Daniel Sprong, Detroit Red Wings, J.T. Compher, Klim Kostin, Shayne Gostisbehere

Red Wings’ 2023 Signings: In Their Words & Others

The Detroit Red Wings added a slew of new faces in the opening days of free agency. General manager (GM) Steve Yzerman added roughly $20 million to the team’s payroll and filled out what should be another competitive roster next season.

In total, the Red Wings added four forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders over the first two days of July. All eight players are primed to play a role on next season’s team, and that means it is important to understand what they bring to the table.

Meet the New Detroit Red Wings Shayne Gostisbehere, Daniel Sprong, Justin Holl
Shayne Gostisbehere, Daniel Sprong, Justin Holl (The Hockey Writers)

To do that, I enlisted the help of writers that have covered these players before, here or elsewhere. Combined with the remarks from Yzerman and the players themselves, I hope that I can paint a clear picture of what Red Wings fans can expect from the new faces in Hockeytown.

JT Compher

“If you needed one word to describe him, it’s versatility. He’s a strong forechecker who can play in all situations and in any of the three forward positions.” – THW Avalanche writer Marko Zlomislic

“Obviously we’ve had success in Colorado while I was there, but it took a lot of building. My first year, I think we were one of the worst teams in the league. I know what it takes. I’m excited to be with this group and…build towards the ultimate goal of winning a championship.” – JT Compher

Compher’s connection to the Red Wings is likely well known by this point: he was teammates with Andrew Copp and Dylan Larkin at the University of Michigan during the 2014-15 season. Just like his former and now new teammates, Compher is an versatile two-way forward that can play the center position. He arrives in Detroit after spending seven seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, including their championship run in 2022.

Related: The Grind Line: Thoughts on Red Wings’ 2023 Draft Class

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Compher’s offensive profile is not unlike Copp’s when he signed with the Red Wings last year. Compher put up career-high point totals (17 goals, 52 points) in 2022-23, his age 27 season; Copp was coming off of a career-best season with 21 goals and 53 points. While Compher has never received votes for the Selke Trophy like Copp has, he is still an adept forward in his own end and will almost certainly see time on the Red Wings’ penalty kill.

While some players may have balked at the thought of joining a rebuilding squad after spending years with a recent Stanley Cup champion, Compher embraces the opportunity to join the Red Wings and be a part of what Yzerman is building in Detroit.

Compher has been to the top of the mountain, and he plays the game the right way. His experience and presence will be a valuable asset in the locker room, especially as the Red Wings look to integrate more and more youth into their lineup.

Justin Holl

“Part of Holl’s struggles were because he was put into a role where he really couldn’t excel in. He was constantly in the top-four with Toronto, earning key minutes even though he would be more suited in a third pairing role. He was being asked to do too much as he couldn’t find any sort of consistency. If you lower the minutes and expectations, he could be successful.” – THW Maple Leafs writer Peter Baracchini

“I think I always have something to prove. The reality of the situation is that it’s a very competitive league and you need to be at your very best at all times in order to be valuable.” – Justin Holl

Holl, a Minnesota native, will be playing stateside for the first time in his career. Originally a second round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, all 285 regular season games to his credit came with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now signed to a three-year deal with the Red Wings, it appears he will embrace a different role from the one he played with Detroit’s Original Six rival.

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Holl during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Holl averaged north of 20 minutes of ice-time over the last three seasons. While in a top four role with the Maple Leafs, he had 327 blocks and 362 hits across 204 games. With Moritz Seider, Jake Walman and others on Detroit’s blue line, Holl likely slots in on the team’s third pairing, taking over the spot previously taken by Gustav Lindström.

While Holl’s career to this point has been defined by what he isn’t, he and Red Wings fans will hope that this new chapter of his career will be defined by what he is. With all of the defensive talent on the roster and in the Red Wings’ system, he shouldn’t be asked to do too much in Detroit.

Shayne Gostisbehere

“For me, any coach I’ve gone to for the first time, they say ‘I’m surprised that your defensive game is pretty good.’ I take pride in it and….I try to do the best I can. I know my better abilities are on the offensive side, but…I am a defenseman, I have to play defense first.” – Shayne Gostisbehere

“There was a priority, we all agreed, we’d like to get a defenseman that can play on the power play. Shayne certainly fills that role…he’s a left shot, but half of his usage at five-on-five was on the right side this year as well, so he’s comfortable in that role.” – Steve Yzerman

Once known as one of the most effective offensive defensemen in the league, Gostisbehere has found a second lease on life since the beginning of this decade. The 30-year-old was acquired by the Arizona Coyotes as a cap dump back in 2021. The Philadelphia Flyers gave the Coyotes a second and seventh round pick for taking the defender and his contract. Then, he did the funniest thing….

Shayne Gostisbehere Carolina Hurricanes
Shayne Gostisbehere during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Over his next 134 games with the Coyotes, Gostisbehere put up 24 goals and 82 points before he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2023 Trade Deadline. In all, the Florida-native has 92 points over his last 157 games, a points per-game rate of .59.

