Earlier today, the NHL released all of the important remaining dates for the 2020 season as well as key dates for the 2020-21 season. According to the league, the goal is to start next season on December 1, 2020. For the Detroit Red Wings, that means there will be a 266-day span from their last game of this season to their first game of next season. The extended time off could benefit Detroit as this is a critical offseason for General Manager Steve Yzerman and company, and since the Red Wings have a laundry list of issues that need to be addressed before the start of next season.
1. Get involved in free agency
The 2020 unrestricted free agent class is one of the strongest classes that the league has featured in years. Some notable pending UFAs include G Braden Holtby, D Alex Pietrangelo, F Taylor Hall, F Mike Hoffman, D Tyson Barrie, D Torey Krug, F Mikael Granlund and F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Detroit was last in the league in scoring and goals yielded so it wouldn’t hurt them to improve every facet of the roster. The Red Wings would benefit greatly from another goal scorer on the wing, such Hall or Hoffman, or a strong two-way defender to solidify a young defensive core like Barrie or Royal Oak native and Michigan State hockey alum, Torey Krug.
Fortunately for the Wings, they can make a substantial splash this offseason because they have the second most allotted cap space in the league going into next year. ($35,240,834 according to Spotrac).
2. Name a captain
Steve Yzerman vocalized his intentions back in February about wanting to name a captain this offseason. Detroit has been without a captain since Henrik Zetterberg’s retirement a couple of years ago; all signs seemingly point to Dylan Larkin as the next Wing to don the coveted “C” patch.
3. Prepare for an important draft
The 2020 draft class is widely considered to be a very deep one; this benefits the Red Wings because they have the capability to acquire numerous franchise building-blocks to build around.
Detroit holds six picks in the first three rounds of the draft this year, including the fourth overall pick. One thing Yzerman did quite well during his time as GM of the Lightning was draft exceptionally throughout the later rounds of the draft.
If any Red Wings’ fans are still grim about the Red Wings getting fourth overall, just remember the last time the Red Wings picked fourth overall, they used that pick to take Yzerman.
4. Add more goal production
The major injury that Anthony Mantha sustained this season exposed a major flaw on the roster, the lack of reliable scoring options. Mantha has had numerous issues with staying healthy in recent years, and as such, Detroit desperately needs to bring in some talented sharpshooters in the offseason. However, that shouldn’t be an issue for the team because they possess the means to do so.
Detroit could go after a goal scorer in free agency like Taylor Hall, who is only two years removed from a Hart Trophy season, or a cheaper middle-six forward option like Mike Hoffman or Mikael Granlund.
The more likely option, however, is to use their fourth overall draft pick to go after a goal-scoring winger like Lucas Raymond or Alexander Holtz; either of these men could play on the opposite wing of Filip Zadina. This would give the Red Wings’ stagnant offense a major boost in the goals department.
5. Get Bernier a second goaltender to lighten the load
After a poor 2019-20 showing from Jimmy Howard during a contract year, the Red Wings are likely going to be searching for a second goaltender this offseason since it appears that Calvin Pickard—the goalie for the Grand Rapids Griffins— isn’t a viable option in the NHL.
Depending on how much money they want to invest in a second backup, Yzerman could either make an expensive splash and sign Braden Holtby or opt for the cheaper route and sign a journeyman to play behind Bernier. The cheaper options would still suffice since the free-agent class offers well-known names like Jacob Markstrom and Anton Khudobin, who would fit in well and give Bernier the ability to rest more.
6. Re-sign Mantha and Bertuzzi
Possibly, the most important thing to do this offseason for Detroit is to re-sign at least two-thirds of their top line in Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. Bertuzzi is coming off an all-star selection this season, which will likely cause his demand to skyrocket. Anthony Mantha has the potential to be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL on the Red Wings’ top line, but he has had a serious problem with staying on the ice, which will likely cause his value to take a sizeable hit. If he can stay healthy and continue to rack up goals with regularity, he is worth the signing risk.