The Detroit Red Wings have a problem.
Well, to be realistic, they have a series of problems. A lack of offensive depth, a porous defensive core, and a goaltending situation that’s elicited more questions than answers. Tackling one (or all) of these problems the offseason takes no shortage of effort. Steve Yzerman is not one for letting lingering issues persist. The team that ended the 2021-22 season will not be the team that starts 2022-23.
This offseason’s free agency class, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Barring big trades, there’s not much that can be done to fix the most glaring of issues. Sure, Johnny Gaudreau and Filip Forsberg are available. But, given the litany of upcoming contracts and issues with Detroit’s current core, swinging for the fences seems far from a prudent strategy. With that said, playing it conservative yet again might seem a slap in the face to players like Tyler Bertuzzi, who, at 27, are in the prime of their careers.
What if I told you there was a solution to appease both parties? A way to stay the course while simultaneously showing the team that the front office believes in them?
Allow me to introduce you to the man who can make it all possible: Claude Giroux.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or you don’t watch Metro division hockey), you’re likely familiar with Claude Giroux. The former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers has spent his entire career as the youngest sibling of the East’s superstars, playing third fiddle to Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin’s brilliance. While Giroux is no Crosby or Ovechkin, downplaying his aptitude at hockey is a major mistake.
After all, he did pull off a Diet Datsyuk goal.
With 923 points in 1,018 games, Giroux has been one of the premier forwards in the NHL for the last decade. Like a fine wine, Giroux’s game has aged beautifully along with his career. The criminally underrated center, at 34 years of age, finished with 65 points in 75 games this season. If he were on the Red Wings, he would’ve been second in team scoring. With the Flyers entering a rebuild, and the Florida Panthers (his current team) tightening their cap space, Giroux enters free agency for the first time in his career without any certainty behind a deal.
This is where the Red Wings come in.
In some alternate universe, Dylan Larkin and Claude Giroux are the same man at different points in his life. One endures the throats of adversity, fighting for his life to stay afloat amidst a terrible team. The other, free from the shackles of pain, seeks the very thing he’s endured his entire career. Together, the two can break the cycle. One can achieve his destiny, while the other can redeem all the time he spent chasing his dream.
His role in Detroit is a match made in heaven. The Red Wings have ample cap space and need to hit the cap floor by the end of the offseason. Giroux is looking for another shot at Lord Stanley. The intersection between term, cost, and timing is there. All that’s needed is a nod from both sides.
How Giroux can help the Red Wings
All narratives aside, Giroux fills an immediate need for Detroit at 2C. Pius Suter did an adequate job this previous season, but, if the Red Wings hope to jumpstart their offense, they need someone with a little more oomph. Giroux played center for the majority of his career until recently, where he’s been platooned on the wing. If the new head coach wants to keep Suter at 2C, they can simply put Giroux on the wing, filling the gap left by Robby Fabbri’s injury.
The Red Wings need a gifted two-way player like Giroux who can help Jakub Vrana chase the fabled 40-goal mark. They need someone that can shut down the depth of other teams, someone who can help shoulder the heavy burden Larkin carries. Giroux represents everything the Winged Wheel has prioritized over the last century: two-way play, great instincts, and plenty of experience. Take a look at the way he uses his physicality to get the edge on Crosby before stealing the puck from Jaromir Jagr and putting in an outstanding goal.
Should the Red Wings draft a 2C within the coming weeks, what better resource to turn to than a former 1C and ex-captain of an NHL team? Giroux can distill all the knowledge he has onto this future player and help him transition into his role with the team. As he continues to age (and as the Red Wings move closer to contention), the team can move Giroux to a position in the lineup that benefits both parties. Before he knows it, he’ll be back in the playoffs again — this time, with a newfound sense of purpose.
Giroux checks every box Detroit needs out of second-line player. He’s smart, adaptable, and versatile. The only thing standing in the way from him suiting up next season is a contract. Well, that, and the fact that the Ottawa Senators are making a push for him. There are few players on the free agency market that are worth a bidding war — especially during a rebuild. Giroux is a rare exception. With Giroux on the roster, the Red Wings have a legitimate chance at making a step in the rebuild without sacrificing the progress they’ve already made. He’s exactly the kind of veteran you’d want on a Stanley Cup-contending team.
Ultimately, it’ll all come down to where he chooses to sign the dotted line. Here’s hoping it’s with the Wings.