The Detroit Red Wings are a young, up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference who have taken steps in the right direction over the last couple of years. They were in the hunt for a wild card spot for much of last season but ended up missing the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Goaltending continues to be one of the biggest areas Detroit needs to improve. With a red-hot trade and free agent market for goaltenders this offseason, now is the time for the Red Wings to add at that position.
Last season, the Red Wings relied heavily on Ville Husso in net. Unfortunately, he had a disappointing year. Husso started 56 games in 2022-23, posting a 26-22-7 record, 3.11 goals against average (GAA), .896 save percentage (sv%), and -14.7 goals saved above expected (GSAx). Those aren’t exactly sparkling numbers for a starting goalie.
Detroit’s backups didn’t fare much better, either. Magnus Hellberg started 13 games for the Red Wings last season and went 4-8-1 with a 3.29 GAA, .885 sv%, and -3.9 GSAx. Alex Nedeljkovic started 13 games and went 5-7-2 with a 3.53 GAA, .895 sv%, and -8.9 GSAx. Both Hellberg and Nedeljkovic are unrestricted free agents and should not be brought back unless it’s in a third goalie role.
To truly be playoff ready, the Red Wings must add a legitimate, NHL-caliber goaltender to tandem with Husso. Luckily, they have plenty of goaltending options this offseason. Let’s take a look at who I think the best potential fits are.
Connor Hellebuyck- If he is available, Connor Hellebuyck is the best goaltender available this offseason. The 2020 Vezina Trophy winner is reportedly unhappy with the current direction of the Winnipeg Jets and won’t re-sign. Trade rumors are swirling around the 30-year-old netminder who started 64 games last season. He went 37-25-2 with a 2.49 GAA, .920 sv%, and 30.8 GSAx.
Hellebuyck would be a massive improvement for Detroit and instantly make them a playoff contender. A potential downside for the Red Wings could be the cost of re-signing Hellebuyck, who is entering the final year of his contract. He reportedly wants Andrei Vasilevskiy-like money on his next deal, and that would be a huge commitment. Still, I believe it’s worth the risk for Detroit to be in on Hellebuyck. He would drastically improve their timeline toward contention.
Carter Hart- Another goaltender that makes a ton of sense for the Red Wings is Carter Hart. Philadelphia is in a full-blown tear-down and rebuild, and they could get a big return for their young goalie. Hart put up decent numbers last season with a very bad team in front of him. He started 54 games and went 22-23-10 with a 2.96 GAA, .907 sv%, and 10.3 GSAx.
At just 24 years old, Hart would be a great young talent to add to the Red Wings roster. He has the potential to be a top-tier goalie and, at his age, would grow right along with this young Detroit team. He does need a new contract after next season but could be well worth the investment if he reaches his potential.
John Gibson- The circumstances around John Gibson are a bit different. After a great start to his career, Gibson has struggled mightily over the last few years. He once looked like a future Vezina winner but has fallen off a cliff as the Anaheim Ducks have gone into rebuild mode. Last season, Gibson started 52 games and posted a 14-31-8 record with a 3.99 GAA, .899 sv%, and -11.5 GSAx.
He is an intriguing option for the Red Wings. Obviously, his recent play has been concerning, but at 29 years old, a change of scenery could be just what Gibson needs to get back on track. He is also under contract for four more seasons, so the Red Wings wouldn’t have that issue to worry about right away. A trade for Gibson carries some considerable risk, but he could be a lower-cost option that pays off big time if he can get his career back on track. A new opportunity with an exciting young team might be exactly what Gibson needs.
Via Free Agency
Frederik Andersen- If the Red Wings look to free agency for a goaltender, Frederik Andersen should be at the top of their list. Andersen had a down year last season, going 21-11-2 with a 2.48 GAA, .903 sv%, and -3.5 GSAx, but was spectacular in 2021-22. He’s been a very solid goaltender for most of his career and would certainly be an improvement for Detroit.
At 33 years old, Andersen is not a long-term solution in goal, but he could be a solid placeholder for 2 or 3 years. If the Red Wings get even career-average numbers from Andersen, he’s instantly their best goalie, giving them a chance to make the playoffs.
Joonas Korpisalo- Another very interesting option for the Red Wings is Joonas Korpisalo. Korpisalo is coming off his best NHL season but has been wildly inconsistent in his career. He shows flashes of brilliance but also can slump for long periods of time. Undoubtedly, 2022-23 was a great season for the 29-year-old, especially after he was traded to Los Angeles. Korpisalo finished the year with an 18-14-4 record, 2.87 GAA, .914 sv%, and 12.7 GSAx.
Korpisalo’s performance in LA shows that his potential is sky-high when there’s a good team in front of him. On an up-and-coming team like the Red Wings, he could be a very solid goaltender that won’t break the bank. He’d be a significant improvement over Hellberg and Nedeljkovic and worth a phone call if Detroit goes in the free-agency direction.
Tristan Jarry- 28-year-old Tristan Jarry is another pending free agent that could help the Red Wings in goal. While 2022-23 was far from his best season, Jarry has been a solid goalie throughout his career. He started 47 games last year, posting a 24-13-7 record, 2.90 GAA, .909 sv%, and -2.8 GSAx. He certainly has shown he can be better than that, and a change of scenery may help.
Tristan Jarry is a good goaltender, but not a great one. Still, he would certainly be an upgrade for the Red Wings. He’s just entering what should be the prime of his career and has playoff experience Detroit would greatly benefit from. Jarry should be on the Wing’s radar this summer.
Whether it’s via trade or free agency, the Detroit Red Wings need to improve their goaltending this offseason. It’s one of the biggest things holding this team back from playoff contention, and with the market as hot as it is, now is the time to make a move.
There are certainly plenty of options for GM Steve Yzerman to consider. Some are better fits than others, but all of these players mentioned would improve the Red Wings between the pipes.