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Constructing a realistic defensive group for the 2022–23 Red Wings

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Photo credit:Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Ony
8 months ago
With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the 2021–22 season is all but complete for the Detroit Red Wings.
Just 18 games remain on the docket for the Red Wings this season. They shouldn’t get through too many of them before they find themselves eliminated from playoff contention.
At this point, the Red Wings’ remaining games exist largely for academic purposes. The next month of play could determine whether the Red Wings are able to start answering some of these questions (or if some of their existing notions could change):
  • Who will form this team’s core going forward?
  • Which depth players, if any, will be re-signed?
  • Who won’t be back next season?
Earlier this month, we took a shot at projecting the Red Wings’ forward group for next season. This time around, we’ll use a similar approach to create a realistic defensive corps and goaltending tandem for the 2022–23 Red Wings.
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Detroit Red Wings defenseman @Marc Staal (18) chats with referee Dean Morton. Photo credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Red Wings need stability on the left side

@Jordan Oesterle is currently the Red Wings’ only left-handed defenseman signed through 2022-23. With a one-way contract carrying a $1.35 million cap hit, he will have a strong chance to make the team.
@Nick Leddy is gone, having been dealt to the St. Louis Blues before the trade deadline. Danny DeKeyser and @Marc Staal are both set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.
As expected, DeKeyser didn’t move prior to the deadline. The 32-year-old has declined significantly in recent seasons and his $5 million contract would have been a non-starter for almost every potential buyer.
Staal has been much better with the Red Wings this season in a secondary role. Like veteran forward @Sam Gagner, Staal provides excellent leadership to this team and could potentially be brought back at a low price.
It’s certainly possible that Staal may want to chase a Stanley Cup at this point in his career. However, if he’s willing to return, it’s easy to see Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman bringing Staal back for another season.
Moving on from the veterans: Detroit has acquired a pair of younger left-handed defenders in recent weeks who could be able to lock down regular roles with the club next season.
@Jake Walman is 26. @Olli Juolevi is 23. Both players have appeared in fewer than 100 National Hockey League games. They’re relatively untested options who are in the perfect organization for them to get a chance.
Both Walman and Juolevi are expected to be restricted free agents this summer. They’ll likely both be brought back, even if there might not be two spots on the roster available for them. If only one of them makes it, expect it to be Walman.
Beyond those two, there are three defensive prospects who should have a chance to make the team in training camp. Expect Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, and Jared McIsaac to be given long looks by Red Wings management prior to the start of the 2022–23 season.
Edvinsson is coming off an outstanding rookie season in the Swedish Hockey League. While he could eventually push for a spot next to @Moritz Seider on the top pairing, Edvinsson only just turned 19 and might start out next to @Filip Hronek or @Gustav Lindstrom.
That leads into the big question on defense: Who plays next to Moritz Seider? @Hampus Lindholm looked like he could be a natural option for the Red Wings before the Boston Bruins snapped him up. Now, they may have to pursue shorter-term options if they elect to shop in free agency.
Two potential UFA options are @Ben Chiarot and @Alex Goligoski. Both are on the other side of 30 but could be solid stop-gaps until another prospect is ready.
Goligoski has been quietly fantastic for the last decade. At 36 years old, he’s having one of the best seasons of his career next to Jared Spurgeon in Minnesota. It might take a two-year offer from the Red Wings, but he could be their best value option.

Projected defensive pairings

Top-pairing LHD (@Alex Goligoski?) – @Moritz Seider
@Marc Staal – @Filip Hronek
@Simon Edvinsson – @Gustav Lindstrom
@Jake Walman/@Jordan Oesterle
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Dallas Stars goaltender @Braden Holtby (70) looks on during a game in Winnipeg. Photo credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports.

Exploring how the Red Wings can replace Greiss

Red Wings goaltender @Alex Nedeljkovic has struggled in the second half of the season but has done more than enough to return as next year’s starter.
Even with a slightly underwhelming .904 save percentage to go along with his 17–19–6 record, Nedeljkovic has been significantly more effective than his backup.
In his second year with the Red Wings, @Thomas Greiss is 8–11–1 and has an .885 save percentage. The 36-year-old netminder is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Greiss likely won’t be back in Detroit next season. Top prospect Sebastian Cossa isn’t ready to make the jump to the NHL, and the Red Wings don’t have any obvious internal candidates for a promotion to the backup goaltender position.
There will be several veteran goaltenders available to the Red Wings in free agency. Some names to consider are @Ville Husso, @Braden Holtby, and @Mikko Koskinen. All can likely be considered upgrades on Greiss.
Husso has been incredible in a small sample with the Blues, posting a 16–5–4 record and a .925 save percentage this season. It’s hard to imagine the Blues not trying to sign him — especially given @Jordan Binnington’s struggles — but it’s also possible that Husso could desire a bigger opportunity.
As a past winner of the Vezina Trophy and the Stanley Cup, Holtby would be a great mentor for Nedeljkovic and likely won’t command a huge contract. He’s enjoyed a nice bounceback season with the Dallas Stars but is currently on long-term injured reserve.
Koskinen has had an up-and-down tenure with the Edmonton Oilers but has a track record of being more capable of handling a backup role than starting on a consistent basis. He’d be a cost-effective option to form a short-term tandem with Nedeljkovic.
Whether it’s Husso, Holtby, or someone else, the Red Wings should have plenty of options to improve their goaltending depth for next season.

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