totaled 33 points in 79 contests. When you look at the salary cap, knowing Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are about to garner significant raises, this Copp deal really becomes a roadblock for the Red Wings moving forward.

Sure, it's not the end of the world as Detroit enters the off-season with the sixth most cap space across the league, but if Copp's money could be spent on a more productive player, the Red Wings might be able to take a larger step forward. In hindsight, it's just a bad deal and one that Yzerman will have trouble trading/moving. Also, Copp, who is expected to be a formidable two-way defender, had his share of defensive zone blunders this season, which also doesn't help his cause.

This past summer, the Red Wings signed free agent J.T. Compher to a five-year deal that averages $5.1 million per season. It's not a bad deal, but Compher has proven to be more valuable when playing as a third-line center. However, in Detroit, he is slotted as a second. He's an upgrade to Copp in every aspect of the game. Compher is a more productive offensive player and every bit as good or slightly better defensively. During his first season in Detroit, Compher scored 19 goals and totaled 48 points over 77 games.

If the Red Wings can sign a high-quality player in free agency, it would enable Compher to lead the third line and provide Detroit with flexibility for their fourth unit. They might choose to play Copp as the fourth center or consider putting him on Compher's wing to form a dependable checking line with offensive potential. Michael Rasmussen would complement these two players very well."This elect to play Copp as the fourth center or perhaps put him on Compher's wing and form a reliable checking line with offensive upside. Michael Rasmussen would fit nicely with those two.

If you think of Marco Kasper or Nate Danielson, that's not a bad thought, but neither is likely to step into the role. I hope Detroit improves. Both may eventually work into the role, but it won't be as soon as next season. Don't forget, it took Dylan Larkin a few up and down years before lifting off into the player he's become.

It would be great to land a player like Sam Reinhart (28) this summer, but it seems a bit unrealistic as the 50-plus goal scorer will likely command a double-digit average annual value on the open market, but never say never. Two others I would consider are Elias Lindholm (29) and Steven Stamkos. Lindholm is a more rounded player but falls more in line with what the Red Wings already have production-wise with Compher and Copp. Stamkos, 34, will come at a cheaper rate and is likely willing to accept a short-term deal at this point of his career. Plus, he comes with a lot more scoring upside.

Stamkos has remained healthy over the past three seasons, posting 42, 34, and 40 consecutive goal seasons with 106, 84, and 81-point seasons.