Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman still has plenty of important roster decisions to make prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, including taking a look at some available free agents who can help solidify the roster.
In a piece recently published by The Athletic, Max Bultman mentioned a pair of “long-shot” free-agent forwards who could fit in Yzerman's plan.
Those free agent forwards are Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar.
Here is what Bultman has to say about those two free-agent forwards and how they would potentially fit on the Red Wings' roster for the 2021-22 season.
After Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, Danault should draw major interest from contenders and playoff hopefuls. Or perhaps Montreal finds a way to keep him in town despite the continued rises of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi as the Canadiens’ future top-six centers. But if Detroit wants to take a shot at the upper-mid level of the free-agent market, Danault and his Selke-level ability down the middle could take major pressure off Larkin and the Red Wings’ up-and-coming centers, while also potentially helping them learn some of the intricacies of the defensive game from one of the league’s best.
Detroit has the cap space to offer Danault a competitive salary and prominent role, and at 28, he has good years left. But term would likely be a hangup for a Detroit team who continues to go short-term in free agency, and a player whose performance this postseason is likely to garner interest from better teams.
It’s a reach for where the Red Wings are in their rebuild, and they’re not likely to offer the kind of term Danault can reasonably command, but it can’t hurt to check-in.
A forgotten man right now because he’s played sparsely during most of Montreal’s playoff run, Tatar is far from an obvious fit due to his age (he’ll be 31 in December). But he certainly would help answer the team’s scoring questions, and he’d especially make sense in one particular scenario.
One of the key issues Detroit would face in any potential trade of Bertuzzi, Fabbri or Vrana is the impact it would have on the young core. You can only take so many productive pieces away and still expect players like Larkin, Zadina, the three young forwards in question, and soon Veleno and Rasmussen, to continue to grow and be effective. They need skilled teammates and linemates to play with.
But if the right trade offer were to present itself for the team’s future, and Detroit could counterbalance it by simply plugging a reliable scorer into the top six through free agency? That could ease some short-term concerns. And while Tatar’s production in 2021 dipped from its heights the previous two seasons, he still would have led the Red Wings in scoring, and his underlying numbers during his three seasons in Montreal have been outstanding (granted, some of that could be due to playing alongside Danault, his most frequent linemate).
Evolving Hockey projects his most likely contract to check in at three years, $5.2 million, and if he gets that, it’s probably not going to be in Detroit. But if Tatar’s playoff scoring struggles over the years limit his market with contenders, and he instead looks for a one- or two-year deal in a prominent role, then a return to the franchise that drafted him could make sense.