Red Wings Acquire Goalie Nedeljkovic From Carolina

The Detroit Red Wings acquired goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday in return for a third-round draft pick and the rights to pending unrestricted free agent goalie Jonathan Bernier.

The draft pick was Vegas’, acquired in the 2018 Tomas Tatar trade.

Nedelkjovic was a pending restricted free agent but, per his agent, immediately signed a two-year deal with Detroit carrying a $3 million salary cap hit.

The 25-year-old former Plymouth Whaler and Flint Firebird had a breakout season last year, putting up a .932 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average after taking over the crease when former Red Wing Petr Mrazek went down with an injury.

I love this move.  I think the Red Wings were going to pay around $3 million for a goalie to replace Bernier no matter what and giving up a third rounder makes it worth it to ensure that it’s someone who could be in Detroit for a long time going forward.  Nedeljkovic is immediately the Red Wings’ goalie of the future due to a complete lack of any prospects in the pipeline.

Post Trade Deadline Thoughts

I started mentally putting this post together just as today’s NHL trade deadline passed but held off on actually writing it for a little bit, knowing how trades often aren’t announced until well after the actual deadline.

That was somewhat fortuitous, given that the Red Wings’ biggest deadline deal wasn’t officially announced until 45 minutes post-deadline, when the team confirmed that Anthony Mantha had been traded to the Washington Capitals for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first-round pick this year, and a second-round pick next year.

As I said in my write-up of the deal, I can’t stand Panik.  I hope he’s made available in the expansion draft and, for some reason, the Kraken take him and his contract.  But I’m curious about Vrana in a top-line role with this team.  I also think the Wings’ rebuild probably won’t work with third and fourth round picks alone so getting the first and second from Washington is important.

Detroit’s previous deals were to send Jon Merrill to the Montreal Canadiens, Patrik Nemeth to the Colorado Avalanche, and to help facilitate the Columbus Blue Jackets’ trade of David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  These were all players on expiring contracts or just salary cap space and, while fourth and fifth rounders aren’t sexy (and, as I said, probably aren’t enough on their own to facilitate a rebuild), they’re essentially free picks and you take those every time.

It’s the deals that didn’t happen that bother me about this deadline, as they have with every deadline since the Red Wings became sellers.

For years we’ve been told to just wait for some of Detroit’s players to hit the final year of their contracts and we’d see them flipped at the deadline.  Mike Green, Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson.  Of them, only Green netted anything, and that was on his second expiring contract with Detroit after everyone passed the first time around due to him being injured.

This year was supposed to be the year for flipping vets for picks.  Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill, Patrik Nemeth, Marc Staal, Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Jonathan Bernier.  All on expiring deals.  But then, like Green before him, Ryan got hurt.  Like Howard, no market developed for Bernier.  Merrill and Nemeth were moved but no one called on the league’s leading faceoff man in Glendening, playoff performer Helm, or versatile veteran Gagner.

As I said in 2019, “I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.”  If there wasn’t a trade to be made, then there wasn’t a trade to be made, and that’s that.  But as I also said then, “I think that’s the part that’s depressing to me. Not that the Wings were sellers. Not that the team is in a rebuild. That they’re sellers with not much to sell, so they can’t get big pieces back for the rebuild.”

The Red Wings sold Mantha because he was the only piece anyone wanted, much like when they moved Tomas Tatar in 2018.  Both the Mantha and Tatar deals were good deals but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to look at the big picture and think it wasn’t enough.

Especially when, back in the final years of the Red Wings’ playoff streak, a Glendening or Helm or Gagner or Staal is exactly the kind of player then-GM Ken Holland would have paid a hefty price to acquire for a postseason push.  Is Staal really that different from Marek Zidlicky or Gagner that different from Erik Cole?  Squinting a little, are Glendening or Helm that far off from the David Legwand the Red Wings acquired (rather than the one he had been for years up to that point)?

Nine years ago, Paul freakin’ Gaustad fetched a first-rounder when he was sent from the Sabres to the Predators.  Now no one wants Glendening.  And you know what?  That’s smart.  Gaustad never was worth that much and Glendening isn’t, either.  But it’s hard to see buyers giving up that much when the Red Wings were buyers but now that the Wings are sellers, the market has changed.

Blame the flat cap, blame Detroit just not having good enough players to sell.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t make it easy to see.

Red Wings Trade Mantha to Capitals

As the NHL’s trade deadline came and went on Monday, it looked like the Red Wings had remained relatively quiet, until the late-breaking news that they had sent forward Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals, first reported by Kevin Weekes.

