The Detroit Red Wings free agency period has already been busy, with the team having signed 5 free agents on the first day of free agency. The first move that was announced was the signing of recent draft pick Marco Kasper. This signing came at precisely noon eastern as free agency began.
Detroit Red Wings add numerous veterans to perhaps make a playoff push
What happened next was a flurry of moves that included the two biggest needs for the Detroit Red Wings. New head coach Derek Lalonde will have plenty of new faces at Little Caesars Arena. Could these moves help the team make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2015-16? The Red Wings finished the 2021-22 season with a record of 32-40-10 for a 6th place finish in the Atlantic Division.
Center Andrew Copp was signed to a 5-year contract, according to Darren Dreger of TSN. The average annual value of the contract is $5.625 million. Center was one of the positions of need for the Red Wings who were in a playoff position before their schedule got more difficult during the second half of the 2021-22 NHL season.
Copp has been quoted as saying that he sees similarities between this Red Wings team and the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. “This year, with the Rangers, they went from a team projected not to be in the playoffs to be in the conference finals. You never know when that jump will be. But I have a lot of faith in the young talent that’s come through in the last couple of years, and guys have been here like Larks (Dylan Larkin) and (Tyler) Bertuzzi.” He also added, “we have a good group ready to take the next step.”
The 28-years-old Ann Arbor, Michigan native, is coming off of a season in which he scored a career-high of 21 goals and added 32 assists in 72 games played for the Jets. Copp was traded to the Rangers and his play rose as the Rangers would lose in the playoffs in 6 games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. These numbers compare similarly to rookie Lucas Raymond for the Red Wings.
Copp will add much-needed scoring to the Red Wings lineup. At 6’1” Copp is a big center who is a net-positive in terms of possession. Beyond that, Copp also has the ability to kill penalties. This is yet another area that the Red Wings struggled with as they finished the season in last place in terms of penalty kill percentage at 73.8%.
The Red Wings signed a pair of left-wingers in Dominik Kubalik and David Perron. These wingers will help shoulder the load for Raymond and Bertuzzi. Kubalik was named to the NHL all-rookie team in 2019-20 while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. This was 6 years after Kubalik was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. Kubalik scored 15 goals and 17 assists in 78 games played for the Blackhawks prior to the team tearing down the roster.
Perron is a veteran winger who signed with the Red Wings. The 34-year-old put up solid numbers for the St. Louis Blues in 2021-22. In 67 games played he scored 27 goals and added 30 assists. Coming off of a season in which he scored nearly a point per game for a Blues team that would make the playoffs is something that any team could have used. Perron echoed Copp’s sentiment that the Red Wings could be ready to take the next step and push to make the playoffs.
Olli Määttä was the first defenseman that the Red Wings signed. This was also a position of need as the Red Wings defense was subpar other than Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. The 27-year-old signed a one-year $2.25 million deal. Määtä is a strictly defensive defenseman as he only scored 1 goal for the Kings during the 2021-22 season.
The team also signed defenseman Ben Chiarot to a 4-year contract worth an AAV of $4.75 million. Initially, this looks like a lot of money and term for a player who 31-years-old. Chiarot played 74 games for the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers during the 2021-22 season. At 6’3” Chiarot plays in the “dirty areas” of the ice and can be a mentor for Simon Edvinsson whom the team recently signed to a 3-year entry-level contract.
Prior to day 2 of the NHL draft, the Red Wings traded the number 73 pick in the draft to the Blues for goaltender Ville Husso. Husso played in 40 games for the Blues in his second season in the NHL. He had a 25-7-6 record for the Blues who made it to the playoffs. This trade completed the goalie tandem for the Red Wings as Husso will backup for Alex Nedeljkovic who struggled at times for the Red Wings during the 2021-22 season. One thing to keep in mind is that Nedeljkovic will be a restricted free agent after this season.
I have previously written that the Red Wings needed a second-line center to fill out the top 6 of their lineup. Larkin came off of a season in which he scored 31 goals and added 38 assists in 71 games played. He came back from a season in which he was hit by Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Larkin would spend eight weeks in a cervical hard collar. Copp was Larkin’s captain when the two played together at the University of Michigan. The team also answered some of the questions that they had at winger and defense.
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