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 Send Vanek to Panthers

The Detroit Red Wings made their big move of the NHL tradeline, moving forward Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Dylan McIlrath and a third-round pick.

Vanek’s trade was entirely expect as part of the Red Wings’ sell-off.  With the team near the bottom of the league’s standings, general manager Ken Holland has been trying to get whatever assets he can in return for players who are expected to become free agents this summer.  Tomas Jurco was sent to the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday while Brendan Smith went to the New York Rangers on Tuesday afternoon and Steve Ott was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

 

That said, Vanek was supposed to be the biggest piece of the Wings sale.  Instead, he was traded for a third-round pick (the same round pick that Tomas Jurco brought) and a player who has been on waivers this season, while the Wings retained salary (not that salary means much at this point).  This is a very bad look for Ken Holland after pulling off a trio of solid deals.

McIlrath is a former first-round pick of the New York Rangers, who was traded by New York to Florida earlier this season.  After five games there, he was waived and sent to AHL Springfield.  In 43 career games he has five points.

The third-round pick is conditional.  If the Panthers make the playoffs, it will be Arizona’s pick.  If not, it will be Florida’s.

Wings Deal Forward Ott to Canadiens

Late Tuesday night, the Detroit Red Wings traded forward Steve Ott to the Montreal Canadiens for a sixth-round draft pick in 2018.

I’ve been very vocal about not liking the Ott signing when it happened in July and thinking that there were younger players who should have been playing instead of him over the season.  That the Wings were able to get anything at all for him as the trade deadline nears is fantastic to me.

Ott joins Tomas Jurco and Brendan Smith as upcoming free agents Detroit has traded away with the NHL’s trade deadline approaching.  Thomas Vanek remains their biggest name in play, though there have also been rumors about Riley Sheahan and – to a much lesser extent – Drew Miller.

Red Wings Deal Jurco to Blackhawks

The Red Wings opened up their trade deadline sale on Friday afternoon, sending restricted-free-agent-to-be Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks for a third-round draft pick.

As I said in my trade deadline preview yesterday, Jurco wanted out and wasn’t getting opportunities in Detroit anymore, so it’s not a surprise to see him dealt.

Honestly, I’d expected him to get waived at a handful of points this season, so getting a third-rounder for Jurco is pretty fantastic in my mind.

As I said via Twitter, this feels a bit like the Wings dumping Aaron Ward in 2001.  A perfectly serviceable player who wasn’t happy in Detroit and will go on to bigger and better things elsewhere.  Now it’s up to Ken Holland to do the same thing he did then, turn that draft pick into something useful.  The Ward draft pick became Jiri Hudler.  Let’s see what this pick becomes.

On the Red Wings as Trade Deadline Sellers

The NHL’s trade deadline is less than a week away and – in the middle of their “bye week” – the team sits last in the Atlantic Division, only two points up on the Carolina Hurricanes (who have four games in hand) for last in the Eastern Conference, and twenty-sixth overall in the thirty-team league.

For the first time in a quarter century, the Red Wings will (in all likelihood) not make the playoffs.  As such, they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland insists that the team will not be torn down in a total rebuild.  He expects only to unload “rentals” – players who will be free agents this summer anyway.  With that in mind, there are three players who we can probably expect to see moved.

Thomas Vanek
Vanek has been one of the Red Wings’ top forwards this season, leading the team in goals with 15 in just 47 games played.  He was signed last summer to a cap-friendly one-year deal as a reclamation project and is just the kind of player a team looking to make a playoff push would want to add.  The only hiccup is that he reportedly loves Detroit and Holland may choose to simply extend his contract rather than trade him and risk being unable to bring him back this summer.

Brendan Smith
At 28, Smith is no longer a prospect, he’s a known quantity.  He could be a solid addition to a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins (who, as I write this, traded for Ron Hainsey), looking to shore up their defense.  That said, Holland has stated that he’ll talk to Smith’s camp about a contract extension, so he could stay put.  The Red Wings have five defensemen already under contract for next season, plus restricted free agents Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet.  If Jensen can do Smith’s job at half the price (or less), it makes sense to get what they can for him.

Steve Ott
Ott signed with his “hometown” Red Wings last summer and was excited to come to Detroit.  He clearly wants to be here.  I’ve been against his signing from the start.  There are a lot of GMs who love the kind of player he is, even if I don’t.  He could be a cheap veteran addition for a team looking for a little extra grit.


In addition to the above three, there are a few others in unique positions that could see them dealt.

Drew Miller
Exiled to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the face of a roster crunch in Detroit, Miller has made it clear that he’d like to be traded and get back into the NHL.  His position is similar to Ott’s, as a veteran grinder who would come cheap, except for the fact that he already cleared waivers so any team that wanted him will have already passed him up.  The Wings would likely have to take a player back in any deal for Miller.

Tomas Jurco
Jurco has been stuck in the press box for much of the season and doesn’t seem to have a future in Detroit.  He reportedly requested a trade earlier in the year and will be a restricted free agent this summer.  That said, if the Wings were to sell on Vanek and Ott, it would seemingly open up a roster spot in Detroit for Jurco to get more playing time.

Tomas Tatar
Tatar has been one of the Wings’ top forwards this season but has been plagued at times by accusations of not living up to his potential.  He’s a restricted free agent this summer, likely due a raise from the $2.75 million he makes now to something close to the $4.75 million of Gustav Nyquist.  The Chicago Blackhawks called about Tatar and Nyquist earlier this season, so if the Wings wanted to avoid paying Tatar, they could ship him out now.


