The Detroit Red Wings have locked up an important restricted free agent, signing Filip Hronek to a three-year contract. The young defenseman was not eligible for salary arbitration. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the deal will carry an average annual value of $4.4MM. PuckPedia provides the full breakdown:
- 2021-22: $2.7MM salary + $500K signing bonus
- 2022-23: $4.5MM salary
- 2023-24: $5.5MM salary
Hronek, 23, may not yet be a household name because of the Red Wings’ lack of recent success, but he certainly should be. Originally selected 53rd overall in 2016, the Czech defenseman has quickly established himself as one of the team’s most important players. Even as a rookie in 2018-19 Hronek was impressive, averaging 20 minutes a night and racking up 23 points in 46 games. That performance has only improved, with 26 points this season and a whopping 23:23 every night. Those 26 points led the entire Red Wings roster.
It’s easy to look at his +/- numbers and see someone that has been -66 through three seasons, but Hronek is exactly the reason why that statistic has fallen out of favor with so many. His on-ice impact has been excellent, even while taking tough deployment with less than stellar linemates. In his three seasons, the most common defense partners for Hronek have been Danny DeKeyser, Patrik Nemeth, and Jonathan Ericsson, while routinely being matched against the opponent’s best (Hronek faced no forward more than Patrick Kane in 2020-21).
As the team around him improves, Hronek should settle into a role a little lower than the one he’s holding right now, averaging three minutes more than any other player on the team. Make no mistake though, this is a key building block for GM Steve Yzerman to work with as a legitimate top-four defenseman now locked up for three years.
Notably, Yzerman has maintained his future flexibility with the three-year bridge deal instead of locking Hronek in long-term. The Red Wings don’t have a single player signed past the 2023-24 season, meaning if this version of the rebuild doesn’t go perfectly, the team can still pivot and doesn’t have to deal with any contract anchors moving forward.