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Photo Credit: © Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

An Early Look At The 2018-19 Red Wings

Off-seasons during rebuilds are more season-defining than summers while you’re contending. This summer is crucial to our future. I am going to take a look at who could be a part of our team come October. This is obviously subjective to who we draft and any signings or trades Ken Holland & company make. A few of our prospects had monstrous years across different leagues and I have found room to include them in the lineup. Holland has confirmed they are going to discontinue over-ripening players in the minors.

Additionally, I’ve signed our restricted free agents to contracts. With the help of CapFriendly’s ArmChair GM option, I’ve put together a realistic look at the Wings.

A look at the forward group

For the sake of the exercise, I have the salary cap set to $80 million and I LTIR’d (long-term injury reserve) Johan Franzen (obviously) – leaving us with plenty of cap space. Detroit has no reason to spend to the cap anyway. Further, I signed Dylan Larkin to a 6-year deal with a $6.5 million cap hit, Andreas Athanasiou to a 2-year deal worth $4 million per year, Anthony Mantha to a 5-year deal with a $5.5 million cap hit, and Tyler Bertuzzi to a 2-year deal carrying a $950K cap hit.

There are two other things I’m sure you noticed;

  • There are no external free agents signed
  • There is a lot of youth

I know you all want to see Luke Witkowski down in the minors at the very least. That move isn’t too realistic at this point and he’s an extra forward on a poor team. The 13th forward position isn’t where fans should be expressing their frustration anyway.

Michael Rasmussen should have won Wings’ fans over by now and we should all be excited to see what happens in training camp. He destroyed the playoffs for the Tri-City Americans this post-season. Rasmussen is ineligible to play for the Griffins in 2018-19, so expect him to be with Detroit in October.

July 1st in recent history has scared most Wings’ fans. I think the approach this summer is going to be fairly conservative. Aside from our own RFAs, we won’t see any big deals handed out.

On to the defence

Again, you probably noticed there aren’t any free agent signings – what’s the point?

We have a plethora of defence to find room for in Detroit and Grand Rapids. Joe Hicketts got the call during this past season after an impressive preseason and Filip Hronek dominated the AHL. Both players should be everyday guys next season. We shot ourselves in the foot with the deals given to Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson. Due to our commitment to these players, I had to LTIR Niklas Kronwall to make two openings.

The pairings and depth are subject to Jeff Blashill’s blender but I’d say that is an accurate look at those seven defencemen.

Goaltending

Dallas fans would probably laugh at this, but I think Kari Lehtonen is still good. In fact, I didn’t like the Ben Bishop signing in Dallas because they had Lehtonen – their issue wasn’t goaltending.

Anyway, I think any of these three goaltenders can give us a chance to win each night. Obviously one of them would start in the AHL – likely Jared Coreau – but having three NHL-calibre goalies allows us some insurance against injuries. Lehtonen could be an easy sell at the trade deadline if he puts up his Dallas numbers in Detroit.

Additional Notes

I released Martin Frk. Despite the hype surrounding his shot, he isn’t going to produce more for us than he already has. It would be mutually beneficial if he moved on. He has cleared waivers recently, so that demonstrates how people value him around the NHL.

Gustav Nyquist will be gone at next year’s trade deadline but nothing is certain considering how the Mike Green situation played out. Other pending free agents will be Jimmy Howard, Lehtonen, and Coreau. There isn’t much of a goalie market but other teams have options with Detroit.

To conclude, this is a preliminary and conservative view of next year’s Red Wings. I will update this as the Wings make moves and navigate through the Entry Draft. You will all have different opinions so please share with us what you think, but don’t expect John Tavares to be wearing the Winged Wheel in October.