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Constructing a realistic forward lineup for the 2022–23 Red Wings

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Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Ony
8 months ago
Although the Detroit Red Wings are still technically in the hunt to make the post-season, it looks like the Washington Capitals are out of their reach for the eighth and final playoff spot.
This season has nevertheless been a promising one for this Red Wings squad, one boasting a young core that still has its best years yet to come. @Moritz Seider and @Lucas Raymond should be in Detroit for a long time.
After missing the playoffs this season, the Red Wings will be able to add another top prospect to their pool in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft. The Red Wings will need those types of pieces to become a Stanley Cup contender in the future.
Still, it can’t be anything other than positive for this young Red Wings team to have remained somewhat competitive down the stretch. The final few weeks of the 2021–22 season will be a learning experience for the many improving players that will make up the core of the Red Wings in the years to come.
The following questions still need to be answered as we draw closer to what should be a hectic off-season for the Red Wings:
  • 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?
The Red Wings have several players on expiring contracts. If they aren’t retained, there should be plenty of free agents available on the market to potentially fill holes on this roster.
Here is a very early look at how the Red Wings’ forward depth chart looks heading into 2022–23, plus some predictions as to how it could potentially change prior to the start of next season. We’ll cover the team’s defense and goaltenders later this month.
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Carolina Hurricanes forward Vincent Trocheck (16) celebrates a goal against the Boston Bruins. Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports.

The Red Wings could use another top-six center

Both of the Red Wings’ current top-six centers are signed through the 2022–23 season. @Dylan Larkin will surely return on the team’s first line, but @Pius Suter’s spot in the lineup is more of a question.
With 23 points in 54 games this season, Suter has been a solid secondary offensive player for the Red Wings but is likely better suited to slot in as a third-line pivot on a contending team.
Expect Suter to return in the Red Wings’ bottom six next season. General manager Steve Yzerman should look to acquire a legitimate second-line center either through free agency or a trade.
Three upcoming unrestricted free agent centers who could be a good fit in Detroit are @Tomas Hertl, @Vincent Trocheck, and @Ryan Strome.
Trocheck and Strome are unlikely to be traded before hitting the market as their teams will be in the playoffs, but there is a good chance the San Jose Sharks move Hertl if they can’t work out a contract extension prior to the Mar. 21 trade deadline.
Hertl will cost a high-end young player (perhaps @Filip Zadina) and more. He has a three-team trade list in his contract and it’s likely he’d only accept a deal to a team contending for the Stanley Cup this season. However, Hertl is also arguably the most talented center on the market and would be the perfect addition to play behind Larkin if signed as a UFA in the summer.
Trocheck and Strome are both 28 years old and would also be sensible targets for the Red Wings in the summer. It wouldn’t be surprising to see both players command salaries in the $5–6 million range on their upcoming contracts.
(It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Wings retain either @Carter Rowney or @Sam Gagner to play a depth role beyond this season. Rowney has posted strong defensive impacts in his 26 games wearing the winged wheel in 2021–22).
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Detroit Red Wings forward @Tyler Bertuzzi carries the puck against the Florida Panthers. Photo credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports.

Bertuzzi’s future dictates Detroit’s direction on the wings

Lucas Raymond will play on Larkin’s right on the first line, but the left side is more difficult to predict. @Filip Zadina and @Vladislav Namestnikov have been effective in that spot of late, but the Red Wings may want to have a stronger player there if they are looking to push for the playoffs in upcoming seasons.
The best option is likely @Tyler Bertuzzi, but he will be without a contract after 2023. With Larkin, Raymond, @Moritz Seider, and @Alex Nedeljkovic all in need of contracts in the near future, Yzerman has to decide if Bertuzzi is part of the long-term plan in Detroit.
Bertuzzi is 27 and in the midst of a career-best season. It might be smart for the Red Wings to trade him before this year’s deadline as his value could be at an all-time high.
If Yzerman does choose to trade Bertuzzi, it’s safe to assume he will fetch a comparable (or better) return to the first-round pick and prospect Montreal received from Calgary in exchange for @Tyler Toffoli. Bertuzzi does not have any trade protection included in his contract.
@Andre Burakovsky is a pending unrestricted free agent and somebody who might not fit into the cap structure of the Colorado Avalanche beyond this season. He’s someone the Wings should look at in free agency to potentially replace Bertuzzi.
Burakovsky, 27, has 18 goals and 43 points in just 54 games with the Avalanche this season. He’s due to command a decent raise on his current $4.9 million AAV.
@Jakub Vrana and @Robby Fabbri are safe bets to play the Red Wings’ second line. With Vrana on the left and Fabbri on the right, that unit just needs a center.
Zadina has looked good of late on the Red Wings’ third line. The pending RFA needs more time to develop as a member of the Red Wings and should be retained to play consistently in a top-nine role and on the power play going forward.
How about a Zadina–Suter–@Jonatan Berggren line? Berggren has been excellent as an American Hockey League rookie with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, posting 14 goals and 37 points in 48 games. We could see Berggren make his NHL debut down the stretch in 2021–22 before making the jump to the show next season.
The Red Wings should look to move on from @Adam Erne. He’s signed for next season at an AAV of $2.1 million but hasn’t shown much in his 55 NHL games this season. If the Wings can’t find a suitor for Erne, he could slot in alongside @Michael Rasmussen and @Givani Smith on the fourth line.

Projected forward lines

First-line LW (@Andre Burakovsky?) – @Dylan Larkin – @Lucas Raymond
@Jakub Vrana – Second-line C (@Vincent Trocheck?) – @Robby Fabbri
@Filip Zadina – @Pius Suter – @Jonatan Berggren
@Joe Veleno – @Michael Rasmussen – @Givani Smith
@Adam Erne – @Carter Rowney

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