Bultman’s mailbag II: Up the middle

The Athletic’s Max Bultman filed a second mailbag column this morning, accompanying yesterday’s feature, and he addresses the Red Wings’ lack of depth at the center position today:

Where are we going to find our future No. 1 center or No. 2 center if Larkin stays at No. 1?Jack

That’s the million-dollar question, Jack. Or, more accurately, the $8 million per year (or more!) question. Larkin is certainly playing like a number one center this season. There’s also no doubt the Red Wings need another player of that caliber to be a true contender.

So, where does that player come from?

Long term, it almost certainly has to come from the draft. True top-line caliber centers almost never hit free agency, and when they do, the cost is so high that you’d better be ready to win immediately once you sign them. To acquire one in a trade, you likely have to give up either a massive draft haul, a top center prospect, or a top-pair defenseman. To me, the Red Wings aren’t in position to go either of those routes this offseason.

That leaves the draft. If things keep up the way they have, the Red Wings won’t have a shot at getting Shane Wright, Logan Cooley or Matthew Savoie — the three pivots I’d be most eager to land in the 2022 draft. That means they may need to unearth a gem a little deeper down the board, much like they did in drafting Larkin No. 15 in 2014, or Tampa Bay did getting Brayden Point in the third round that same year.

That’s much easier said than done — Larkin and Point both likely go top-five in a re-draft — and getting that lucky can’t be the expectation for Detroit. They could easily strike out.

Continued; if the Wings go the draft route, it may take several years to address their deficiencies at the center position, necessitating an “import” via trade or free agency, but that’s part of the rebuilding process.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

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