With his offensive capabilities known league-wide and his willingness to play the right side noted by Yzerman, Gostisbehere will almost certainly take on the role held by Filip Hronek last season before he was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks. Gostisbehere will play a role on the Red Wings’ power play and may very well lead Detroit’s defensemen in points when all is said and done this season. If Gostisbehere can do that while being competent in his own end, that will be a big boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

Daniel Sprong

“I adjusted some parts of my game. I think I became a bit better defensively, played a bit with more physicality….I’m looking for a bigger role, of course, and show at Detroit that I can do that this year.” – Daniel Sprong

“He is a guy that can take advantage of matchups against third and fourth line players, great shot and can play on the power play. He can’t really play in the top six. He won’t be a 50 point scorer like he was this year.” – THW Seattle Kraken writer Adam Kierzenblat

To say Sprong had a breakout season in 2022-23 is putting it lightly. After years of struggling to find a consistent spot with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals, he played 66 games last season with the Kraken (albeit in a limited role) and crossed the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career. He also finished with 46 points, doubling his previous career-high set back in the 2018-19 season.

A right-handed winger that was picked in the second round of the 2015 draft, Sprong is at his best when he is put into offensive situations. His career average ice-time is 11:56, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde uses him in a limited capacity this season as well. That being said, Sprong has proved that he can score when given the opportunity, so maybe Detroit is where he takes his game to another level.

Daniel Sprong Seattle Kraken
Daniel Sprong, Seattle Kraken (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With Dominik Kubalik on the left side and Sprong on the right, the Red Wings now have two shooting wingers that don’t offer much else outside of their offensive games. Depending on how the lineup shakes out, they could be battling each other for consistent ice time this season.

Klim Kostin

“Kostin’s a big winger obviously. Plays hard, we’re looking to add some of that.” – Steve Yzerman

“He should be good for 12-15 goals if he plays regularly and he’s the ultimate team guy, willing to stand up for his teammates and drop the gloves wherever needed. He could be hot and cold and he may need the right linemates to regularly light the lamp, but he’s got an incredibly underrated shot and loves to fire the pill.” – THW Edmonton Oilers writer Jim Parsons

Right from the beginning of the Red Wings’ offseason, Yzerman has put an impetus on making his team harder to play against. His first move to accomplish that was adding Klim Kostin in a cap dump transaction with the Oilers. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Kostin is a big boy that plays big boy hockey.

The 31st pick of the 2017 draft, Kostin is a 24-year-old forward with just over 100 NHL games to his credit. Of his 32 points in those games, 21 of them came last season with the Oilers. A former captain of Team Russia’s World Juniors team (2019), he’s a player that brings a lot of passion to the ice and looks to make a difference with his shot and his body.

Klim Kostin Edmonton Oilers
Klim Kostin, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

It will be interesting to see where Kostin fits into Detroit’s mix. Is he a bottom six grinder type that is mostly relied on to pound the other team, or is he elevated to more of a power forward role alongside some of the team’s skill players? Does he become the team’s replacement for Tyler Bertuzzi? That all likely depends on how Kostin performs in the early going. Considering he recently signed a two-year pact with the Red Wings, it’s fair to say that he’ll fill a role in Detroit one way or another.

Christian Fischer

“Over my years in Arizona, I’ve really kind of solidified a role…for the last three or four years, I was taking every d-zone draw against the other team’s top line. I was PK-ing, I’m usually one of the first two, three, four guys out the front door for the PK.” – Christian Fischer

“He’s one of the best locker room guys you’ll ever meet. He’s a hard worker, leads by example, and genuinely cares about his teammates, coaching staff, front office members, fans and the community as a whole.” – Arizona Coyotes team reporter Patrick Brown

Fischer’s contract may be the cheapest among the skaters the Red Wings signed, but don’t let that convince you that he won’t have a big impact on how the team plays this season. By all accounts, he’s going to address Yzerman’s “harder to play against” mandate just as much as some of the big ticket items he signed.

Fischer was an early second round pick back in 2015 and has played all 398 regular season games on his résumé with the Coyotes. His best offensive season came in 2017-18 when he put up 15 goals and 33 points in 79 games. As he mentioned in response to the media, he has since adopted more of a defensive role while also being an energy guy for his team on the ice and on the bench.

Christian Fischer Arizona Coyotes
Christian Fischer, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Chicago-native is another right-handed forward that doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas of the ice. But while he plays a physical two-way game, he rarely gets into penalty trouble. He has just 40 penalty minutes over the last three seasons, averaging out to roughly seven penalties a season. He may be signed to just a one-year deal, but there is a real possibility that the intangibles (and tangibles) he brings to the team will convince Yzerman to extend him when the new year rolls around.

Red Wings Look To Be Tougher to Play Against

Most of these new faces directly address Yzerman’s key focus in the offseason: becoming a tougher team to play against. Compher, Fischer, Holl and Kostin increase the team’s overall physicality and athletic ability while Gostisbehere and Sprong should help the team not only maintain possession in the offensive zone, but also convert on more of their offensive opportunities. Add in any youthful energy from a prospect or two that could join the roster this season, and the Red Wings look to be a highly competitive team this season. But perhaps what is most exciting is that, despite all these new faces (including two goaltenders not mentioned in this article), the Red Wings still have enough cap space to add a difference-maker before the offseason’s conclusion.

One thing is for certain: this season’s Red Wings team will look a whole lot different and, hopefully, a whole lot better.

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