Stabilizing the cage needs to be a main focus of the Detroit Red Wings this offseason

The Detroit Red Wings need to focus on stabilizing their goaltending next season if they hope to take the next step forward in their rebuild.
Lawrence Scott/GettyImages

General manager Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings must make a number of internal decisions before free agency opens on July 1st.

The first order of business will be to extend pending restricted free agents Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider. Next, Yzerman will need to begin filling in the blanks to his roster with a combination of young prospects, pending free agents, and considering the open market. If Yzerman feels the Red Wings are ready for an influx of youth to round out the bottom of their lineup, such as Nate Danielson, Marco Kasper, and maybe Carter Mazur, it may allow Detroit to save some money and retain a couple of valuable veteran pieces like Patrick Kane, Shayne Gostisbehere, or David Perron.

I expect Yzerman to be very active this summer, and piecing together a competitive roster should also include moving some dead weight via trade to further free up some additional funds to be used on improving the group and taking yet another step forward in what has become a lengthy rebuilding process in Motown.

Players such as Justin Holl, who is under contract for two more seasons at $3.4 annually, or Andrew Copp, at $5.6 million in each of the following three seasons, may find themselves at the center of a cap relief trade. Don't be surprised to see Yzerman trying to attach a bad contract with salary being retained to a decent prospect or draft pick in hopes of trimming some fat ahead of the July 1st free agency period to further their summer flexibility.

The Detroit Red Wings need to address their goaltending situation if they hope to be competitive in 2024-25.

In addition to all of the upcoming decisions, repairing the goaltending situation in the short term may be the deciding factor on whether the Detroit Red Wings will finally qualify for the postseason again. The Red Wings received tremendous play from Alex Lyon in January and February, but his play diminished as the regular season wore on. Lyon, a journeyman backup, began the year as their third option but was thrust into duty as injuries to the projected starter Ville Husso continued to mount. Lyon finished the year with a 21-18-5 record backed by a .904 save percentage and a 3.05 goals-against average.

Detroit also got decent netminding from veteran James Reimer at times last season, but it was clear he wouldn't be able to shoulder the workload of a starter and continue to be a reliable option. He served as a decent backup, nearly mirroring Lyon's numbers. Reimer is a pending free agent leaving the Red Wings, with Lyon and Husso both entering the final year of their current contracts.

Yzerman will need to decide whether he's comfortable beginning the year with Husso and Lyon and Sebastian Cossa, who is not quite NHL-ready, waiting in the wings. He could also look for an upgrade via trade or free agency. The ideal candidate would be someone Detroit could comfortably pair with their top prospect, Cossa, in 2025-26.

The free agent market is fairly bleak, with Cam Talbot leading a less-than-desirable class. That said, a few established goaltenders are expected to be at the center of the trade chatter. Players like, John Gibson, Linus Ullmark, Jacob Markstrom, Elvis Merzļikins and Juuse Saros.

When asked if he's comfortable going into next season with Husso and Lyon as the two goaltenders, Steve Yzerman, who never reveals much, gave an interesting answer.

“It’s an interesting position right now around the league in goaltending that everyone is looking for a goaltender,” Yzerman said. “Whether it’s a (No. 1), a two or a three. And most teams needed three goalies. I guess I would say that all three of us (Husso, Lyon, and pending unrestricted free agent James Reimer) at different points in the season had a very positive impact on us and played games that helped us win and put us in a position to almost make the playoffs.

“But, having said that, they need to be better, we need to be better in all aspects of keeping the puck out of our net — not only with our goalies but our play defensively collectively. Not just our ‘D’ corps, but our forwards as well. I think it’s really my job, and it’s not a headline-making statement, but to try and look to see if I can improve our team in any which way. And I will do that at every position.”

Last year, with the Detroit Red Wings looking like a playoff team as the trade deadline approached and the Calgary Flames imploding, I held out hope that Yzerman would strike a deal for Markstrom. The Flames netminder appeared disgruntled with GM Craig Conroy and the direction Calgary is going, but reports suggest the two sides have reconciled for now. Landing Markstrom will take an expensive trade package, likely the highest-priced package of the group of netminders mentioned above. Markstrom, 34, is under contract for two more seasons at $6 million annually and would fit Detroit's short-term timeline as the bridge to Cossa. The veteran netminder went 23-23-2 last season, with the Flames boasting a 2.78 goals against average and a .904 save percentage.

If the Detroit Red Wings are looking for a value upgrade at the position and someone they could land at a far cheaper price, the answer may be John Gibson. Ducks GM Pat Verbeek has a lengthy history as Steve Yzerman's assistant GM in the years past which should help any potential trade conversations. The Ducks are currently at the beginning of the rebuilding process, and while Gibson's numbers have decreased, some of that is likely due to the team's play in front of him.

Gibson, 31, is under contract for three more seasons at $6.4 million annually and might be rejuvenated on a better team and serve as the perfect running mate with Lyon next season and mentor to Cossa down the road. Gibson posted a 13-27-2 record last season with a less-than-desirable 3.54 goals against average and .888 save percentage. A deal for Gibson would certainly include some salary retained by the Ducks. Ideally, the maximum allowed of 50%, which could also be compensated with a slightly enhanced return from Detroit to entice the transaction.