Steve Yzerman has said that he’s going to make some calls and try to be active in free agency, but after looking at the top 5 center UFAs and top 5 LW UFAs, I didn’t see any realistic options that the Red Wings can make a splash with. There are some good players out there, but most play a depth role and provide secondary scoring. The Red Wings have a lot of depth forwards locked into contracts for another couple of years, so it’s hard to see where a free agent would fit into the puzzle, especially with guys like Evgeny Svechnikov and Filip Zadina waiting for their shot.

To stay competitive, though, you do have to ice some experienced players who are used to competing in the NHL. This year’s crop of right-wingers provides exactly that. Not too much experience, but enough to have found individual success with past teams. There weren’t many LWs that would be worth the Red Wings time, so let’s take a look at the top 5 UFA RWs the Red Wings could target:

Joe Pavelski

It’s hard to think of 34-year-old Joe Pavelski as a good fit for the Red Wings or the Red Wings as a good fit for him. The career San Jose Shark and current team captain has cemented himself as a 60-point scorer and one of the top players in the league. He’s healthy, he’s skilled, and he’s competitive. He’s also come incredibly close to winning the Stanley Cup and come home empty-handed every time.

It’s been reported that Pavelski is in constant contact with the Sharks on coming back (they are, after all, a real contender right now), but he’s also visiting teams. The two reported teams he’s visiting are the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars. See the trend? Hard to believe that Pavelski would even pick up the phone for a lottery team – nor should he. He’s had a long career and deserves his best shot at winning. His cap hit will likely land somewhere in the $7-8-million range.

Is he a good fit for the Red Wings? Of course. Should he come to Detroit? Absolutely not. I would, however, like to know how Tampa Bay thinks they are going to fit him under their cap…

Wayne Simmonds

Despite a mediocre season, Wayne Simmonds was a big trade target at this year’s deadline. He’s perceived as a tough guys with skill, someone with an edge who can take your team to the next level in the playoffs. Unfortunately, he never really found his footing in Nashville, only putting up one goal and three points in the seventeen regular season games he played for them.

On the whole, Simmonds had a 17-goal and 30-point season. For him, that’s pretty lackluster. His potential is the 25-30 goal range and 50 points. If he can return to his regular form, then he’ll definitely be worth the $5.5-million cap hit that he’ll demand. It sounds like both Montreal and Minnesota are interested in him, but he’s got a list of a dozen teams who he’s planning on talking to.

The longtime Philadelphia Flyer loved playing in the City of Brotherly Love, though it seems his time there has come to an end. I think the Red Wings should pass on him as well. They are overflowing with “grit” and “toughness”, two big parts of Simmonds’ game. They can find more skill than Simmonds has elsewhere and for better value.

Gustav Nyquist

Speaking of more skill and better value, would it surprise anyone if the Red Wings tried to bring Gustav Nyquist back? When all was said and done at the end of the season, Nyquist had 60 points (22G, 38A), good for sixth on the San Jose Sharks and second on the Red Wings.

Nyquist may not have turned into the 40-goal scorer that Hockeytown was hoping he would, but he is a quietly good player. His on-ice shot attempt percentage in Detroit this year was 53.4%. The Red Wings team shot attempt percentage was 47.1%. It truly wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring Nyquist back at this point, especially if his cap hit lands somewhere in the $5-million range. There haven’t been many reports on where else Nyquist might land, except that he’s having ongoing conversations with the Sharks on whether or not he can fit into their overall salary cap picture.

The downside to bringing Nyquist back? The symbolism. The Wings are in a state of change right now and for Yzerman to bring Nyquist back to Detroit would feel like the “same old, same old”. For Yzerman to be successful in this rebuild, he needs to break away from the “same old” and leave his own mark on this team. He’s already done this at the draft. If he wants to start to build his team, then he needs to stay away from the old guard.

I hope the Goose remains loose, I just hope he’s loose in some other part of the country.

Mats Zuccarello

Mats Zuccarello has always been a solid contributor for the New York Rangers, but his name really picked up steam at the trade deadline and the Rangers were able to reel in a second and third round pick for him. Now, Zuccarello is one of the more sought-after free agent wingers on the market.

The regular 50-point scorer is set to make between $6-$8-million on a new contract, but at 32-years-old, it’s probably not the best idea to lock him up for the term he likely wants. Zuccarello’s compete level is high and there’s no doubt the Red Wings love that about him, but this contract will have a good chance of looking really bad in a few years.

Like Pavelski, Zuccarello has come close to the Cup on a couple of different occasions with the Rangers and is likely going to be looking to go to a contender. I’m okay with that as I think the Red Wings should stay away.

Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly took his game to the next level this season, putting up 22 goals and 46 points. That’s not bad for a third line winger. It’s also a career-high for him and he hasn’t come close to those numbers in years prior.

So the question is now: is this the new Brett Connolly or was this season a flash in the pan? Whatever the answer, it’s a reason for him to ask for more money as an unrestricted free agent. The Red Wings should certainly avoid this player who is skilled, but has not played any special teams minutes for the Capitals.

What kind of difference could he make in Detroit? Not much, says me.


After looking at all of the UFA forward options this week, I’m not confident or comfortable with Detroit signing most of them. A lot of that is due to the Wings already having an overabundance of depth players up front, even if they are weaker than the current crop of free agents.

Basically, if the Wings take a swing at any of these guys, they’ll have to ship someone else out.

As for these top-5 right-wing UFAs, there are a few intriguing options, namely Pavelski, Nyquist, and Zuccarello, but all three have their downsides to bringing them on board. I would avoid altogether and work through the current depth contracts before doing anything too drastic in free agency.


Top 5 UFA Centers the Red Wings Could Target

Top 5 UFA LWs the Red Wings Could Target