The Detroit Red Wings will most likely be active at the Trade Deadline.
The Detroit Red Wings are in the basement. Through 50 games (18-25-7) they sit in last in their division and second last overall. The Red Wings are rebuilding while also being up against the salary cap. They will get some relief in the summer with the cap almost assuredly going up, but they are going to be tight next year as well. The Trade Deadline will be their opportunity to help their situation.
Anyone can get traded, Gretzky was traded. While these players could get traded if something too good to pass up is offered, the probability isn’t very high. Looking to get younger assets and draft capital, Detroit has a few player that are untouchable.
Dylan Larkin is the future of this franchise. He is the odds on favourite to be the next captain of the team and he is their best player. He excels in all three zones, making a big step defensively this past year. On pace for 33 goals and 45 assists which gives him a chance to be the first point per game player for the club since Pavel Datsyuk had 65 points in 63 games in the 2014-15 season.
Anthony Mantha is a play driver. Dominating in terms of puck possession while on the ice with shot shares, he has become an offensive catalyst on this team. He’s been a goal scorer primarily but surrounding him with better players as the rebuild moves along can boost his overall point totals.
Andreas Athanasiou is a young goal scorer who can continue to develop with extended playing time because of Detroit’s lack of depth when it comes to skilled forwards. He is one of the best players on the team when it comes to exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive zone. Athanasiou can be a good top 6 winger and provide high-end secondary scoring for this team well into the future.
Detroit may be one of the most active teams at the deadline, looking to pick up young assets and draft picks, but don’t expect them to sell the kids off. Guys like Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek have been showing that they deserve to be in the lineup every night. They are being eased in while the Red Wings have veterans on the blue line but the deadline could change that.
Other prospects like Pavel Zadina, Jared McIsaac and Joseph Veleno are all making contributions to their respective teams. Injuries have affected some of the young guys such as Evgeny Svechnikov, making their time-table for making an impact is a little unknown. Youth is gold for this franchise right now.
The Likely Trade Candidates
Gustav Nyquist has been having a resurgent season in 2018-19. He’s changed his game into more of a playmaker this season after coming close to 30 goals in his first two season and only reaching 20 once since. He’s on pace to smash his career high in points which was 54 back in 2014-15. This season he is on pace for 70.
With his contract expiring in his career season, Nyquist becomes an ideal trade option at the deadline. A return similar to what Tomas Tatar brought back at last year’s deadline (a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd from the Vegas Golden Knights) may be a little too high. A more realistic return could be a 1st round draft pick along with a B level prospect.
Interested teams could include the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks and the aforementioned Golden Knights.
A second or third pairing right-handed defencemen, Nick Jensen gives the Wings the option of trading him and keeping both Cholowski and Hronek in the lineup on a more consistent basis.
While Jensen won’t add up counting stats, he is a darling in the analytics community and looked upon as a solid defencemen and someone who can help a team that has a weak right side on defence. He transitions the puck decently and doesn’t put his team in too many risky situations. The return won’t be too grandiose, with anything from a second round pick to a fifth round pick coming back in the deal, the Wings will be more than willing to move him to the highest bidder.
Interested teams could include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.
Have we heard this one before? Thomas Vanek was also traded by the Red Wings at the deadline two years ago. The return from the Florida Panthers was Dylan McIlrath and a 3rd round pick, who turned out to be Finnish defenceman Kasper Kotkansalo who plays for Boston University.
Vanek is having a sub par season with only 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points in 42 games but he still remains a power play threat and can help a contending team. Trading Vanek would require him to waive his No Trade Clause but that doesn’t seem like it would be an issue in this situation. Name value goes a long way in the NHL so something like a 3rd or 4th round draft pick or a B level prospect could be the return.
Interested teams could include the Columbus Blue Jackets, Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Dream Scenario
The dream scenario for the Red Wings would be to unload one of the big contracts. The team has had a habit of signing guys to big, long loyalty contracts such as Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser. The problem with these contracts, aside from the inflated cap hits and long-term, is that they have No Trade Clauses. This means the player has to agree to any trade of these players.
Unloading one of these contracts would take some of the burden that’s been built into the salary cap because of them. The problem with making these deals would be Detroit would have to sweeten the pot. Seeing General Manager Ken Holland get creative and possibly packaging one of the rentals with one of these players for a minimal return could make some sense seeing as the Wings have prospects and picks for the upcoming draft, they could look to unload one of these deals to aid in re-signing some of the teams restricted free agents in the next few seasons.
The Reality of the Situation
In all honesty, this deadline could change the future for the best of Ken Holland decides to get bold and be creative. The more likely scenario is that the GM trades two or three pending unrestricted free agents for some draft picks and possibly a B level prospect.
This deadline is another step in the Detroit Red Wings rebuild. Plain and simple, this team will be worse after the deadline and that might be the best thing for this franchise long-term if they want to return to their winning ways of the late 90’s and 2000’s.
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals