Thoughts on the Red Wings’ Trade Deadline

I was feeling pretty good about the Red Wings’ efforts in the lead up to the NHL’s trade deadline this morning.  Then the Thomas Vanek trade happened.  Those who follow DH.N on Twitter know I am less than happy about that but I’ll look at each of the Wings’ moves piece-by-piece here.

Tomas Jurco
The Red Wings traded Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday.  An upcoming restricted free agent, Jurco never really latched on with the Red Wings.  Detroit got a third-round pick in the deal, which is more than I would have expected.

I don’t think Jurco was ever used properly in Detroit so it hurts to see him go to Chicago, but if the Wings weren’t going to use him, at least they got some value for him.  This is a pretty solid deal.

Brendan Smith
The first of Detroit’s pending unrestricted free agents, the team tried to sign him to a contract extension but the trade offer from the New York Rangers was too much to turn down.  Smith netted the Red Wings a third-round pick in the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in 2018.

This was Detroit’s best move of the week.  I probably would have been happy with a second or a third, to get both feels like larceny.  That said, like Jurco, perhaps Smith just needs a change of scenery.  It’s not that he was particularly bad this year in Detroit, but he’s weighed down by the expectations and the memory of bad performances.

Steve Ott
I never liked Ott’s signing, that’s no secret.  I don’t know why the Canadiens thought they needed him, either.  He wasn’t horrible in Detroit by any means, I just think his role could have been filled by one of the kids in Grand Rapids, namely Tyler Bertuzzi or Tomas Nosek.  Getting a sixth-round pick for Ott seems like a near-miracle.

Thomas Vanek
I’m going to need more space for this one.

Nick Jensen
Not a trade, the Red Wings locked up Jensen for two more years at around $800,000 each.  Jensen has stepped onto the Wings’ blue line and seemingly leapfrogged both Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet (and definitely Alexey Marchenko, now in Toronto).

I like this signing for multiple reasons.  One, it’s only two years, unlike the ridiculous four-year deal that Brian Lashoff got after serving in a similar capacity back during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.  Two, it can entirely be buried in the minors if Jensen ends up being a bust or if the Wings acquire a legitimate top defenseman at some point.

Mitch Callahan
With Ott off to Montreal, the Red Wings called up forward Mitch Callahan to take his place.  I’m okay with this but I’d rather have seen Bertuzzi get the nod, as I mentioned above (Nosek is currently injured and wouldn’t be called up).

Drew Miller
The trade that didn’t happen.  I don’t know if anyone was interested in Miller but he’s the one upcoming unrestricted free agent that Holland was unable to unload.  Part of me thinks that if you can unload Ott, you can unload Miller.  But maybe the Habs were the only team interested in a guy like that.

Thomas Vanek
Okay, let’s try this one again…

Vanek had to be dealt.  He’s been one of the Wings’ best players this season and is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so it was assumed that he had significant value.  At the end of the day, it sounds like there weren’t that many teams interested, though, and he only fetched a third-round draft pick (plus AHLer Dylan McIlrath, minus retaining some salary).  That the Wings got the best deal they could get is good.

It’s kind of hard to see that for multiple reasons, though.  There was a lot of buzz about Vanek in the lead up to the deadline and Minnesota made a massive deal for Martin Hanzal, a player deemed to be somewhat comparable to Vanek.  You don’t trade buzz, though.  The best player the Red Wings had to offer simply wasn’t enough to generate that much interest.

Winging it in Motown’s JJ from Kansas has been talking about getting caught up in the hype about Vanek.  Take a look at Detroit’s history as buyers, though, and it’s hard not to.

In 2015 the Wings gave up a solid prospect in Mattias Janmark, a questionable prospect in Mattias Backman, and a second round pick for Erik Cole and a third rounder.  In 2014 Detroit traded Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves, and a third round pick for David Legwand.

In my mind, 2017 Thomas Vanek is better than 2015 Erik Cole or 2014 David Legwand, so I would expect 2017 Thomas Vanek to bring in more than 2015 Erik Cole or 2014 David Legwand.  But that’s not what this year’s market supported.

So it’s disappointing that costs are high when the Wings are buyers but they’re low when they’re sellers.  It’s hard to swallow.  It feels like if the Wings should have to sell, they should get to sell for the same prices that all the teams that profited from them got to sell at.

