As the Detroit Red Wings start to figure out their plans for the 2022-23 season, they will need a backup netminder. The way things stand, the team will rely on Alex Nedeljkovic to be the team's starting netminder once again after a lackluster first campaign with the Red Wings.
When the Detroit Red Wings traded for Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes, the expectations were that he would be the team's go-to guy. Even if he split time with Thomas Greiss, he would get the majority of the playing time. It was also anticipated that he would finish with Calder Trophy votes.
The early assessment of Nedeljkovic and his impact on the Red Wings was a bit off; he will still have the chance to become a reliable number one option. Especially as the team gets better in front of him and the product increases, Nedeljkovic should look more and more like a real option.
But, that leads to a bigger dilemma for the team. Greiss is an unrestricted free agent, leaving the backup role wide open. The team has some in-house options to consider, but they may also be better served signing an unrestricted free agent to anchor the role down for the time being.
Let's take a look at the in-house options.
The Detroit Red Wings need a backup goalie for the 2022-23 season.
When it comes to the in-house options, a few names come to mind. This includes players under contract, as well as some of those who are restricted free agents and could be brought back if Yzerman felt that they were the right fit. Here are the three in-house options that stand out the most.
The Detroit Red Wings were eager to target this amateur netminder in last summer's NHL Entry Draft, trading the Washington Capitals pick they possessed to the Dallas Stars in exchange for the pick used to select Sebastian Cossa. He immediately signed his entry-level contract and got to work.
However, he has yet to make the jump from the amateur level into the AHL/NHL ranks. Though, no one was expecting that in 2021-22. Cossa was a standout netminder in the WHL for the Edmonton Oil Kings en route to a league championship run.
Now, bumping him to the next level might sound grand, but he will not be able to make the jump into the NHL quite yet. Cossa needs to get some time under his belt with the Grand Rapids Griffins and start adjusting to the next level.
Penciling in Cossa as the Red Wings backup in 2022-23 is a bit pre-mature. Give it time, and the Red Wings will see Cossa in the net, but I am far from sold that he can be that guy in 2022-23.
Recently signed, Jussi Olkinuora is another option that the Detroit Red Wings have for their backup goalie vacancy. The Finnish netminder signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Red Wings, deeming him an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season.
He is coming off of a Most Value Player (MVP) winning performance at the IIHF World Championships this past season. He's been an anchor for the Finnish national team and is expected to get looks for the backup role as it is after dominant performances overseas in the KHL.
Olkinuora knows the North American game after spending time with the University of Denver and Manitoba Moose of the AHL as a part of the Winnipeg Jets system. However, there's no certainty that he can hold up as an NHL backup, so I am a bit wary of giving Olkinuora the keys to the backup role.
The thing that steers me away from this is his contract. A one-year deal with no control after 2022-23 implies that Steve Yzerman sees something or is trusting an opinion from the scouts. This leads me to believe Olkinuora will get his chances in the NHL; if not, be a trusted option with the AHL squad until he proves otherwise. He's a viable option for the backup role, but I think the “outside hire” option is still best.
The Detroit Red Wings re-signed Victor Brattstrom to a one-year deal this offseason. The Red Wings drafted him in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft out of Sweden. He made the jump to the North American game this past season and did not impress at all.
Brattstrom is on a one-year contract but is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent following the 2022-23 season. The expectation is that he will be with the Grand Rapids Griffins again in 2022-23, aiming to perform better and be more serviceable in his second season in North America.
Though, I am not sure that Brattstrom brings a whole lot of excitement for me in a backup role. If forced to choose between the two, I would rather see Olkinuora, as mentioned above, than Brattstrom.
The Red Wings also have Kaden Fulcher and Filip Larsson as a part of the future plans, but both are restricted free agents. The expectation would be that both are let go or brought back on cheap deals to provide depth to the organization.
Neither of them will be worth bumping into a backup netminder role, but they are technically considered as possible options from the “in-house” group as they are restricted, free agents. But, moving forward, there is also the chance that the Red Wings opt to go out and sign someone on the market to be the team's backup.
This seems like the better of the two options, but the team has to consider the in-house options.