It’s early in 2022 NHL Free Agency, but the Detroit Red Wings already rank among the most aggressive spenders in the league. Much like their Atlantic Division-mates in Ottawa, the Red Wings are pushing hard to exit their rebuild. The multi-million dollar question is: how far along are the Red Wings after free agent signings of Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp, and David Perron.
You can definitely throw Ville Husso in the mix, too, even though they snatched him up before he could become a UFA.
Red Wings splurge on free agents: Chiarot, Copp, Perron (and Husso, basically)
Let’s run down each move, then round back to the larger question of how far Detroit really traveled.
Ben Chiarot part of a set of questionable free agent defensemen signings
If you want a theme to go with the normal “that doesn’t seem like a good idea” vibes of most free agent years, it was that bad defensemen contracts often came in at four years. Personally, Brett Kulak resonates as the exception. His four-year deal with a $2.75M cap hit feels like the type of deal the Oilers should have focused solely on, instead of bigger gambles on Evander Kane and Jack Campbell.
The Blue Jackets’ investment in Erik Gudbranson is troubling. The Blues are banking on Nick Leddy being better than the charts say. Like those teams, the Red Wings are betting big (four years, $4.75 million cap hit) that Ben Chiarot is better than projections indicate.
Chiarot is not as bad as models suggest, but this is still way too pricey for a glorified third pair defender. pic.twitter.com/U2EyBPg8O8
— dom (@domluszczyszyn) July 13, 2022
Even if the truth is somewhere in between the fawning “eye tests” and the dicey analytics, it seems like a dangerous move. Especially for a team that still has an awful lot of work to do in adding useful defensemen beyond Moritz Seider and a select few other possible solutions.
If nothing else, other Red Wings free agent signings are easier to defend.
Nice bargain on Perron
With certain moves, the main criticism revolves around wondering if Detroit is “there” yet. David Perron headlines such a concern.
Perron is somehow 34 already. That would make a long-term contract really dicey. Wisely, the Red Wings limited the term to two years, and got a nifty bargain at just $4.75M. He checks boxes both from analytics and simple counting stats standpoints. Heck, Perron’s even done some great work in the playoffs.
David Perron (2×4.75m with Detroit) is a very useful all-around player – very helpful on the powerplay, a great finisher, good defensively. Very effective. pic.twitter.com/JOL0IHOLy7
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 13, 2022
I just wonder if the Red Wings will be anything more than respectable during his two years under contract. It’s a bit surprising a more established contender didn’t knock harder on Perron’s door if the price was that reasonable.
Maybe the Red Wings can make a jump in time?
Digestible deal for Copp
Heading into 2022 NHL Free Agency, Andrew Copp carried the potential to be one of those players whose value inflated too high.
All things considered, the Red Wings made a respectable free agent investment in Copp. The 28-year-old can thrive in a number of different roles, and five-year deal ($5.625M cap hit) isn’t explosively risky.
Andrew Copp, signed 5x$5.6M by DET, is a versatile top six forward who can do pretty much whatever is asked of him at a solid enough level. Can play a shut-down role, can play a faster rush game, can play special teams, can play any forward position. #LGRW pic.twitter.com/tSbgFgOvoJ
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 13, 2022
It’s fair to wonder how that contract will age, though. While Chiarot’s contract personally weighs in at “bad” and Perron’s leans toward quite good, Copp trends more toward the middle. Maybe it would’ve been wiser to go younger, and cheaper, like Dylan Strome or Sonny Milano?
Ville Husso investment looks better by comparison to other moves
In 2021-22, Ville Husso often looked outstanding. That said, 57 career regular-season games (and seven bumpy playoff contests) only give you so much “data” on Husso. His numbers at other levels tailed off a bit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
It’s possible that the Red Wings’ consecutive offseason swings at younger goalies (Alex Nedeljkovic in 2021, now Husso) may both end up being whiffs.
Sure, some of that is “the price of doing business.” But they enter 2022-23 paying that duo a combined $7.75M in salary cap terms. Spending that money isn’t really “shrug, and see what happens” material. It’s a lot closer to throwing down the gauntlet.
It’s easier to feel OK-to-good about the Red Wings’ goalie changes after seeing the Maple Leafs’ strange investment in Matt Murray and other shakier bets. Even so, these moves keep stacking the stakes higher for a Red Wings team that might not be ready for such gambles.
Will spending almost $25M pay off?
The Red Wings also added Dominik Kubalik (two years, $2.5M cap hit) and Olli Määttä (one year, $2.25M). Those aren’t moves that will radically change things either way (though Kubalik could be a nice value).
They do add to the overall costs, though.
Between Husso, Chiarot, Copp, Perron, Kubalik, and Määttä, the Red Wings added nearly $25M in salary cap/free agent commitments during this offseason. Remarkably, they still have room to add more if they’d like.
Detroit Red Wings update after signing David Perron 4.75M AAV x 2 years:
Projected Cap Hit: $71.4M
Projected Cap Space: $11,146,111
Roster Size: 21 (12F – 7D – 2G – 1IR)https://t.co/RiBaWp5WYh
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 13, 2022
Of course, the Red Wings can’t just look at this offseason. Some cheap contracts are coming off the books soon.
- Dylan Larkin‘s due a raise from his bargain $6.1M cap hit after the 2022-23 season. He’s 25 and would become a UFA.
- Tyler Bertuzzi, 27, is also a pending UFA who will likely cost more than his $4.75M (even if he has to miss games voluntarily here and there).
- Both Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have two years remaining on their rookie contracts. Their raises could be mammoth.
Now, the Red Wings aren’t poorly positioned to handle those situations. Only some of the contracts they signed could make things a little tougher down the line.
But it’s unclear if this aggressive push will be worth it. In the end, the Red Wings may wish they waited just a little longer to truly try to rise from their rebuild.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.