Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.
Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included – so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at Detroit.
By the time 2023-24 rolls around, the Red Wings will have a very nice set of forwards, led by captain Larkin. Naturally, Detroit fans have to hope that player such as Svechnikov, Veleno and Zadina develop on an upward trajectory, but that’s a big part of this forecasting exercise, isn’t it? Rasmussen can be an excellent third-line center with a couple bangers on his wings, while Smith brings some muscle to the fourth line. You will also notice that by this time, the Red Wings will mercifully be free of the current long-term contracts to veterans such as Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm. It’s going to be a whole new era.
This was, admittedly, a tough one. The Red Wings have a nice crop of young prospects, but there needs to be some connective tissue, right? That’s why DeKeyser and Nemeth are retained; as veteran presence. If Detroit wants to go super-young, they can allow the pair to walk as UFAs and fill the roster out with more prospects such as Gustav Lindstrom, Alec Regula and Vili Saarijarvi. That group would have more talent, but obviously much less experience. We’ll leave those tough decisions to GM Steve Yzerman. Based on the top-six here, Detroit has a really nice amount of skill, but also two-way prowess in kids like Seider and McIsaac. Bubble guys like Madison Bowey and Joe Hicketts were also considered.
Hard to imagine the Red Wings without Jimmy Howard right now, but the veteran will turn 40 during the 2023-24 season and it’s hard to imagine he’ll still be strapping on the pads then. Luckily, Detroit has some future options, with Larsson the most promising. The Swedish kid destroyed the USHL and NCAA in consecutive years and now begins his pro time with AHL Grand Rapids. Given his trajectory, he’ll be the starter before 2023-24. Petruzzelli has been OK with NCAA Quinnipiac but gets a big opportunity to shine this year and thanks to his size, he still looks like at least a backup option.
Overall, the Red Wings rebuild is looking pretty nice here, though there will be some crucial personnel decisions to make along the way, especially on defense. Figuring out how young to go will be important and it’s possible that Yzerman brings in an older vet on a one- or two-year contract at one point to help out. Otherwise, Detroit will have the scoring punch up front, the puckmoving out back and a promising starter in the crease. A lot has to go right, but Detroit appears to be on a positive path.
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