There's nowhere to go up but up for the Detroit Red Wings next season.
The former Stanley Cup contenders have been relegated to the NHL's basement for the past few seasons and put up a dismal .275 winning percentage in 2019-20. Under general manager and franchise icon Steve Yzerman though, there's reason to believe that the team is finally on the right track.
In his latest article for NBC Sports, reporter Adam Gretz analyzes the Red Wings' roster and looks at some potential "bold moves" for Yzerman and the Red Wings over the next calendar year that could help propel the team back into contender status.
This offseason was about piecing together a short-term roster with cheap, short-term free agent signings that could turn into a trade deadline assets. Players like Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher, and Jon Merrill. None of them figure to be long-term pieces, just like most of the current roster.
As of now, the Red Wings only have $29.9M in salary cap space committed to eight players for next season, per CapFriendly. You have to assume the youth movement continues into next season and some of those open spaces are filled with entry-level contracts and rookies, which would leave them a significant amount of salary cap space to fill out the roster.
All of this could lead to a pretty big free agent splash for the team in 2021.
Again from Gretz:
The Red Wings have had so many draft picks over the past two years (23 to be exact) and already have nine for next season with the potential to add several more at the trade deadline. Given all of those recent picks, as well as their massive amount of cap space, they should be at least willing to explore the possibility of giving up future picks and putting the clamps on another team for a potential offer sheet.
For what it's worth, some big name RFAs for the 2021 offseason would be Elias Pettersson, Patrik Laine and Brayden Point. Not bad a bad crop... not bad at all.
With so much cap space, no long-term commitments, and the potential for what will still be a young, cheap roster the Red Wings would be in a position to take on more undesirable contracts and accepting a dumping fee in the form of a quality draft pick or prospect for doing so.
With a flat cap there will no doubt be teams desperate to dump contracts and to pay a price for doing so. They can — and should — use that to their advantage.
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