Although there is a ton of uncertainty regarding when the National Hockey League's offseason will officially take place one the teams and fan bases that is no doubt most looking forward for a chance to make improvements to their roster are the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are in the midst of what is a historically bad season for the organization and given that they have a significant amount of money coming off the books and a ton of turnover expected on the roster, it will be a chance for relatively new general manager Steve Yzerman to truly put his stamp on the organization.
Yzerman will have just $46 million allocated to players for the 2020 - 2021 season, although some of the cap space he will have will have to go to the many restricted free agents on his payroll including notable players like Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Many have speculated that the Red Wings could also use their available cap space as an asset to take on bad contracts to acquire additional assets in the form of picks and prospects. Those bad contracts would come from the teams facing a potential cap crunch next season, a cap crunch that is expected as a result of this currently suspended season and the financial losses the NHL will face as a result.
There is of course one other way to use that cap space and that would be to sign a big time free agent, again given that many teams will likely be unable to offer top dollar with the cap potentially coming down. Detroit Red Wings insider Helen St. James of the Detroit Free Press recently suggested that Yzerman could look to add a defenseman to his blue line via free agency during the offseason.
Yzerman might use free agency to add another defenseman this summer. There are four regulars under contract through next season in DeKeyser, Hronek, Nemeth and Alex Biega.
There will be a number of options available in free agency but the names at the very top of that board will be hard to lure to a Detroit Red Wings team that looked ugly this season. That being said with Yzerman at the helm who knows what can happen, so here is a look at the top 3 defensemen the Red Wings could land, even if they have to overpay a little to get it done.
#1 Alex Pietrangelo
Not only is he a dominant defenseman in the National Hockey League but St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is also the captain of his team. It has appeared from the very start that both he and the Blues have wanted to work out a deal, but with the recent signing of Marco Scandella to a long term extension many have wondered if general manager Doug Armstrong was preparing for the eventually of Pietrangelo hitting the open market. I doubt Pietrangelo, who is coming off a Stanley Cup Championship and looking to repeat, would have much interest in a rebuilding team however. That being said he could command the kind of dollars the Blues won't be able to afford if the cap comes down and that is where the Red Wings could weaponize their cap space.
#2 Torey Krug
In spite of being an incredibly effective offensive defenseman for the Boston Bruins Krug has often been the subject of trade speculation but thus far remains a Bruin. Like in the Pietrangelo situation it is somewhat surprising that the Bruins have allowed things to get to this stage given how valuable Krug has been to their organization, and now with the cap crunch they could also face difficulties in re-signing him. The Bruins however have shown a knack for getting players to buy in and take team friendly deals to remain on a consistent contender, so perhaps they can retain Krug that way.
#3 Tyson Barrie
One of the teams that will most likely be impacted by the salary cap crunch will be the Toronto Maple Leafs and an obvious casualty of that is likely to be defenseman Tyson Barrie. The Leafs have so much invested in their offense that the possibility of signing Barrie to a new long term deal seems impossible without major cuts to their roster in the offseason. Add to that the fact that Barrie struggled early on during his tenure with the Leafs and this may be a one-year experiment in Toronto that sees Barrie going elsewhere at the end o the season. The Red Wings would be in a great position to offer him the kind of money he will be looking for and he could prove to be a major rebuild booster given the skills he showcased while quarterbacking the powerplay for the Colorado Avalanche during his many years there.
All of these would be difficult gets for the Red Wings and they would likely have to overpay to get them, but none are outside the realm of possibility.