I and many other Red Wings fans would prefer that the Wings stay out of the unrestricted free agent marketplace entirely, but:
Come July 1st at 12 PM EDT, the Red Wings will have approximately $12 million worth of cap space (per CapFriendly), and absent any notable restricted free agents to sign (unless Dominic Turgeon or Joe Hicketts are going to land multi-million-dollar offers, which is unlikely), the Wings may very well dip their toes into the free agent marketplace, even on a limited basis.
The Athletic’s Max Bultman has posted a Red Wings free agency primer, and while I can’t share everything that Bultman wrote, Bultman believes that forwards Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi, defenseman Jake Gardiner and a handful of other alternatives (like one Marcus Johansson) could help the Wings shore up their scoring, grit and/or defense.
In Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski, the Red Wings do have a core of young players who are ready to start pushing. Michael Rasmussen joined the fold last year at age 19. Filip Zadina could join them as soon as opening night this season.
And as they continue to grow, all of them could stand to gain from the right player joining the lineup and the locker room.
The Red Wings do have some cap space — CapFriendly estimates around $12 million — although the exact number is hazy due to Niklas Kronwall’s pending decision on whether to retire. They will also have more flexibility on the way next summer, when Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley’s contracts are all up.
They also, however, have to be careful with the kind of money and term they hand out, because every summer from next June out will figure to have at least a couple significant Red Wings entering restricted free agency. Mantha, Athanasiou and Bertuzzi will all need new contracts in 2020. Cholowski and Hronek are up for new deals in 2021. The summer of 2022 should be when Zadina gets his next contract, and could be a payday for Joe Veleno, too, depending on how many NHL games he plays this season.
So yes, the Red Wings have openings in the lineup, money to spend, and even more cap flexibility on the way next year. But they also might be better served keeping some of that flexibility for a time when their future cap situation looks a little more predictable.
Bultman continues (paywall), going in-depth on his analyses as to why Nyquist, Donskoi or Gardiner might intrigue the Wings, and he added the following Tweet:
Thomas Vanek’s camp is talking with other teams and have been informed there’s probably not a fit between him and Detroit for this year.— Max Bultman (@m_bultman) June 27, 2019
I like Thomas Vanek as a person, and he scored 16 goals in only 64 games played for the Wings, but his skating speed is now glacial, Larry Murphy-style slow, and Murph had ten times the sense of positioning that Vanek possesses.