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  • Writer's pictureGarth Wickham

Four Free Agent Forward Targets for the Red Wings

While this year’s free agent crop certainly lacks the flashy top-of-the-lineup player compared to last season, there is still potential value. Heading into this summer, Steve Yzerman has the job of continuing to push the Red Wings forward in their development and back into playoff contention.

After trading away Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, and Oskar Sundqvist at the trade deadline, there are holes up and down the forward lineup. While names such as Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko are top-six talents, they will likely command long-term well into their thirties, which is something the Red Wings should avoid. With only a reported raise of $1 million in the NHL salary cap, many teams won’t be able to sign free agents to their desired ask, which could lead to shorter-term deals. Here are four players that could be potential targets on July 1st.

Alex Killorn

A player who could potentially be signed to a deal similar in term to David Perron’s contract last summer. At 33 years old, Alex Killorn is coming off of the best offensive season of his career and will likely have plenty of suitors come July 1st.

In 82 games with Tampa Bay last season, Killorn scored 27 goals and 37 assists, which was tied for fourth on the team. With connections to Steve Yzerman, who signed Killorn to his last contract which was seven years in length, and Derek Lalonde, his long-time assistant coach, Detroit would make sense as a landing spot. Killorn would be able to slot in Detroit’s top six and bring a much-needed element of physicality while also having a 25-goal-plus upside.

Killorn reportedly was offered a long-term extension to stay in Tampa Bay last week, and it seems likely he will hit the open market, which means he won’t come cheap.

Connor Brown

Limited to only four games this past season with Washington, Brown could be an interesting short-term bet for the Red Wings with plenty of upside. Brown has scored 20 goals twice throughout his career and was on pace for 19 goals in the 2019-20 season.

Brown plays a fast-paced game that is matched with a strong-forechecking ability that helps generate offense. With all signs seemingly pointing to Pius Suter walking to unrestricted free agency, the Red Wings could use another strong penalty kill option, which Brown is. I don’t see Brown commanding more than one or two seasons due to his lower-body injury from last season but will be motivated to prove himself on a future deal. While Brown likely doesn’t help Detroit’s top-six, another 20-goalscorer in the bottom-six who is defensively sound will help their depth.

Max Pacioretty

If the Red Wings don’t end up trading for an established top-six forward, Max Pacioretty may be the best pure goal scorer on the open market.

Pacioretty barely played this past season with the Carolina Hurricanes due to off-season Achilles surgery, and then only for him to re-injure the same Achilles five games after his return.

Pacioretty will be 35 in November and hasn’t played a full season since 2016-17 but has scored at a 30-plus goal pace in all but one season. On a one or two-year deal, It would be a worthwhile risk to bring in Pacioretty to help bolster Detroit’s top-six.

James van Riemsdyk

It was rumored at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline that James van Riemsdyk was going to be traded to Detroit only for the deal to fall through. With Steve Yzerman moving Filip Hronek, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Oskar Sundqvist earlier, the Red Wings weren’t in a position to contend for a playoff spot, so why would they make a trade for a veteran scorer?

The answer: Get ahead of free agency and see how van Riemsdyk fits in Detroit’s system.

Ultimately, that didn’t happen and van Riemsdyk stayed in Philadelphia the rest of the year. During the 2021-22 season, van Riemsdyk scored 24 goals and 38 points in 82 games on a struggling Flyers team. This season, van Riemsdyk’s average power play time was down compared to the 2021-22 season and only scored two goals on the man advantage compared to nine in 2021-22. The Red Wings have lacked a net-front scorer on the powerplay and their best option this past season was Alex Chiasson. van Riemsdyk would fill a need for Detroit and wouldn’t come at a high cost with the potential of 20-plus goal upside.

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