Detroit Red Wings 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

Detroit Red Wings Preview

The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. Over the next month we’ll be examining best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Detroit Red Wings.

2020-21 Season Review

• Record: 19-27-10 (48 poionts) seventh place in Central Division
• Postseason: Did not qualify for playoffs; drafted Simon Edvinsson No. 6 overall
• Offensive leader: Filip Hronek (56 games, 2 goals, 24 assists, 26 points)

• Free Agent Additions: Nicky Leddy (trade with Islanders), Pius Suter, Alex Nedeljkovic (trade with Hurricanes), Carter Rowney, Mitchell Stephens
• Free Agent Subtractions: Jonathan Bernier, Richard Panik (trade with Islanders)

Biggest question facing the Detroit Red Wings?

• Is Alex Nedeljkovic the answer in goal?

It was a bit of a surprise when the Carolina Hurricanes traded Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings this offseason. They had been looking for a long-term answer in goal for years, and given the way Nedeljkovic played during the 2020-21 season he seemed like he could have been the guy. But they traded his restricted free agent rights to the Red Wings who promptly re-signed him to a two-year, $6 million contract.

The question is what sort of player are the Red Wings getting?

If they get the Nedeljkovic of last season they are getting a legitimate starting NHL goalie that could fill that position for the foreseeable future and eliminate a need from the checklist.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

The concern, though, is that his 2020-21 performance is the first time Nedeljkovic has ever really played at anything close to that level. Was it an outlier? Or just a goalie that took some time to develop? This season should give us a little bit of an answer to that question.

What’s the salary cap situation?

The Red Wings have significant amounts of salary cap space given the combination of a younger roster, almost no long-term commitments, and no significant contracts. The only player on the roster that makes more than $6 million against the salary cap is Dylan Larkin at $6.1 million. They also have a lot of money coming off the books after this season. Salary cap space is the least of the Red Wings worries right now.

Breakout Candidate

Moritz Seider

When the Red Wings drafted Seider two years ago it was seen as a bit of a reach and probably not worth the spot. A lot can change in two years, and now Seider is one of the top prospects in the NHL and looks ready to make the leap to the NHL and make an impact. He was named the SHL’s defenseman of the season during the 2020-21 season and should be on the radar for the Calder Trophy this season. The Red Wings need impact players to build around, and Seider has as much potential to be that as any other player in their system right now.

Best-Case Scenario

This still is not going to be a playoff team. Not with that roster. Not in this division. But they can take some steps. The ideal situation for the Red Wings this season is that Nedeljkovic proves he can be a consistent starting goalie in the NHL and they see significant progress from players like Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek, Jakub Vrana, and Seider. The playoffs are still an unrealistic expectation right now, but this many years into a rebuild there should be some progress toward that.

Worst-Case Scenario

It would be a lack of progress and another finish near the bottom the league standings. This still is not a particularly deep roster but there are some players that need to start establishing themselves as core building blocks. The worst case scenario would be a lack of progress on that front. It would be Nedeljkovic failing in his new role, Zadina not progressing, Vrana not playing like he did after the trade last year, and all of it adding up to another awful year in the standings.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.