This is the second in a three-part series looking at the Red Wings' position-by-position needs entering free agency. Today: Defensemen
Detroit — The Red Wings’ defense likely will look much different next season, whenever that’ll begin.
Mike Green was dealt at the trade deadline — a few weeks before the season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic — and Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson are veteran unrestricted free agents who will not return.
Young players such as Moritz Seider, Gustav Lindstrom and Dennis Cholowski could be getting greater opportunities if they show they can handle the responsibility.
But the unit has to get deeper and more experienced, which means the Wings likely will be busy sifting through the free-agent market
And there are players who could be potential targets — not just by the Wings, but many teams who may have some space to shop under the salary cap.
The Wings figure to return Danny DeKeyser, who only has played eight games this season due to a herniated disk, Filip Hronek, Patrik Nemeth and Alex Biega.
Along with the young defensemen such as Seider, Cholowski and Lindstrom, restricted free agent Madison Bowey will be battling for roster spots.
Though there are some interesting options on the free-agent market, and the Wings will have available cap space (only 11 players under contract currently for $46.2 million, while the cap of $81 million could remain flat), there’s still the issue of whether free agents will be attracted to a rebuilding situation.
Here are some potential unrestricted free agent defensemen who could interest the Wings:
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis
2019-20 stats: 16 goals, 36 assists, 52 points
Cap hit: $6.5 million
Analysis: Pietrangelo, 30, is one of the premier defensemen in the NHL and is the Blues’ captain. Yes, St. Louis will have some cap issues, but it’s difficult to imagine these two sides parting.
Torey Krug, Boston
2019-20 stats: Nine goals, 40 assists, 49 points
Cap hit: $5.25 million
Analysis: Krug was coached in junior hockey by Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill, and the Livonia native starred at Michigan State. So, there’s definitely some local connections. But Krug has become a key cog in the Bruins’ roster, a gr owing leader, and the Bruins do have some available cap space.
Tyson Barrie, Toronto
2019-20 stats: Five goals, 34 assists, 39 points
Cap hit: $5.5 million
Analysis: This season hasn’t gone well for Barrie, who likely will not return to the Maple Leafs. Barrie is more of an offensive defenseman who might have to settle for a little less than he expected. The Wings could be a possibility.
T.J. Brodie, Calgary
2019-20 stats: Four goals, 15 assists, 19 points
Cap hit: $4.65 million
Analysis: Brodie has been a solid player in Calgary, but the Flames have several free agents and limited cap space. Brodie’s production fell this season, but the Flames are likely to work to retain him.
Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh
2019-20 stats: Three goals, nine assists, 12 points
Cap hit: $5.5 million
Analysis: Schultz’s production fell this season during an injury-plagued season and he’s stronger offensively than defensively. But at age 29, Schultz likely will draw interest for his experience and offense.
Andy Greene, New York Islanders
2019-20 stats: Two goals, 12 assists, 14 points
Cap hit: $5 million
Analysis: Greene, from Trenton, is 37 and spent his entire career with New Jersey before being dealt to the Islanders at the deadline. Would Greene be interested in ending his career near his hometown, and play for his Miami (Ohio) coach, Jeff Blashill?
Brenden Dillon, Washington
2019-20 stats: One goal, 13 assists, 14 points
Cap hit: $3.2 million
Analysis: Traded by San Jose at the deadline, Dillon has barely been able to make an impact with the Capitals. A big, defensive defenseman, Dillon will attract significant interest because of his durability and big-game experience.
Sami Vatanen, Carolina
2019-20 stats: Five goals, 18 assists, 23 points
Cap hit: $4.875 million
Analysis: At 29 in June, Vatanen is running out of time to show some of the promise he showed early in his career in Anaheim. Vatanen could have a good opportunity with the Wings.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Tampa Bay
2019-20 stats: Eight goals, 26 assists, 34 points
Cap hit: $1.75 million
Analysis: Shattenkirk was bought out by the New York Rangers and settled on a 1-year, low-money deal in Tampa Bay. He fit well there, and has indicated he might re-sign with the Lightning for less than market value.