The “more” ended up being a first round draft pick in 2021 and a second round draft pick in 2022.

As I mentioned on Twitter, the longer the Wings went without moving some of their depth pieces, the more it was looking like the 2018 deadline, where Detroit had to sell Tomas Tatar just to get anything of value back.  And Mantha was primed to be this year’s Tatar, so this doesn’t come as a complete shock.

I’ll be honest, I can’t stand Richard Panik.  I pulled up CapFriendly to see how long he’s signed for and audibly sighed: Through 2023 with a $2.75 million salary cap hit.  My hope right now is that Seattle claims him in the expansion draft this summer but I’m not expecting it.

Jakub Vrana is a restricted free agent this summer.  He’s 25 so the Wings get a little younger there.  With 25 points, he immediately slots in as Detroit’s top scorer.

It’s clear that the picks are the big win for Detroit, though.

I’m not okay with how the rest of the deadline went, and I’ll write about that later, but this is a good deal for Detroit.

Pre-Deadline Thoughts

We’re about 16 hours away from the NHL trade deadline and the thought that keeps coming into my head is how disappointing it all is.

Traditional thinking about the trade deadline is that rebuilding teams will sell off their expiring veteran contracts in return for assets to help the rebuild.  This is nothing new.  In the coming hours, the Red Wings will attempt to do that.  It’s the NHL’s circle of life.

But while the names of Mike Green and Trevor Daley get thrown around as possible trade targets, the name generating perhaps the most buzz is Andreas Athanasiou.  I can’t help but think that it’s a sign of how dysfunctionally constructed this team is that, because their veterans have so little value, to fuel the rebuild the Red Wings must look at dealing a 25-year-old pending restricted free agent.

Trade deadlines haven’t gone exactly to plan since the Red Wings started their rebuild.

In 2017, the big trade piece out of Detroit was supposed to be Thomas Vanek, who ended up only fetching a third round pick and Dylan McIlrath when a market never developed.  Moving Vanek, Steve Ott, Brendan Smith, and Tomas Jurco cleared roster spots and got at least something in return for a handful of pending free agents, but there were no first-round picks or top prospects coming back.

In 2018 that was supposed to change as Green would be a pending free agent and, clearly, the former NHL All-Star would draw interest.  Instead, Green spent the deadline injured and then-GM Ken Holland was forced to deal Tomas Tatar.

Now, let me be clear, the return for Tatar was fantastic.  But it needed to be in moving a 27-year-old with three more years left on his deal.  And it didn’t negate the disappointment of being unable to move Green.

Last year Gustav Nyquist and Nick Jensen may have been on the younger side of players you’d expect to move out during a rebuild but they were both pending unrestricted free agents, so moving them made sense.  Again, though, no marquee piece came back.  And again, no market formed for other Red Wings veterans such as Jimmy Howard and Niklas Kronwall.

Finally, we come to this year, where the Red Wings have Green again available, as well as Daley.  Howard is again a pending unrestricted free agent, as is Jonathan Ericsson.  But no body seems to want any of them because their games have fallen off a cliff.  So, much like 2018, in order to escape this deadline having acquired anything of value for the rebuild, Athanasiou has to be made available.

Maybe Athanasiou brings back something like Tatar did.  I can’t see it happening, though.  What I don’t want to see is Athanasiou bringing back the third round pick that Vanek got (or even the second and third round picks that Nyquist got) and the Wings feeling forced to make that move simply because they have no other moves to make.

The feeling I’m getting right now, though, is that feeling of disappointment.  The feeling that there won’t be a market for any of the Wings’ players and they’ll have to settle a bad deal just to come out of the deadline with anything.

An(other) Alternate Rebuild

Over the holidays I ended up in several conversations with family members about the state of the Red Wings’ rebuild.

There was a lot of disbelief about how bad the Red Wings are (which shows me which of my family members don’t follow this site on Twitter).  The general assumption was that the team would have rebounded more quickly than they have.  When looking at rebuild timelines, I found myself comparing the Red Wings to the New York Rangers.

The difference between the teams is that the Rangers had assets to give up in trade when they started their rebuild.  They shipped out Ryan McDonaugh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay, Rick Nash to Boston, and Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg, among others.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, had to watch a market not develop for Jimmy Howard, and a market not develop for Thomas Vanek, and Mike Green get hurt in the lead up to the trade deadline.

