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Former Detroit Red Wings Having Trouble Finding Work



Sam Gagner, Detroit Red Wings
Former Detroit Red Wings player Sam Gagner will probably still get an NHL contract (Photo by Sammi Silber)

Veteran Detroit Red Wings forward Sam Gagner made the joking observation at the end of last season that some of his younger teammates “are a little closer to my kids’ age.”

But the 33-year-old Gagner is far from over the hill. His 13-goal, 31-point production in 2021-22 represented his best season since 2017-18. Gagner is a penalty-killer, polished defensive forward and a natural leader.  If the Red Wings were trying to win a Stanley Cup, instead of rebuilding, they may have re-signed Gagner.

That’s why it’s mildly surprising that Gagner is still available in the free agent marketplace.

A few of Detroit’s former players have found new jobs. Goalie Thomas Greiss will be Jordan Binnington’s backup in St. Louis. Mitchell Stephens went to the Montreal Canadiens. Troy Stecher will be an 18-minute defenseman for the Arizona Coyotes. Even defenseman Olli Juolevi caught on with GM Pat Verbeek’s Anaheim Ducks.  After getting traded at last season’s trade deadline, Vladislav Namestnikov signed with Tampa Bay this summer.

Here is a look at some former Red Wings still unsigned:

Forward Sam Gagner

It still seems likely that he will sign with a good team. He’s been linked to both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. He could be a valuable role player on a contender.

“I try to have the same mindset every night,” he said at the end of the season. “It’s not always going to go the way you want but for the most part I’ve felt pretty good about where my game has been at most of the year.”

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser

The plus of DeKeyser is that he has played 547 NHL games on the blue. He’s a savvy player with size. He’s only 30. The minus is that a significant back injury seems to have reduced his mobility.

His medical report is probably is as important as the scouting reports on him last season. Can he get back to where he was?

He said last April that he wanted to continue to play, but admitted he had no idea what was going to happen. To continue playing, he may be looking at a Professional Tryout (PTO) deal. He may have to prove himself again.

Forward Carter Rowney

Injuries limited Rowney to just 29 games. He really didn’t have a true opportunity to show where his game is at. But NHL GMs know his value. He’s a proven role player. Rowney helped the Penguins win a Stanley Cup a few years ago.

Last year, he didn’t get signed to September. Given the lack of money available in the marketplace, he might also looking at two-way deal with a larger minor-league salary or perhaps a PTO.

Forward Evgeny Svechnikov

He wasn’t a Red Wing last season. But he is a Red Wings’ first-round pick. Some fans believed he didn’t receive a true opportunity in Detroit.

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The Winnipeg Jets gave him that opportunity last season, but didn’t give him a qualifying offer. Seen speculation about the Edmonton Oilers signing him to a two-way contract. Would he consider playing in Europe?

Svechnikov is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He had 19 points last season. He hasn’t shown a top six scoring touch.

Defenseman Dennis Cholowski

After the Seattle Kraken selected him in the expansion draft, they lost him to Washington on waivers after he failed to establish himself as a regular.

The Kraken claimed Cholowski on waivers after he failed to become a regular in Washington. The Kraken decided not to give him a qualifying offer.

Cholowski has shown the defensive aggressiveness necessary to stick in the NHL. He has offensive skill. If he strikes out this summer, would he be better off playing in Europe?