I watched a clip from TSN last night in which TSN 1050 Overdrive’s Bryan Hayes and Gord Miller discussed which Atlantic Division teams were “winners and losers.”
Their assertions regarding the Red Wings’ status playing in a stacked Atlantic Division were simple: Hayes said that “Detroit is going to be bad,” Miller suggested that the Senators would be better than the Wings and Sabres, and that was that.
Red Wings fans and their partisans are hoping that Steve Yzerman’s aggressive offseason moves, both via trades and free agency, will pay off in the form of tangible improvement over the Red Wings’ 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 regular season records.
Bleacher Report’s Lyle Richardson, a.k.a. Spector of Spector’s Hockey, suggests that the Red Wings are one of five teams that have “dramatically improved,” though the on-ice results are still unclear:
General manager Steve Yzerman continues to rebuild the Detroit Red Wings with young talent, but he’s also shown a recent willingness to add players to accelerate the process. He made a significant move at this year’s trade deadline by shipping Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals for forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, a first-round pick in the 2021 draft and a 2022 second-rounder.
Yzerman’s tinkering continued into this offseason through the trade market. Following the expansion draft, he acquired promising goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes for Jonathan Bernier and a 2021 third-round pick. He also sent Panik and a second-round pick to the New York Islanders for defenseman Nick Leddy.
A Calder Memorial Trophy finalist last season, Nedeljkovic signed a two-year, $6 million contract. The 25-year-old could become the young starting goalie the Wings have been seeking. Meanwhile, the Isles’ need to move Leddy or risk losing him in the expansion draft provided Yzerman with the opportunity to add experienced skill to the blue line.
Yzerman also made a foray into the free-agent market by inking Pius Suter to a two-year, $6.5 million contract. Despite his promising 27-point performance in 55 games in 2020-21, the 25-year-old center became an unrestricted free agent when the Chicago Blackhawk decided not to qualify his rights. He should be a good fit on Detroit’s second or third line.
Continued; I don’t believe that the Red Wings will finish ahead of the Bruins, Leafs, Canadiens, Lightning or Panthers this upcoming season, but I do believe that they’ll compete for the fifth or sixth spot in the division.
The Wings are in an unfortunate spot of returning to an absolutely stacked Atlantic, and it might take another couple of years before they make the playoffs.