Careful what you wish for when it comes to the Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman recently spoke ahead of the NHL draft and free agency and had some telling things to say.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Red Wings have made positive progress in recent seasons, but those expecting an influx of youth should be aware that it may lead to some regression. Three years ago, Detroit produced a 74-point season, followed by 80 two seasons ago and 91 this past season.

Heading into 2024-25, the Detroit Red Wings find themselves at a crossroads. Yzerman, for the first time since re-joining the front office, will need to navigate the salary cap carefully and somehow hope to improve off a 91-point season. As you know by now, the NHL salary cap will rise to $88 million from $83.5 million. The $4.5 million increase will create some flexibility for the Red Wings, but with Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond set to eat up somewhere around $16-$18 million annually after they're extended this summer, which leaves Detroit with roughly $11-$13 million to spend in free agency. Detroit's pending free agents are as follows: Patrick Kane, David Perron, Shayne Gostisbehere, Daniel Sprong, Christian Fischer, James Reimer, Joe Veleno (RFA), Moritz Seider (RFA), and Lucas Raymond (RFA).

Again, navigating the cap and improving the roster will be a difficult task. Yzerman recently acknowledged that bringing all of Detroit's pending free agents back won't be feasible but is focused on improving the roster.

“I don’t know what will happen in free agency, kind of have ideas, thoughts of things that we’d like to do,” Yzerman said. “And part of that is ‘OK with Lucas and Mo signed at particular ranges,’ I’ll say. And if they’re not signed, and there’s still moves that we really think are important for us, that make sense, we’re going to do that, and we’ll potentially have to adjust the negotiation plan with those guys after the fact if that’s the case. But we will try to do things that improve our team and give us a better chance next year.”

Yzerman noted that he doesn't expect to have Raymond and Seider extended before the start of free agency (July 1st) despite having good dialogue with their agents. That means Yzerman will need to work around the figure each is expected to command and allocate the proper funds. Although it's unlikely, never rule out a team submitting an offer sheet. If that were to happen, the Red Wings would have an opportunity to match the accepted offer and will have plenty of cap space to do so.

The Red Wings general manager also said that he doesn't anticipate any blockbuster-type trades that will include the No. 15 overall pick in this week's NHL Entry Level Draft. Yzerman also mentioned that it's crucial to select a 'good player' a player that projects to be an NHL player for the club. I know, it's a very obvious statement, and it seems like something scripted or what Scott Harris of the Detroit Tigers would say, but that's what you get from Yzerman. Yzerman rarely tips his hand and basically says the Detroit Red Wings will enter the draft with a 'best player available' approach rather than commit to a specific position.

“I would say at this stage, I don’t anticipate or I wouldn’t expect any blockbuster trades from Detroit involving the 15th pick,” Yzerman said. “There’s not really that opportunity out there for us. We need to address some other areas. So we’re looking at that. That 15th pick, that’s still a pretty high pick. It’s important that we get a good player. It’s important that we get a player that, honestly, that plays for us in the NHL. We need that. And it’s not as simple as we all think, or it’s not as automatic maybe, as we all like to think it is. So it’s important that we get a player.”

An influx of youth signifies immediate regression for the Detroit Red Wings.

Sometimes you need to take a step back before you can move forward.

Before you panic, let me explain. If we pencil in Seider and Raymond to be re-signed and hope to see a player like Patrick Kane retained, it won't leave a ton of money to add a high-end player such as Sam Reinhart, Steven Stamkos, Jake Guentzel, Jonathan Marchessault, Brandon Montour, etc. and bring back most of their pending free agents.

So, you're banking on getting enough production from prospects like Jonatan Berggren, Marco Kasper, Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, and possibly Nate Danielson or Carter Mazur to make up for what Detroit got from Sprong, Gostisbehere, Perron, and maybe Kane last season. Those four combined for 65 goals and 193 points.

So if you remove Kane from the equation, figuring he's either brought back or replaced by someone equal to a point-per-game pace, the Red Wings still need to find 45 goals and 146 points from a group made up mostly of rookies that carry a low cap number. Obviously, those numbers are achievable if these prospects are as good as expected, but that is in due time, not right away. That's one of the main reasons why I expect to see Detroit take a step backward before they can become the prominent playoff team Yzerman hopes to build, as they had been for years in the past.

Also, the Red Wings need to address their goaltending situation. Detroit must bridge the present to when top prospect Sebastian Cossa is ready to become the franchise's top netminder. Alex Lyon was a nice story last season, but will he be the goaltender he was in January and February or be more of the player he was in March and April? Can Lyon or Husso, for that matter, be consistent enough to be a No. 1 netminder for the duration of the year? Maybe Yzerman trades for Linus Ullmark? Ullmark is 30 years old and has one year left at $5 million per, and will certainly look to increase that cap hit on a multi-year extension. What will Boston command in return? The conversation likely begins with the No. 15 overall pick or possibly a second-rounder paired with a combination of prospects likely named Berggren, Johansson, or William Wallinder. must