Former Detroit GM Ken Holland deserves credit for some of his deals, certainly, but he was working from a disadvantage from the start, as the Red Wings haven’t had big pieces to sell for futures.

So start the rebuild earlier, right?  When the Red Wings actually had tradable assets?  I’ve looked at what the Red Wings’ rebuild might have looked like if they’d stopped buying at the deadline sooner, but what if they were actively selling?

Let’s call the lockout-shortened 2013 season the Red Wings’ last chance at a deep run, an overtime loss away from a spot in the conference finals.  As such, this rebuild doesn’t begin until the 2014 trade deadline.  Perhaps they not only choose not to acquire David Legwand but they decide to actively sell and start the rebuild.

Daniel Alfredsson has value at that point but he also had a no-move clause; I’ll assume he stays put.

Jonas Gustavsson could have some value as a pending free agent.  The goalie market is fickle and he has a modified no-trade clause.  It’s unlikely he’s bringing in a difference-making haul but there’s room for something there.

Kyle Quincey is a pending free agent in the summer of 2014, so there’s an interesting rental option.  Similarly, Jonathan Ericsson is on an expiring deal (though with a modified NTC).

I’ll assume Gustavsson, Quincey, and Ericsson all get traded, replaced by the earlier promotions of Petr Mrazek and Ryan Sproul and an Adam Almquist that stays in North America with a roster spot reserved for him.

Come February 2015, the Red Wings are out of contention but don’t have any obvious candidates to deal away.  Brendan Smith could be an option but I’m going to say he’s young enough for the Wings to keep and not good enough for a team to throw a great deal at Holland to pry him away.  It’s possible that Detroit signed a veteran defenseman instead of going with Sproul/Almquist and that this veteran could be flipped here but that’s going to be the case at every deadline.

In 2016 we’re looking at Darren Helm and Justin Abelkader being possible trade deadline departures.  We’re also getting into a series of years where the Red Wings should be looking to deal Howard and go with the younger Mrazek in goal.

So by the time we catch up with when Detroit’s rebuild actually happened, we’ve moved out Gustavsson, Quincey, Ericsson, Helm, Abdelkader, and Howard.  We might have also seen the Red Wings sign some veterans to one-year deals only to flip them at the deadline (which could be how this alternate Red Wings team still ends up with Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott in time for the 2017 deadline).  We also might have seen Sproul and Almquist (or anyone else who stepped up with more ice time available) flipped.

I can’t see them having moved Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, or Niklas Kronwall.

The problem is I also can’t see any of those deals having brought back large pieces for Detroit’s rebuild.

Quincey is two seasons removed from having fetched a first-round pick but hasn’t really proven that he was worth that investment.  Ericsson is comparable.  Neither Helm nor Abdelkader has dropped off quite as much as we’ve seen since then.  Possibilities are there, for certain.  But there’s no McDonaugh in that group.

That said, that doesn’t mean there would have been no benefit to starting the rebuild sooner.  While I lament the Red Wings’ lack of high-value draft picks, high quantity of draft picks is still a good thing.

Dropping out of contention sooner also makes the Red Wings’ draft picks from 2014 on better, perhaps with bouncing lottery balls being kinder as well.  The 2019 version of this team could be benefitting from those draft picks rather than a 2014 draft that has produced only Dylan Larkin and Christoffer Ehn.

Given that we know the Red Wings got nothing for Quincey and Gustavsson and will likely get little to nothing for Ericsson, Helm, and Abdelkader, it’s safe to say that starting the rebuild sooner would have allowed them to cash in on more pieces.  However, that doesn’t mean that the team would be back in contention by now.


A deeper comparison of the Red Wings and Rangers…

Detroit’s streak of making the playoffs ended in 2017, with their rebuild beginning six weeks earlier at the at the trade deadline.  The Rangers, meanwhile, notified their fanbase of their intent to rebuild via letter in February 2018, in advance of that season’s trade deadline.

Starting with the 2017 trade deadline, through the end of the 2018-29 season, Detroit turned nine roster players (Nick Jensen, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Steve Ott, Riley Sheahan, Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, and Thomas Vanek) and a draft pick (a 2018 fifth-rounder that became Justin Almeida) into two players (Madison Bowey and Dylan McIlrath) and 13 draft picks.

None of the players selected with those picks have made the NHL, so it’s far too early to tell how the trades turned out overall.  That said, I want to look at what the Red Wings traded for, not the specific players they used those picks on.  Using PDWhoa’s Consolidated Draft Pick Value, the thirteen picks come to a total value of 481.24 (excluding the two future draft picks that don’t have a value yet, as we don’t know their overall position in their respective drafts).

