3 depth forwards the Detroit Red Wings need to target in free agency

The Detroit Red Wings are expected to have a busy off-season, and here are three under-the-radar forwards general manager Steve Yzerman should consider signing.
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After watching the first round of the NHL playoffs, it has become quite apparent that the Detroit Red Wings may need to add a few players who play a more physical brand of hockey. This would increase their chances of qualifying for the postseason next year and also give them a better chance of making an impact in the playoffs.

At this time of year, the physical play intensifies and the officials become more lenient when, calling penalties. The checking is more aggressive, and players take fewer risks. Take the Boston/Toronto series, for example: Great hockey, but not much space even for the ultra-gifted players such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and David Pastrňák. A lot more was involved. Toronto is essentially the Dallas Cowboys of the NHL, becoming postseason choke artists year after year, but again, the space and scoring opportunities decrease greatly in May and June.

The Detroit Red Wings often hang their hat on depth-scoring, yet again failed to have a 40-goal scorer, and only produced two 30-goal contributors last season but remained in the playoff hunt until the final day of the regular season. Depth scoring is fine, but players like Joe Veleno, Andrew Copp, Robby Fabbri, Christian Fischer, Austin Czarnik, and Michael Rasmussen suffered through long pointless stretches at times last season and, aside from Fischer and Rasmussen, played quite 'light' for the most part. The Detroit Red Wings need to consider swapping out a few of their bottom-six forwards for players who are willing to play a bit heavier brand of hockey.

The Detroit Red Wings should consider signing Cal Clutterbuck in free agency.

Most will be quick to gloss over Cal Clutterbuck this summer because of his age, lack of offensive upside, and the wear and tear he's sustained over the years, but I feel the Detroit Red Wings should look to add to their fourth line this summer.

Clutterbuck, 36, doesn't exactly fit the Yzerman rebuild long-term, but if the long-time New York Islander isn't retained, he'd be just the player Detroit could utilize on their fourth line for a year. Clutterbuck, usually near the top in forward-delivered hits each season, still plays a checking-first brand of hockey. He's also often utilized in a penalty-killing role, so he'd also bring some special teams ability to the lineup. Clutterbuck notched 273 hits last season, which would have led the Red Wings by a long shot, and he also had a career-high 55 blocked shots, which would have placed him third on the Red Wings among forwards behind Rasmussen (76) and J.T. Compher (59).

Last season, the fourth-line winger posted seven goals and 19 points over 82 games while maintaining a plus-4 rating and playing just under 12 minutes per night. Clutterbuck is finishing a two-year deal that averaged $1.75 million per season. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello recently acknowledged that some changes were “inevitable” and that as much as he values loyalty, “there’s nothing sacred.” 

If the Red Wings have the opportunity to skate Clutterbuck opposite Christian Fischer on the fourth line next year with someone like Andrew Copp (if he's not traded or bought out), Rasmussen, or even Marco Kasper (although I believe he will be a top-nine forward from day one) would make for a reliable energy-creating unit. I'd be willing to replace someone like Veleno, who is a pending restricted free agent with Clutterbuck. I know Veleno is just 24 years old, but he can't seem to get over the hump and found himself in the dog house late in the year. Whether it was an effort or production issue remains to be seen, but a change of scenery may do Veleno some good.