Draft, free agency make this an eventful week for Red Wings
This week will be a busy one for the Red Wings, and every other NHL team.
The draft is on Tuesday night and Wednesday, while the free agency period begins on Friday.
Despite having by far the worst record in the league last season, Detroit will pick fourth overall in the draft, 29 points behind the next lowest club. The New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators have the first through third picks, respectively.
The Rangers are almost certain to select left wing Alexis LaFreniere (Rimouski, Quebec league), who is the consensus No. 1 pick. The Kings are expected to choose between center Quintin Byfield (Sudbury, OHL) and center/winger Tim Stuetzle (Mannheim, Germany), with the Ottawa Senators taking the one who is available.
The top forwards who will likely be available to the Wings at No. 4 include Cole Perfetti (Saginaw,OHL), Marco Rossi (Ottawa, OHL), Lucas Raymond (Frolunda, Sweden) and Alexander Holtz (Djurgardens, Sweden).
The top defenseman, who is also expected to be still on the board at No. 4, is Jamie Drysdale (Erie, OHL).
If general manager Steve Yzerman is thinking out of the box, he could select defenseman Jake Sanderson (U.S. National Team Development Program) or Yaroslav Askarov of St. Petersburg (Russia), considered the best goaltending prospect in years.
“At the fourth pick, we’re pretty excited, regardless of how it plays out … with what our options will be,” Yzerman said during a Zoom press conference.
“We take a lot of things into account – hockey IQ, different skills and abilities that make a good player. They have to have a combination of things we feel are important. Good hockey players come in a lot of forms. There’s no one characteristic that is going to be a telling factor.”
The Red Wings have 10 picks, including three in the second round (32, 45 and 55) and two in the third (63 and 65).
They also have three second-round selections and two third-rounders in 2021. The surplus creates trade possibilities.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Yzerman said. "To go out and say, ‘I’m definitely going to trade up or trade back,’ you have to have another team that wants to do that. If those situations come up, we’ll certainly look at it.
"To use our picks to acquire players, it’s something to consider for sure. But I would want those to be younger players that we know will be with us for a while. At this stage of our rebuild, to start using draft picks to acquire players that might be unrestricted free agents in a year or two that may or may not be with us doesn’t make sense unless the cost of giving them up is so inexpensive that we have to do it.
“Right now, I expect us to use our picks.”
And when teams can sign free agents on Friday, Detroit’s first priority will be signing a goaltender because, as expected, Yzerman said the team will not offer Jimmy Howard – who will become a free agent Friday – a contract.
“I’ve spoken with Jimmy Howard; we are not going to offer him a contract prior to the free agency period. So we will look at the free agency market for a goaltender,” Yzerman said.
Howard, 36, had the worst season of his career in 2019-20, with a 2-23-2 record, 4.20 goals-against average and .882 save percentage. His lone victories were the season-opener in Nashville and against Edmonton on Oct. 29.
Jonathan Bernier supplanted Howard as the team’s No. 1 goaltender, and the Wings will seek a goalie to pair with Bernier, who is under contract for one more season, in free agency.
Some of the possibilities include Thomas Greiss, 34, of the New York Islanders; Cam Talbot, 33, of Calgary; Aaron Dell, 31, of San Jose, and Brian Elliott, 35, of Philadelphia.
A pair of former Stanley Cup champions, Washington’s Braden Holtby, 31, and Chicago’s Corey Crawford, 35, could be available. But would they be willing to join a rebuilding team that is not likely to reach the playoffs next season? And would they be out of the Red Wings' price range?
Anton Khudobin’s stock went up after the 34-year-old relieved injured Ben Bishop and led Dallas to the Stanley Cup final, where it lost to Tampa Bay.
Robin Lehner, 29, of Vegas and Jakob Markstrom, 30, of Vancouver are expected to re-sign with their clubs.
Henrik Lundqvist is available after being bought out this week by the New York Rangers, but he is 38. Age would also be a concern with Ryan Miller, 40, and Craig Anderson, 38.
“Without that window to talk to (other teams') free agents, we have to wait until Oct. 9 to really get a good feel to where there’s a fit, the interest of these players and the parameters of contracts,” Yzerman said. “We’ll get a better idea next week.”
Yzerman has earlier confirmed that veteran defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley will not be re-signed.