Overall
All of that said, the Wings did the best that they could with what they had.  In sheer volume of picks, the last week has been a pretty impressive haul.

I’m not as excited about the upcoming draft as Ken Holland is, though.  Holland has spoken about having so many picks to work with, more than they’ve had since 2002.  This draft is shallow and none of those picks are particularly high.  As such, I don’t see this sell off as sparking a rebuild.  Barring some big changes this summer, I don’t think the assets gained in the last week are going to turn things around next year.

Red Wings Acquire Forward Cole

In the final day before the NHL’s trade deadline, the Detroit Red Wings made a move for additional forward depth in acquiring veteran Erik Cole from the Dallas Stars.

Cole comes to Detroit along with Dallas’ third-round pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in return for prospects Mattias Backman and Mattias Janmark, as well as the Red Wings’ second-round pick. Dallas’ pick will be returned to them if the Red Wings make the Eastern Conference Finals.

Cole, 36, has 18 goals and 15 assists for 33 points in 57 games for the Stars this season.

Injuries to Johan Franzen and Darren Helm left the Red Wings short on forwards and would have pressed little-used veteran Daniel Cleary into service.

Red Wings Logjam Won’t Get Better On Its Own

Xavier Ouellet is back in Grand Rapids and Mattias Backman has returned to Sweden. For the time being, the Red Wings’ logjam on the blue line is resolved. Seven defensemen in Detroit, seven with the Griffins (Scott Czarnowscan was called up from Toledo when Ouellet was brought to Detroit).

That the Red Wings aren’t icing the best lineup they can right now is irrelevant. That one of their prospects is now disgruntled is as well. There is now a spot for everyone, that’s all that matters, fixing it is a problem for the future.

So let’s look at that future.

We’ll assume that the Red Wings don’t trade anyone (because they haven’t yet) and sign all of their restricted free agents. We’ll also assume that the Griffins bring back Nathan Paetsch and Brennan Evans because they’re a couple of blue line leaders in GR. None of the unrestricted free agents return.

That means that Niklas Kronwall is back. And Jonathan Ericsson. And Kyle Quincey. And Danny DeKeyser, and Brendan Smith, and Jakub Kindl, and Brian Lashoff. Ouellet and Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko and Nick Jensen. Evans and Paetsch and Backman. Richard Nedomlel, currently in Toledo.

Joe Hicketts, who just made the Canadian World Junior team? He’s probably turning pro. Marc McNulty? Mitch Wheaton? Ben Marshall? James DeHaas? Not under contract yet but very well could be by next year.

The Red Wings have zero unrestricted free agents on defense next summer. Their two RFAs are Smith and Jensen, both of whom will return. In short, there are exactly as many roster spots available throughout the organization next year as there are right now. And in all likelihood there will be even more players fighting for them.

Without the Red Wings making a trade – dumping one or more players – their current roster crunch isn’t getting any better until at least the summer of 2016. That’s one more full season before there’s even a roster spot in Detroit available, which means another full season before there’s even a spot in Grand Rapids available, which means the Wings are dumping their prospects straight to the Walleye.

Or back to Sweden, in the case of Backman, ’cause why should he stick around for that?


I’ve been among the crowd clamoring for the exit of Jakub Kindl (and, to a lesser extent, Brian Lashoff) as a means to clear up the logjam. At varying points the Red Wings have said they’re trying to move Kindl but just how hard they’re trying is up for debate, as the Carolina Hurricanes just managed to get a sixth round pick back for Jay Harrison while Kindl remains in Detroit.

I see three possibilities: The Red Wings see value in Kindl and want a return that reflects that. Teams are interested in Kindl but not given his current contract. No one is interested in Kindl.

All three of these reflect poorly on Detroit.

If the Wings want more for Kindl than anyone is willing to give, then they’re overvaluing him and are no better than the Buffalo Sabres asking for Anthony Mantha for Tyler Myers. This is an addition by subtraction move, stop worrying about the return.

If the contract is the issue, it means the Red Wings gave him a contract that no one else would have.

If no one is interested, then Detroit continues to employ a player that no other team wants.