Finish aside here's how to resolve Detroit Red Wings' most pressing need for 2024-25

Getting strong two-way center play to support captain Dylan Larkin and drive a one-dimensional forward group is paramount if the Red Wings are to improve.
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Two games left. The Detroit Red Wings pretty much need to go 2-for-2, a home-and-home sweep of the Montreal Canadiens, if they're to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fingers crossed, right? It would be neat for their postseason-starved fans if the Red Wings could win Monday night in Detroit's Little Caesars Arena and then Tuesday night in Montreal. History suggests close games. The Wings are 4-2 versus Montreal the past two seasons, with each of their victories this season in overtime.

Regardless of the outcome, it's not too early to speculate on what the Red Wings need come October. Detroit's major issue is upfront, the forward group. The presence of Moritz Seider and Simon Edvinsson indicates the foundation for a strong blueline corps. Ben Chiarot's resurrection this season, especially over the past six weeks, also suggests stability in the back.

Up front, the void is at center. After Dylan Larkin, the pickings are thin. J.T. Compher has been solid, especially in the past 20 or so games, and perhaps Joe Veleno will emerge as a fourth-line checker. He has the speed and grit; does he have the hockey IQ, though? For Detroit, there remain too many questions up the middle in a league where the most successful teams have strong center-ice play.

Looking to the Golden Knights might be an option for the center-poor Red Wings. After Dylan Larkin, Detroit is devoid of solid play up the middle.

So, what's the plan? Let's start by not re-signing David Perron. The vote here is to let Patrick Kane walk, too. The same goes for defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Each will be an unrestricted free agent.

Role players with some grit—Christian Fischer and Daniel Sprong, to name two—should return or be replaced by players with similar contracts and favorable qualities.

That brings us back to center. The solution could be in Las Vegas, where the defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights will be once again up against the salary cap. They've just added the expensive contracts of center Tomas Hertl and defenseman Noah Hanifin for their playoff run. Plus, the Knights have some UFAs to deal with, including Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Marchessault, who, with 42 goals, is having a career season. Defenseman Alec Martinez, a three-time Cup winner and a native of Rochester, Michigan, also is a UFA. (Gee, at 36, would Martinez consider a "friendly" contract to come home to Michigan, perhaps finishing his career in Detroit?).

As for a center option in Detroit, let's suggest Chandler Stephenson, 29, a speedy 200-foot player who has two Cups (Washington and Vegas). He's a UFA to be, coming off an annual deal of $3.3 million. He plays a heavy game, fits in with the top six -- he centered a dynamite Golden Knights line of wings Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone for a good stretch -- and can match up against most of the league's best offensive centermen.

It's highly unlikely Stephenson returns to Sin City. The Knights have Jack Eichel, the recently acquired Hertl and William Karlsson as their top three centers, and each has a significant contract. So, with Vegas' expected need to shed salary, the Wings might also consider Karlsson, who like Stephenson, is a speedy, intelligent two-way center.

Karlsson scored a career-best 43 goals in 2017-18, and while he's unlikely to reach that number again, he's having a superb season with 28 goals and 57 points. He's a Swede, somewhat in the mold of Henrik Zetterberg and the ex-Red Wings' cerebral approach to hockey. Karlsson would be an excellent fit in Detroit, of course, with its Swedish heritage.

Karlsson is making just less than $6 million, and his deal runs through 2026-27. It's unlikely that the Wings would add both Stephenson and Karlsson, but it's something to consider.

Making such moves to restructure the team's forward group also means general manager Steve Yzerman would have to get creative. He'd likely have to dump salary. Candidates would include center Andrew Copp ($5.6M annually through 2026-27), defenseman Justin Holl ($3.4M through 2025-26), and perhaps one-dimensional and oft-injured wing Robby Fabbri ($4M through 2024-25).

Waiting for a draft pick to develop quickly to provide enough support for Larkin is a foolish move. Help is needed now. Yzerman has moves to make. Sadly, the most difficult one might be finding another team that believes players like Copp and Holl could still be significant contributors.