The pick that became Almeida carries a value of 19.36, giving Detroit an increase of 461.88 in draft pick value.

That number feels underwhelming to me.

The Rangers, on the other hand, acquired 480.29 in draft pick value.  That doesn’t seem like much difference but New York started their rebuild one year later, giving them two drafts worth of picks to work with instead of three.  They also added players such as Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden.

New York was also able to leverage the number of picks they’d acquired into deals for long-rumored Red Wings’ target Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox.

I’m not saying the Rangers’ rebuild is complete by any means.  They’re simply my example for how different a rebuild looks when a team has pieces to work with from the start.

Wings Send Tatar to Vegas, Keep Green as Trade Deadline Passes

The only move the Detroit Red Wings made on the NHL’s trade deadline day was to send forward Tomas Tatar to the Vegas Golden Knights for a trio of draft picks.

As much as I didn’t want to lose Tatar, that’s an impressive haul for him and it’ll help kickstart Detroit’s rebuild.  It was always rumored that one of he or Gustav Nyquist would be moved and Tatar probably had a higher value.

Unfortunately, none of the other rumors surrounding Detroit came to fruition.  Luke Glendening and Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser and Xavier Ouellet and – most importantly – Mike Green are all still Red Wings.

Glendening was always going to be a longshot.  Helm and DeKeyser as well.  Nyquist was probably going to stay if Tatar went so that’s not really a surprise, either.

Ouellet… It would have taken a team looking for just a little cheap depth, hoping a change of scenery helped.  I could have seen that happening but it’s not surprising that it didn’t.

Green, though, is difficult to swallow, even though I called it repeatedly.  He was supposed to be the Wings’ big trade piece and there was apparently absolutely no market for him.  Some of that is out of Detroit’s control, as why would Tampa want Green when they could get Ryan McDonagh.  It’s a bad look, though, when the good teams don’t even want your supposedly good players.

But that’s what makes the Tatar deal so much more important.  Tatar would have helped the Wings’ now.  He would have been fun to watch now.  But it’s clear that Detroit doesn’t have the assets to make big trades and doesn’t have the cap space to make big signings.  They need draft picks and they need to hit on those draft picks.

I don’t have a ton of faith in the organization to actually make good use of the picks, but they have to try.

On Draft Pick Quantity vs. Quality

After trading Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said something that triggered a gut reaction of concern in me.  I honestly don’t know if there are numbers to back up my worry, so I’m going to walk through it a bit.

“What’s driving me is I want us to be a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup. We’re competitive, but we’re not quite where we need to be in order to be where we want to be. I have to acquire draft picks and we need to hit on those draft picks.

“The more draft picks I can acquire, or young players through trades, is a better chance we’re going to wake up three or four or five years from now, or two years from now, and start to see young players coming on to the team and have an impact.”

That’s from the Detroit News but Winging it in Motown highlighted it this morning.  It also comes coupled with rumblings that the Red Wings may accept two second round picks for Mike Green rather than a first-rounder.

It’s well-known that the Red Wings haven’t had many high draft picks in the last several decades.  Trying to find a team that has consistently picked near the Wings in the draft even just going back to the big lockout in 2005 is impossible.  They’re in a relatively unique situation that has – to a large extent – led to their current downswing, as they haven’t been able to restock their talent pool with top prospects.

Knowing that – yet hearing Holland declare than the answer is to acquire more second, third, and fourth round draft picks – is triggering my spidey sense, so to speak.  If the team’s downfall is because they never pick at the top, how is the path to a rebuild through the second and third and fourth rounds?

Let me take a second to acknowledge that defining picks by round is somewhat lazy.  The 32nd overall pick and the 62nd overall pick this summer will both be second-rounders but they’re not really comparable.  As such, while I’m attempting to apply some logic to this, it’s entirely unscientific.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking back at Detroit’s recent drafts, trying to determine just how good the organization is at making use of picks outside of the first round.  I went back to the 2005 draft as the salary cap era is really when the Wings were no longer able to replenish their roster via free agency.

Detroit has had 95 draft picks in that time.  Thus far, 33 of them have played at least one NHL game.  Yes, that measure means there’s built-in bias against recent drafts, as those players haven’t had the chance to make their debuts.

Eliminate the first-rounders, since we’re talking about what the Wings can do if they don’t acquire extra picks in the opening round, and we’re down to 26 players.  We might as well drop the sixth- and seventh-rounders, too, since no one has claimed you rebuild with those.  That’s another four gone, so we’re at 22.

