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Team Reset

Red Wings sign Vanek to help forwards, Bernier for goaltending depth

Zadina could have impact with Zetterberg's status uncertain

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Detroit Red Wings:

The Detroit Red Wings are in transition.

After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 25 straight seasons, they have missed them back to back. They are trying to keep a winning culture and remain competitive, while slowly turning over the team to younger players.

Detroit added forward Thomas Vanek, 34, and re-signed defenseman Mike Green, 32, when free agency opened July 1. But they were to short-term contracts: Vanek one year, Green two. They can help the offense, mentor younger players and buy time for prospects to develop.

 

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General manager Ken Holland said two or three younger players would make the team this season, and if one doesn't initially, he could come up as the season goes on. The question is who, and if Detroit will carry 14 forwards and seven defensemen or 13 and eight. The leading contenders: forwards Evegny Svechnikov, 21, Michael Rasmussen, 19, and Filip Zadina, 18, and defensemen Libor Sulak, 24, Joe Hicketts, 22, Dennis Cholowski, 20, and Filip Hronek, 20.

Here is what the Red Wings look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Filip Zadina, F: The Red Wings ranked Zadina third in the 2018 NHL Draft and were thrilled when he fell to them at No. 6. They hadn't selected so high since 1990, when they took center Keith Primeau at No. 3, and badly needed high-end skill. Zadina scored 44 goals in 57 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, tied for third in the league. Detroit scored 2.59 goals per game, 28th in the NHL. … Thomas Vanek, F: This is the second time in two years Vanek has signed a one-year contract with Detroit as a free agent; he had 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 48 games in 2016-17. Holland was impressed not only with Vanek's skill, but with how he helped younger players, particularly Andreas Athanasiou on a line with Frans Nielsen. … Jonathan Bernier, G: The Red Wings needed a backup for Jimmy Howard, especially with Howard in the last year of his contract. They signed Bernier to a three-year contract July 1. Bernier, 29, said he intends to compete with Howard, 34, for playing time. He has a .914 save percentage in his NHL career; Howard's is .915.

Video: Zadina is shining in development camp

 

Key departures

Xavier Ouellet, D: The Red Wings opened a spot on defense by buying out Ouellet, who signed a two-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens on July 1. Ouellet, 24, never played a large role after Detroit selected him in the second round (No. 48) in the 2011 NHL Draft. He had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 141 games over five seasons. … David Booth, F: Booth, 33, had five points (four goals, one assist) in 28 games last season.

 

On the cusp

Michael Rasmussen, F: The No. 9 pick of the 2017 draft, Rasmussen is a 6-foot-6, 215-pound center with skill. He had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 14 playoff games for Tri-City of the Western Hockey League last season. The Red Wings could ease him into the NHL on the wing as they did with Dylan Larkin. … Evgeny Svechnikov, F: The No. 19 pick of the 2015 draft had 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) in 74 games with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League in 2016-17, but dipped to 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 57 games last season. He had four points (two goals, two assists) in 14 games for the Red Wings. … Filip Hronek, D: A second-round pick (No. 53) in the 2016 draft, Hronek led Grand Rapids defensemen in scoring last season with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games.

Video: DET@TOR: Rasmussen ties the game with a PPG

 

What they still need

Difference-makers. The biggest reason the Red Wings have fallen off after a quarter-century of success is the erosion of their top-end talent. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired in 2012. Center Pavel Datsyuk returned to Russia in 2016. Center Henrik Zetterberg is 37 and battling back problems, and although he is expected to return this season, it is not certain. The Red Wings need to draft and develop not just NHL players, but impact players. Can Zadina be one?

 

Fantasy focus

The Red Wings seem to be moving away from the veterans-first mentality we've come to know over the years with Rasmussen, Zadina and Svechnikov all expected to compete for roster spots. Rasmussen could slot in as the No. 2 center behind Larkin, potentially replacing Zetterberg. Zadina also had impressive production at the junior level. In a best-case fantasy scenario, Zadina would slot in on either the first or second line and could be counted on to provide scoring for the first power-play unit. The Red Wings have a bright fantasy future, and potential owners should get ahead of the curve by targeting their young core in late rounds. -- Rob Reese

 

Projected lineup

Tyler Bertuzzi -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Gustav Nyquist

Darren Helm -- Dylan Larkin -- Anthony Mantha

Andreas Athanasiou -- Frans Nielsen -- Thomas Vanek

Michael Rasmussen -- Luke Glendening -- Justin Abdelkader

Danny DeKeyser -- Mike Green

Jonathan Ericsson -- Trevor Daley

Niklas Kronwall -- Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard

Jonathan Bernier

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