Updatted at 4:47 PM: The Athletic asked its NHL correspondents to address the most important questions facing each and every one of the NHL’s 31 teams this upcoming season, and this suggestion for the Red Wings, per Max Bultman (who’s holding a Q and A on Monday at 12 PM EST) is apt:
Detroit Red Wings: Will they be able to find secondary scoring?
There’s no shortage of questions for the league’s reigning last-place team, but the biggest may be how the Red Wings can find some scoring beyond their top line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Detroit gave itself a chance this offseason by adding Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov, but this answer will also hinge significantly on the progress of Filip Zadina in his first full NHL season. Those three and Robby Fabbri make up Detroit’s likely pool for a second line, and should give the Red Wings much more firepower to work with if everyone stays healthy. It’s still likely not going to be enough to score with the league’s best, but those additions, combined with Zadina’s development, should make Detroit much more competitive. -Max Bultman
Continued (paywall); if the Wings can’t score more regularly, they won’t win many games.
Update: Among Bultman’s other Red Wings-related questions:
Is the roster really complete?
Maybe this should have been question No. 1, since it’s the one that likely needs to be answered before skates meet ice. The last time Steve Yzerman spoke with the media, in early November, he left the door open to possibly bringing in another player — whether it be another free-agent signing or a trade. With an official start date now in place, this would be the time to do it.
The most significant potential move for Detroit’s rebuild would likely be something else in the mold of the Marc Staal trade from September, when Detroit took on Staal and the final year of his contract while receiving a second-round pick for helping the Rangers clear cap space. The Red Wings still have more than $9 million in cap space, and there are several prominent teams (including Tampa Bay and Vegas) that need to shed money to get under the salary cap by puck drop. That creates options.
Granted, it’s a style of trade that’s far easier discussed than executed, but in a flat cap world, a market may re-emerge.
If not, there’s still the chance for the Red Wings to sign another free agent, too. The roster crunch does look tight for the Red Wings, especially when it comes to young players looking to latch on at the fringes (more on that shortly), but neither Detroit’s forwards nor defense groups are strong enough to say the team couldn’t benefit in the short term from an acquisition. Especially if Yzerman sticks to his M.O. and looks for short-term (and potentially tradable) contracts.