2017 NHL Free Agency: Red Wings have several UFAs, RFAs to deal with

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, celebrates his goal against the Boston Bruins in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014.
Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, celebrates his goal against the Boston Bruins in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings will head into NHL free agency with a lot of question marks. 

Will GM Ken Holland make a move for a defenseman? Will the Red Wings spend any money at all? -- they won't have much to spend. 

But before they consider any new signings, the team has a few key players who need contracts, namely Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar and Xavier Ouellet.

NHL free agency starts at noon Saturday. 

Here's the full list of the Red Wings unrestricted and restricted free agents heading into this weekend:

Joe Vitale -- UFA

Vitale, 31, was part of the Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk contract trade with the Arizona Coyotes in 2016. The forward spent the entire following season on long-term injured reserve as he battled concussion symptoms. The Red Wings could cut him loose and likely will as his contract expires. What's ahead for Vitale is unclear. It appears his career may have been cut short by the all-too-common head injury. 

Andreas Athanasiou -- RFA

Athanasiou, 22, is one of the most promising players on the Red Wings roster. His blazing speed and scoring ability likely have landed him a top-six spot on more than a few NHL teams. There are rumors of "Double A" being Red Wings trade bait for a defenseman, but it wouldn't be such a terrible idea to keep him around.

The Red Wings need scoring now (as in yesterday), and if they can figure out an agreeable deal with Athanasiou they should, well, figure it out. Being assured much more ice time could be the key. He scored 18 goals and 11 assists this past season with what seemed like little assured time on ice. Then again, Holland has to be careful not to overvalue a young forward -- such is the plight of a NHL general manager. 

Drew Miller -- UFA

Miller, 33, has been with the Red Wings since 2009. This past season was the first time in that span that he was sent down to the team's AHL club in Grand Rapids. Though he brings experience and defensive-minded play -- and penalty killing skill -- to the team's bottom six forwards group, Miller hasn't offered much offensive upside in recent seasons.

As his one-year contract comes to an end, it seems his time in Detroit may be coming to an end, too. The Red Wings have several prospects who can fill the role. 

Tomas Tatar -- RFA

Is this the end of Tatar's time in Detroit? Are the Red Wings going to trade him, let him walk or pay him? He led the team with 25 goals this past season. The 26-year-old winger had 21 goals the season before and 29 the season before that. Wingers who score like this usually get paid a few million dollars a year. 

Tatar is going to get paid, but will it be the Red Wings signing his checks? Holland has a tough decision to make here. The worst case for the Red Wings would be losing Tatar for nothing in return. Keep in mind the Red Wings have to prepare for other forwards' contracts next season, such as Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. 

RELATED: What are the Red Wings doing with Tomas Tatar?

Xavier Ouellet -- RFA

As one of Detroit's top defensive prospects and with the team in need of defensemen, Ouellet likely will be wearing a Red Wings sweater for a while. He was exposed in the expansion draft, which might not mean anything other than you can't protect everyone.

At 23, Ouellet has huge upside with a value that's yet to be fully determined. He could have a spot in the Red Wings' top four as he brings enough offensive skill -- 3 goals and 9 assists this past season -- to be effective in a power play role at some point. He scored 29 points in 61 games played for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins in 2015-16. 

UPDATE: Ouellet signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings on July 3.

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