General manager Steve Yzerman was busy on the opening day of free agency as he continues to re-shape the Detroit Red Wings roster.
Entering the day, the Detroit Red Wings had two glaring needs. The organization desperately needed to add depth down the middle of their lineup, plus needed to add at the very least one left-handed defender. Well, Yzerman solved both of those issues and more just hours after free agency officially opened at noon on Wednesday.
The Detroit Red Wings started the day by signing a homegrown former Michigan Wolverine center, Andrew Copp, to a five-year deal that averages $5.625 million per season. Following the Copp acquisition, Yzerman quickly added a pair of veteran left-handed defenders in Olli Maatta and Ben Chiarot. Maatta is a former first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 28-year-old averaged just over 18-minutes of ice time last season, with the Los Angeles Kings skating to a Corsi For Percentage of 53% and a plus 17 rating. Maatta is a smooth skating defender that recorded eight points in 66 games.
The Detroit Red Wings had a busy first day of free agency.
Chiarot is a defenseman Red Wings fans will love. He's a rugged, physical defender that will pair nicely with Moritz Seider. The two will be terrifying to play against and make up a very reliable first-pairing heading into next season. Chiarot, 31, recorded nine goals and 26 points last season over 74 games between Montreal and Florida.
Just when you thought the Red Wings were done, Yzerman elected to add a pair of wingers. The Detroit Red Wings signed veteran winger David Perron to a two-year deal that averages $4.75 million. Perron, 34, will provide Detroit with a steady top-six winger with 20-plus goal potential. Over his past four seasons, Perron has recorded 94 goals and 221 points in 251 games.
Yzerman also signed Dominik Kubalik, 26, to a two-year deal worth $5 million. The young winger scored 30 goals as a rookie three seasons ago and brings much-needed scoring punch to Detroit's middle lines. Kubalik recorded 15 goals and 17 assists last season in 78 games for the Chicago Blackhawks. In three NHL seasons, Kubalik has totaled 62 goals totaling 116 points in 202 career games.
Predicting the Detroit Red Wings opening day lineup.
The first line should be pretty obvious. Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond will flank Captain Dylan Larkin. The trio proved to be Detroit's only consistent unit last season. They combined for 84 goals and 188 points.
I expect the second line to be centered by newcomer Andrew Copp, with Jakub Vrana and David Perron on each wing. Vrana is a sniper, plus Copp and Perron can do a bit of everything well. This will be a significant upgrade to Detroit's second line and the best group we've seen in quite some time.
The third line will consist of Kubalik, Pius Suter and Filip Zadina. Don't forget, Robby Fabbri is sidelined with a torn knee. In my eyes, Yzerman signed Kubalik to be Fabbri's replacement in the early going.
That leaves the fourth line, and this is where things get tricky.
First, what we know, Michael Rasmussen excelled in a shutdown role last season and will undoubtedly center this line. That leaves Joe Veleno, Adam Erne, Oskar Sundqvist, Givani Smith, plus perhaps Jonatan Berggren, and Elmer Soderblom competing for two spots this summer.
I would love to see Berggren and Soderblom make the Red Wings on opening day, but I don't expect they will. I presume we may see both players at some point next season, but on opening day, I expect we will see Adam Erne and Joe Veleno. Sundqvist will likely see his fair share of time next season, but I predict he, along with Smith, will be in the press box on day one.
Predicting the opening night defensive pairings.
As I previously mentioned, Seider and Chiarot will make up the teams' top pairing. Olli Maatta and Filip Hronek should follow them. The third pairing on opening day is a bit of a wild card. I hope to see Simon Edvinsson earn a spot in the opening day lineup over the summer. If that is the case, he'd likely be paired with Gustav Lindstrom. That leaves Jordan Oesterle and Jake Walman on the outside looking in.
Regarding the goaltending situation, I expect Detroit to roll out Alex Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso in a 50/50 split next season.
To recap, here is how I expect the Detroit Red Wings to align following the first day of free agency.
Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Lucas Raymond
Jakub Vrana-Andrew Copp-David Perron
Dominik Kubalik-Puis Suter-Filip Zadina
Adam Erne-Michael Rasmussen-Joe Veleno
Ben Chiarot-Moritz Seider
Olli Maatta-Filip Hronek
Simon Edvinsson-Gustav Lindstrom