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7 Days Later: What’s Left For the Red Wings of the UFA Market

A week after free agency period opened and the dust has started to settle on the 2019 UFA class. Most teams have made their big signings and the amount of players on the market has shrunk considerably, but it has not dried up completely. There is still a small amount of players out there who will surely be locked in by the time training camp rolls around. The big question is which team’s jersey will they be wearing.

Some of these players may interest the Red Wings. Steve Yzerman made a very small amount of noise with his signings this Summer. He added depth to the blue line in Patrik Nemeth and filled the 3C center spot with Valtteri Filppula. Both on short-term and both with low cap hits. In his end-of-day press conference last Monday, Yzerman did not close out the door on yet another forward or defenseman. If the fit is right and the contract is right, he’d consider signing one more of each. Here are five UFAs still on the market that could be that right fit for the Red Wings.

JAKE GARDINER

If Jake Gardiner joined the Red Wings, he would immediately become their best defenseman. He is, at the very least, a 30-point guy and can log big minutes in his own end. Style-wise, and in the context of who else the Red Wings have available to them, Gardiner is a great fit. It’s the contract bit where it starts to fall apart. At 29-years-old, Gardiner has earned the right to sign his big boy contract. He’s going to look for term in the 5-7 year range and will eat up a decent chunk of cap space, likely in the $6- or $7-million range. Yzerman is not willing to make any long-term signings at this point.

Based on his two signings this Summer, he’s working in the 2-3 year range until he’s ready to start thinking long-term on the salary cap with free agents. This alone is what makes me believe the Red Wings are out on Gardiner.

My prediction? Gardiner takes a bit of a discount and re-signs with the Leafs at a discount.

RYAN DZINGEL

I’d still really like a Ryan Dzingel signing for the Red Wings. He’s young, as far as UFAs are concerned, and he’s flexible in what position he can play. The Red Wings top-6 is starting to take shape and I think Dzingel would look great on Frans Nielsen‘s wing, opposite Andreas Athanasiou. The issue then becomes that he’s taking a spot away from a prospect who should be able to make the team now, most notably Filip Zadina who, when he cracks the NHL roster, will need to play with the kind of speed that AA has and smarts that Nielsen has.

It’s probably not worth thinking too hard about, anyways. Once again, this scenario falls apart when you think about the length of the contract. Dzingel is 27-years-old. This is his chance to get paid big. He’s not going to sign a three-year deal only to become a UFA again at 30. My prediction is that he re-ups with the Blue Jackets and that team ends up being better than anyone thinks after losing Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.

MICHEAL FERLAND

Micheal Ferland‘s name always seems to be mentioned in trade talks. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it does make me wonder about his continued availability on the UFA market. Surely a 20-goal, 40-point scorer would be scooped up pretty quickly? Maybe his decision to stay with the Carolina Hurricanes has already been made and they’ve just been waiting for the Sebastian Aho situation to sort itself out.

What’s more likely, in my opinion, is that Ferland is over-valuing his services and no team is willing to pay that. Last year, Ferland made $1.75-million for his 40-points. At 27-years-old, his production isn’t going to miraculously jump by 15 points, so I wouldn’t be clambering to give him $5-million either. If Ferland were willing to sign in the $3-million range, that might make him a better fit for the Red Wings. He’s a third-line winger who would play well alongside Frans Nielsen.

Personally, I’d stay away. He is an option, though, and one of the better ones remaining on the market.

OSCAR LINDBERG

Oscar Lindberg has played on hockey’s east coast, for the New York Rangers, and its west, for the Vegas Golden Knights. Most recently, he was part of the return that Vegas had to cough up to bring in Mark Stone, a deal which worked out very favorable for them.

At his best, Lindberg is a 20-point player. He’s never scored more than 13 goals in a single season, but that was four years ago. No, he’s solidified himself as a bottom-6, grind-it-out kind of player. It’s not a bad thing, but the Red Wings have a lot of those kinds of players. Plus, Lindberg is a centerman and with the acquisition of Filppula, I think the Red Wings are more than set at center.

It’s an interesting thought because Lindberg will be cheap and probably wouldn’t mind a short-term deal, but at the end of the day, his style of play is redundant on this Red Wings roster.

PONTUS ABERG

This one may feel a bit out of left field, but hear me out. Pontus Aberg never got a fair shake in Nashville and he was dealt a crummy hand in Edmonton. In the 37 games he played for the very bad Anaheim Ducks, he scored 11 goals and 19 points. That’s not bad for a depth winger on a bad team. And with a summer of dedicated training, Aberg could be a useful depth option for the Wings.

Aberg lost some steam when he was traded to Minnesota, but I feel like he could be impressive on a “prove it” deal for one or two years at a low AAV. He could easily slot into the bottom-6 and maybe even get some power play time on the second unit. He seems to me to be the kind of player who just needs a fresh start. Low-risk, high-reward in my opinion.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, the Red Wings don’t need to add anymore free agents. They may have one or two empty spots at forward, but they also have some prospects who should be ready to make the jump to the NHL.

On the back-end, there is still the mystery of Niklas Kronwall. Will he be back or won’t he? This is a question that is going to continuously pop up this Summer and until it’s answered, there likely won’t be any more additions to the back-end.