The Detroit Red Wings Chose Depth Over Star Power in Free Agency

The Detroit Red Wings surprised the hockey world not signing a top-tier free agent at the start of free agency.
2022 NHL Draft - Round One
2022 NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

July 1 is a day when teams around the NHL can upgrade their roster. Moves for elite players and depth players can impact a team enough to make them Stanley Cup contenders. The Detroit Red Wings made the decision to strengthen the Grand Rapids Griffins, their American Hockey League affiliate, rather than upgrade the main roster. Maybe a big trade is coming instead?

Red Wings upgrade AHL affiliate Griffins

Detroit and General Manager Steve Yzerman did sign players for the main roster on day 1 of free agency. Those players were goaltender Cam Talbot (2-years/ $5 million) and defenseman Erik Gustafsson (2-years/ $8 million). These moves make a lot of sense due to the situations at hand. Talbot was an all-star last season for the Los Angeles Kings and, at his age, can still play at a good level. he will fight in training camp with Alex Lyon for the number one spot.

Gustafsson was brought in for offense and to lead the power play. That role was previously held by Shayne Gostisbehere, now with the Carolina Hurricanes. Gustafsson is a solid, reliable defenseman who is better defensively, but provides offense also. He should be a top-pairing defenseman, giving the Red Wings a top-pairing of Gustafsson and Moritz Seider, which may be the best they have had in awhile.

As for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings signed four players that will spend most, if not all, of the 2024-25 season in the AHL. Defenseman William Lagesson, right-winger Sheldon Dries, center Joe Snively and, most notably, goaltender Jack Campbell were singed with the intention of sending them down. All four players bring experience and leadership qualities to the Griffins, who are looking to reload for another championship run. Campbell has been average over the past two seasons but a new team could make him motivated enough to play his best hockey and eventually get back to the NHL.

The Red Wings re-signed two players who made impacts last season. forward Patrick Kane (1-year/ $4 million) and forward Christian Fischer (1-year/ $1.125 million). Kane recorded 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points in 50 games last season, joining Detroit after successful hip replacement surgery. Fischer played an underrated role last season, but came up big in the bottom-six, producing five goals and 14 assists for 19 points last season.