Free agency is now a little more than a month away and teams are looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several impact players set to hit the open market in July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. We continue our look around the NHL with an overview of the free agent situation for the Detroit Red Wings.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Joe Veleno – As one of the higher touted prospects entering the 2018 NHL Draft, Veleno fell to Detroit at 30th overall, using the Vegas Golden Knights selection acquired in the Tomas Tatar trade. In his final season in the QMJHL, Veleno scored 104 points in 59 games, giving Red Wings’ fans a lot of optimism about his future.
Unfortunately, the relationship has been tepid up to this point, as Veleno reached a career-high in points this season, only scoring 20 points in 81 games. Although his offensive numbers have translated poorly from juniors, his play on the defensive side of the puck has actually improved considerably in his career.
Severely lacking in the faceoff dot, Veleno did have 30 takeaways compared to 17 giveaways this season. Throwing 152 hits as well for Detroit this season, Veleno carried a Defensive Point Share of 0.9, one of the highest on the team compared to the number of minutes played. If Detroit plans to cultivate Veleno into a defensive forward, they may need to move him out of the faceoff dot, but they will have ample space to continue his time wearing the Winged Wheel.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
F Pius Suter – After not receiving a qualifying offer from the Chicago Blackhawks after the 2020-21 season, Suter became an under-the-radar signing for the Red Wings in the 2021-22 offseason. In his first season in Detroit, Suter scored 15 goals and 21 assists, improving on his numbers from the previous year.
Although scoring some big goals for the Red Wings this season, Suter took a dip in several departments this year. Although playing relatively the same amount of games this season, Suter had a 12-point drop in scoring, a 2.5% drop in faceoff percentage, and a 4.9% drop in Corsi For %.
F Adam Erne – Becoming one of the better depth scorers in Detroit during the 2021-22 season, Erne seemed to be an odd man out for the Red Wings this year. On February 4th, 2023, Detroit placed Erne on waivers, and he would go on to clear one day later. With prospects making the jump to the NHL for the Red Wings, Erne has appeared to become a casualty of the youth movement.
G Alex Nedeljkovic – Acquired in a low-risk trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, Nedeljkovic had a subpar showing in his first season in Detroit. This year, Nedeljkovic had an even worse performance. Clearing waivers on January 16th, Nedeljkovic played in nine games prior, producing a 2-4-2 record, carrying a .880 SV% and a 3.88 GAA. Getting a second chance in March, Nedelkovic improved, posting a 2-2-0 record, and a .920 SV% with a 2.33 GAA.
Projected Cap Space
Hoping to be on the back end of a rebuilding effort, the Red Wings will have $30.66MM available to them this summer. With 16 players projected on the roster next season, Detroit has ample availability to get creative.
Expectedly, many of the available roster spots will be taken up by some of the team’s many prospects, but the Red Wings will have the ability to shop at the high end of the free-agent market this offseason.
Whether Steve Yzerman weaponizes his cap space by acquiring contracts and draft capital, or by making an acquisition to significantly improve the team, the financials included in any transaction will not be a factor for the Red Wings this summer.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.