Finally, there’s a small group of players that might have value but probably won’t be dealt for various reasons, primarily because – as stated above – the Wings say they’re not tearing the team down.

Gustav Nyquist
Signed for two more seasons after this one and currently suspended, the Blackhawks did ask about him, so the possibility of moving Nyquist is there.  Even more than Tatar, Nyquist can’t shake the “underperformer” label and the Wings may want to dump his salary to facilitate re-signing Tatar (or anyone else).

Mike Green
Green has one year left on his contract for $6 million, so any team looking to acquire him wouldn’t be going for a rental.  If available, though, he’d be one of the top defensemen on the market and could probably bring in a decent haul for the Red Wings’ reload.  It’d also clear a lot of money from the Wings’ cap.  I don’t expect him to be dealt but I think it’s an intriguing possibility.  Green does have a no-trade clause.

Jimmy Howard
I don’t expect Howard to be traded at the deadline, lets get that out of the way.  But – especially if he’s not claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this summer – the Wings are going to have quite the logjam in goal to deal with, plus a lot of money dedicated to goalies.  Clearing that up sooner rather than later would be to Holland’s benefit, so he should be trying to move Howard now.  Of course, Howard is currently hurt and has no timetable for return, so pulling off this move would be near-miraculous.


My prediction? Vanek and Smith or Ott get traded.  Maybe Miller, especially if Ott stays.

Red Wings Injury Updates

The Detroit Red Wings made a handful of announcements regarding injuries on Monday.  Any time you make a handful of injury announcements is a problem.

On the positive side of things, Tomas Jurco was re-called from his rehabilitation stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he had a goal and an assist – along with six penalty minutes – in two games played.  He wore #13 in Grand Rapids with his old #28 having been taken by Matt Lorito this season.

Jurco will have a chance to slide into the Detroit lineup immediately in part due to an injury to Tyler Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi left Saturday’s matchup with the Montreal Canadiens with a high ankle sprain after a hit by Alexei Emelin.  He’s expected to miss three- to five- weeks.

Meanwhile, defenseman Brendan Smith is expected to miss four weeks after a knee-on-knee collision with Phillip Danault.

Both Bertuzzi and Smith were placed on the seven-day disabled list while Jurco came off long-term injured reserve.  As of today, the Red Wings have seven players on various forms of IR: Andreas Athanasiou, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Joe Vitale, Alexey Marchenko, Jimmy Howard, Bertuzzi, and Smith, though neither Franzen or Vitale are expected to play this season.

The team will go with six defensemen for now, with no call-up planned to replace Smith.

Over the weekend, the Red Wings called up goalie Jared Coreau after Jimmy Howard left Friday’s win over the New Jersey Devils with a groin injury.

Red Wings Jersey Number Updates

The Red Wings revealed a set of new jersey numbers via Twitter earlier today.

Steve Ott had previously Tweeted he would take the #29 that had briefly been assigned to Dylan Sadowy and was worn by Landon Ferraro before he was waived and claimed by the Boston Bruins.

With it available, it comes as no surprise that Frans Nielsen takes the #51 he wore with the New York Islanders.

As Tomas Jurco has the #26 he usually wears, I’d expected Thomas Vanek to take the #27 made available by the departure of Kyle Quincey.  Instead he flips the number and takes #62.  He’ll be the first Red Wing to ever wear that number.

I’d thought that Alexey Marchenko might see a new number this year to represent his solidified roster spot.  While I thought he’d get the #4 formerly worn by Jakub Kindl, instead he went the opposite direction and took the #53 he’s been wearing internationally.

The #4 ended up going to Teemu Pulkkinen, switching from #56.  I’m on the record as disliking forwards wearing numbers that low.  He becomes the first forward to wear #4 for the Red Wings since Colin Campbell in 1985.

Red Wings Offseason Injuries Adding Up

Just hours after it was announced that Red Wings’ defenseman Niklas Kronwall would miss the World Cup of Hockey with an injury, another Red Wing and a Detroit prospect were revealed to have had surgery and could miss the start of their seasons.

Forward Tomas Jurco injured his back while training and prospect defenseman Vili Saarijarvi of the Mississauga Steelheads had wrist surgery.

By losing the start of his season, Saarijarvi will miss his return to Flint on October 14, as well as his only games in Saginaw, Sarnia, and Windsor.

Jurco’s injury – combined with that of Teemu Pulkkinen – could temporarily help clear up Detroit’s logjam at forward.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Lightning – Game 1

Though they may not deserve it, the Red Wings open their 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs in Tampa tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

These two teams met in the opening round last year, with Tampa Bay rallying from down 3-2 in the series to win in seven games, but there are some differences this year.

For the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard has reclaimed the starting role in goal. Forward Brad Richards – who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs with the Lightning during their Stanley Cup run in 2004 – joined Detroit in the offseason. Mike Green is in on the blueline with Marek Zidlicky having moved on to the New York Islanders. Landon Ferraro is now in Boston. Rookies Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou will be making their playoff debuts.

For the Lightning, a powerhouse team has been crippled by injuries. Forward Steven Stamkos is likely to miss the entirety of the playoffs with blood clots. Anton Stralman is out on the blue line. Tyler Johnson – who the Red Wings couldn’t contain last year – is questionable for Game One. Victor Hedman is returning from injury.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are a perfect split 17-17 all-time in Game One of the playoffs coming off a loss in their last game of the regular season.

As previously mentioned, Jimmy Howard gets the start for the Red Wings opposite Ben Bishop of the Lightning. Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Brendan Smith will be healthy scratches for Detroit.

Game time is 7:00 on FSD and NBCSN.