The Detroit Red Wings have been quietly rebuilding over the last couple of seasons after losing Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement two offseasons ago. The Wings won the final four games of the season last year and got their bid for the 22nd straight playoff appearance for the franchise.
The Wings quite possibly over achieved last season beating the number two Anaheim Ducks in the first round in seven games, and then forcing a seven game series with the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
This season dragged on full of injuries that never went away. The stockpile of prospects the Wings have in Grand Rapids stepped in in for the Wings and earned their spots, taking jobs from veterans like Patrick Eaves, Jordin Tootoo, and Mikael Samuelsson.
Moving forward, the Red Wings have a solid group of forwards on their roster that will be able to do some damage assuming they can stay healthy next season. The net seems to be in good condition as Jimmy Howard seems to be the goaltender moving forward still, and the young Petr Mrazek may finally be brought up to replace Jonas Gustavsson behind Howard on the bench.
That leaves only the defense to discuss in Detroit. Danny Dekeyser is up for a new contract this summer and will likely be locked down by Ken Holland and company after showing his ability to shut down top forwards at the NHL level. Kyle Quincey is also up for a contract this summer, and I would be disappointed to see him go after he took a big step forward this season. He’s still not a top defenseman, but could ideally round out the third defensive line.
Detroit used one of their two amnesty buy outs last season on Carlo Colaiacovo. There’s been talk of the Wings using the buy out on Jordin Tootoo who spent most of the season in Grand Rapids, but the Wings had yet another disappointing season from forward Johan Franzen, who like many others, didn’t play as well as fans expected him to in the playoffs. Franzen is signed through 2020 and owns a cap hit of just under $4 million.
Buying out Franzen could free up additional cap space that the Wings could use to resign the young players like Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan who are also up for new contracts, and showed their readiness for NHL action on a night to night basis. With a handful of other veteran forwards coming off the books the Wings should have enough to be a buyer in the free agency period and could really use the help of a first line defenseman.
If the Wings were able to lock up a solidified number one defenseman, Detroit automatically becomes a contender. Howard needs more help on the back end that Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl have yet to deliver in their young careers.
Due to the history of the organization, the Wings are always expected to win and they’re expected to win regularly. The past two seasons seem like failures, but they’ve gone beyond expectations both seasons and will continue to get better as players like Dekeyser, Tatar, Sheahan, Gustav Nyquist, and Tomas Jurco continue to develop.
The future is bright in Detroit, fans need to not be greedy, look at the upside of the season and move on. We’re in the midst of a cap era in the NHL now, and it isn’t as easy as buying high price free agents anymore. Detroit has responded and adapted to the new era in the NHL quite well. They’ll be back next season, and given the right moves could be the favorite to win the cup as early as next season.