Red Wings 2022 Free Agency Targets: Centers

The Detroit Red Wings have a number of holes to fill this offseason. Yesterday, we took a look at some left-handed defensemen Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman could pursue. Today, we’re looking at some centers that could make sense for Motown.

Related: Red Wings 2022 Free Agency Targets: Defensemen

With a center group that includes Dylan Larkin, Pius Suter, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen, the Red Wings depth down the middle is fine, but unless a player like Veleno takes another step or two, they lack a player capable of making a big impact in a second line role. Suter filled that role this past season, but with just 36 points through 82 games, he seems better suited for a third line role. Adding another top six caliber centerman would go a long way towards creating true scoring depth for a team that has been mostly top-heavy offensively since Yzerman took over as GM.

Here are four centers that could be the second line center the Red Wings need.

Vincent Trocheck

29 Years Old; 2021-22 Team: Carolina Hurricanes; 2021-22 Stats: 21 Goals, 51 Points, 81 Games Played

The native of Pittsburgh has long been a steady force of secondary scoring for the teams he has been on. In 135 regular season games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Vincent Trocheck had 96 points. He set a career-high in points during the 2017-18 season when he had 75 points in 82 games with the Florida Panthers. Furthermore, he won 54.9% of his faceoffs during his time with the Hurricanes, further cementing his value down the middle.

Vincent Trocheck Carolina Hurricanes
Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

At 29 years old, Trocheck is in his prime right now, and his production reflects it. He hasn’t posted a points per-game (P/G) rate lower than .61 since first full season in the NHL. He also has never posted a season with negative possession numbers, meaning that good things happen have happened when he’s on the ice throughout his career. There should be no shortage of teams that are interested in bringing this player onto their roster.

If there’s any reason why the Red Wings should stay away from Trocheck, it’s the rising price that comes along with that level of competition. His last contract carried a cap hit of $4.75 million, and his new deal could climb upwards of $6 million. Furthermore, teams could be willing to throw a six or seven-year term at him, and while the Red Wings have one of the cleanest salary cap pictures in the league, a deal of that magnitude would be the first Yzerman has signed as the Red Wings’ GM. Does it makes sense for the Red Wings to have Trocheck under contract until he’s 35?

Dylan Strome

25 Years Old; 2021-22 Team: Chicago Blackhawks; 2021-22 Stats: 22 Goals, 48 Points, 69 Games Played

After the Chicago Blackhawks refused to tender him a qualifying offer, Dylan Strome is now an unrestricted free agent. If that sounds a little familiar, it’s because that’s the exact scenario that led to Suter becoming a Red Wing. As the Blackhawks look to hallow out their roster, perhaps their trash could be the Red Wings’ treasure once again.

Strome is an interesting case because, as the youngest player on this list, there’s still some questions out there about what exactly he is as an NHLer. He was the first player selected after Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel went first and second overall in the 2015 draft, respectively. Initially drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, he was cast off and sent to Chicago, where he found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, recording 51 points in 58 games following the trade. Some uneven play plagued him over the next two seasons, resulting in him being a healthy scratch at times, but he rediscovered some of his offense this past season, posting a solid 48 points in 69 games.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This past season, Strome recorded a relative-Corsi percentage of 12%. This means that he increased his team’s share of scoring chances by 12% whenever he was on the ice. He’s a player that has proved he plays his best when he’s playing with high-end skill, and the Red Wings project to have plenty of talent on the wings next season, including Jakub Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Zadina, Lucas Raymond, and prospect Jonatan Berggren. If he can find chemistry with any of those players, Strome is young enough to be a fit with the Red Wings for the foreseeable future. Nobody else on this list has that same long-term projectability with the Red Wings.

Ryan Strome

29 Years Old; 2021-22 Team: New York Rangers; 2021-22 Stats: 21 Goals, 54 Points, 74 Games Played

From one Strome to another, Dylan’s older brother has proven himself to be a competent top six center since joining the New York Rangers in 2018. In 263 regular season games, Ryan Strome collected 71 goals and 195 points while averaging just over 18 minutes of ice-time. He has played with established talent like Artemi Panarin, and he has played with up and coming talent such as Alexis Lafrenière. Strome has also only posted negative possession numbers in two of his nine seasons in the NHL.

Originally drafted fifth overall by the New York Islanders back in 2011, Strome never really sniffed the potential that made him such a high draft pick until he made his way to the Rangers. Since arriving in the Big Apple, he never posted a P/G rate lower than .52, with his peak performance coming during the 2020-21 season where he posted a P/G of .88. He’s a pass-first type of player, but he knows where the puck should go if he has the opportunity to shoot it.

Ryan Strome New York Rangers
Ryan Strome, New York Rangers (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

If there is one drawback about this player, it’s the fact that he has struggled to win faceoffs in the NHL. He has a career faceoff-win percentage of just 45.3, and his career-high mark of 47.6% was set during the 2018-19 season where he spent 20 games with the Edmonton Oilers before heading over to New York. Perhaps the best way to utilize him would be to pair him with another center (Suter, perhaps) and allow them alternate taking draws depending on where they both prefer to take faceoffs. Aside from faceoffs, everything else the Red Wings are looking for is there: he was an alternate captain with the Rangers, he’s coming off a deal that paid him $4.5 million, so his asking price shouldn’t inflate too much, and he has proven he is capable of producing next to high-end talent. He’s at least worth some consideration for this role.

Andrew Copp

28 Years Old; 2021-22 Team: Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers; 2021-22 Stats: 21 Goals, 53 Points, 72 Games Played

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, there have always been connections between Andrew Copp and the Red Wings. After being drafted by the Winnipeg Jets back in 2013, he spent almost nine years in that organization before he was traded to the Rangers ahead of the 2022 Trade Deadline. This season was a breakout year for the forward as he recorded the most goals (21) and points (53) in a single season in his entire seven-year NHL career. The previous season, in 2020-21, he recorded a P/G just below this season’s mark, producing .71 P/G for the Jets in 55 games, suggesting that he was already building towards this season’s marks, instead of having “one good season” before cashing in on a free agent deal.

Copp is an all-situations type of forward, receiving votes for the Selke Trophy (awarded to the league’s top defensive-forward) this season. He’s a player that you can probably pencil-in for 40-50 points a season over the duration of his next deal, so long as the deal doesn’t carry maximum term. Perhaps some team will throw a seven-year terms at the 28-year-old, but a four or five-year term seems about right for a player that only recently broke out, and plays a game that doesn’t project as well as he gets older.

Still, Copp would become one of the Red Wings’ most versatile forwards if they were to sign him. He has a career faceoff win-percentage of 51.9, but he has also been known to shift over to the wing, making him a player that head coach Derek Lalonde could move around the lineup throughout the season. He could play a role on both the power play and penalty kill, and you know Copp would probably relish the opportunity to play for the team he grew up watching. There will be plenty of suitors for this player, but the Red Wings could have a leg up in negotiations simply because of where he was born.

This may not be the year to go all out and sign a big name for the second line center position. The Red Wings may have plenty of cap space, but with Marco Kasper now in the pipeline, does it make sense to sign somebody to a long-term deal, knowing that their newest first round selection will probably be ready for the NHL by next year? It will be interesting to see how they address this hole in their lineup because it may very well be the first big-money deal handed out by Yzerman as GM of the Red Wings.

What do you think? Which centerman would you like to see the Red Wings target in free agency?

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