Detroit – Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has many decisions to make once this pause in the NHL season ends.
But what’ll keep Yzerman busy for a while is what to do with all of his restricted free agents.
Not necessarily the Red Wings’ unrestricted free agents. Those decisions appear clear-cut at this point.
But the restricted free agents – the young players who have completed their entry-level contracts but don’t have enough NHL service time to be unrestricted – will give Yzerman plenty to think about.
The Wings have a staggering 12 restricted free agents – players the organization could re-sign to longer term deals, short-term contracts, or simply not bring back.
Some of these RFAs certainly improved their stock with promising seasons that made them appear to be building blocks for the Wings’ future. But others disappointed, though they were given numerous opportunities.
Here are the Red Wings’ RFAs (with statistics and current salary), though exactly when the free-agency process takes place this summer is unknown right now because of the coronavirus pandemic.
►Tyler Bertuzzi, 21 goals, 27 assists, $1.4 million: Bertuzzi posted his second consecutive 21-goal season, was the Wings’ All-Star representative, and was one of the team’s more consistent players. Bertuzzi has proven capable of playing a variety of roles, the coaching staff can plug him on any line, but he’s been especially productive on the top scoring line. Bertuzzi will likely get a long-term deal.
►Madison Bowey, 3 goals, 14 assists, $1 million: Bowey was waived in December, played one game in Grand Rapids, and was recalled when injuries decimated the Wings’ roster. Bowey hasn’t progressed defensively, and with the Wings likely to reshuffle the defense, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them cut ties with Bowey.
►Christoffer Ehn, 54 games, 2 goals, 2 assists, $759,167: Ehn provides some flexibility on the fourth line, plays with speed, but has shown meager offense in his brief NHL career. Ehn provides roster depth at this point.
►Adam Erne, 2 goals, 3 assists, $1.05 million: Acquired for a fourth-round pick last summer, Erne was a disappointment offensively. He provides a bit of a physical presence, and some grit, but it’s fair to wonder how much of a ceiling he has. The Wings are likely to bring him back, but he needs to take a bigger step forward.
►Robby Fabbri, 15 goals, 17 assists, $900,000: Fabbri was one of Yzerman’s better acquisitions, traded for forward Jacob de la Rose. Fabbri plays his best when he plays with an edge, and he needs to do that consistently. But Fabbri definitely showed he’s a short-term part of the picture, a formidable top-six forward on this roster.
►Taro Hirose, 5 goals, 27 assists (Grand Rapids), $925,000: Hirose took a step back this season, being sent to Grand Rapids after struggling early with the Wings. He might settle into a depth player in the organization because of his strength and speed limitations.
►Anthony Mantha, 16 goals, 22 assists, $3.3 million: Mantha is the most interesting of the RFA cases. If it weren’t for two significant injuries, Mantha may have had a career-best season. At age 25, Mantha is on the threshold of his peak years. But can Mantha and the Wings agree on the terms of a new contract? It might be tricky. Mantha might be willing to sign a one-year deal, betting he can post big numbers before he could be unrestricted in two years. Or the Wings could sign Mantha to a four- or five-year deal, believing he’s going to continue to progress. It’ll be interesting to watch.
►Brendan Perlini, 1 goal, 3 assists, $874,125: What appeared to be a shrewd acquisition didn’t turn out to be. Perlini had scored at least 14 goals three times in his career, but only had one goal in 39 games with the Wings. Perlini isn’t a physical presence, and it would be very surprising to see Perlini back in a Wings uniform.
►Evgeny Svechnikov, 11 goals, 14 assists (Grand Rapids), $863,333: Svechnikov is no longer waiver-exempt, so he’ll either start next season with the Wings or potentially be lost to another team. He had a spotty return this season after missing all of 2018-19 to knee surgery.
►Dmytro Timashov, 4 goals, 5 assists (Detroit-Toronto), $694,444: Only played five games with the Wings after being claimed on waivers. Timashov has some offensive promise, is strong for his size, and is penciled for third- or fourth-line duty next season.
►Dominic Turgeon, 63 games, 10 goals, 13 assists (Grand Rapids), $750,000: Turgeon has been passed on the organization depth chart, and it’s possible he won’t be brought back.
►Kyle Wood, 4 goals, 7 assists (Grand Rapids), $700,000: Acquired in a minor-league trade for defenseman Oliwer Kaski, Wood doesn’t appear to have much of a future with the Wings given the defensemen in the system.