Of those, only 14 are still in the NHL, though that leaves out Dominic Turgeon, who got a call-up earlier this year and is now back with the Griffins, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and call it 15.

That means since 2005, the Red Wings have drafted 15 players who “made it” (by a generous definition of the term) in the NHL in the second through fifth rounds.  That list is as follows:

If you’re looking at a rebuild, are those the players you’re looking for?

The Red Wings’ draft record in the rounds where they’re targeting picks seems to show that they won’t be able to do what they’re trying to do.

Obviously not every draft is equal and, as I already mentioned, not every pick in the same round of the same draft is equal.  If the Wings grabbed another Tatar and Nyquist in the second round this summer – combined with a good pick in the first round – it’d be a successful draft.  But if adding all of these picks results in more Xavier Ouellets and Ryan Sprouls, it’ll just be a waste.

Frankly, I’d be a lot more comfortable if the asking price for Mike Green went back to being a first-rounder.


Update, 12:15 PM: Via Twitter, @RedWingRubbish pointed out that @ChartingHockey has statistically determined that, outside of the top 24 picks, quantity does indeed beat quality.

This made me take a second look at the first-rounders I dropped from my original list.

Player Year Overall
Jakub Kindl 2005 19
Dylan Larkin 2014 15
Anthony Mantha 2013 20
Tom McCollum 2008 30
Riley Sheahan 2010 21
Brendan Smith 2007 27
Evgeny Svechnikov 2015 19

If you should be able to reasonably expect a “hit” in the top-24, the Red Wings are still doing something wrong.

Kindl made it into 353 games but never really panned out.  Larkin and Mantha are the players the Red Wings are building around right now.  McCollum is a bust.  Sheahan seems to have maxed out as a third-line center.  Smith – somewhat like Kindl – has washed out of the NHL.  Svechnikov is still a question mark.

Seven first-round picks – five in the top 24 overall – and only two players that can reliably play in the top half of the lineup.  Will Svechnikov or Michael Rasmussen or Filip Hronek or Vili Saarijarvi join that list?  Perhaps.  So for the sake of discussion I’ll switch to the 2005 – 2014 date range.

That gives the Red Wings six first-round picks, four in the top 24, with a 50% “hit” rate.

Who are their hits through the other rounds?  Tatar.  Nyquist.  I think it’s safe to include Athanasiou.  Mrazek, too, despite his epic slump.

There are plenty of other useful players, guys like Abdelkader and Helm.  A team needs those guys.  But you can’t make a team of them, you need high-end talent to lead them.

Over a decade, the Red Wings managed to draft one starting goalie (assuming Mrazek has shaken that slump), no top-three defensemen, and five top-six forwards.  It’s worse if you don’t include Mrazek or Athanasiou.

So maybe it’s not about the Wings needing to get more first-round picks.  Maybe it’s that – contrary to the myth – the Red Wings just don’t draft very well.

I don’t want to dig in to compare them to other teams.  As I said originally, it’s near-impossible to find a team that picked near the Red Wings for that whole period to use as a comparison anyway.  Maybe San Jose?

If it’s that the Wings don’t draft well, and they’re putting everything they have into the draft, things could get ugly fast.

Thoughts Heading Into Free Agency

NHL free agency opens in about three hours and, while some signings seem certain thanks to the league’s interview period, some things are still up in the air.

The Red Wings are likely to sign veteran defenseman Trevor Daley.  Five years ago, I love this deal.  I still like Daley quite a bit.  I don’t think he makes Detroit a competitor, though, so I’m not sold on him taking a roster spot from Xavier Ouellet or Ryan Sproul.

In no particular order, that would give the Wings Daley, Ouellet, Sproul, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, and Danny DeKeyser on the blue line.  Eight guys who’d have to be waived to go to Grand Rapids, plus Robbie Russo, Dan Renouf, and Joe Hicketts waiting with the Griffins.  Quite the logjam.

The Wings are rumored to be interested in another defenseman or a forward but it looks like the cap hit for Daley – coupled with re-signing Ouellet and forwards Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou – takes them out of consideration there.  I would be completely against bringing in another defenseman but given the loss of Tomas Nosek via expansion, adding a center as a reclamation project wouldn’t be a horrible move.

I’d love to see the Wings take a flyer of Mikhail Grigorenko, who Craig Custance wrote about a couple days ago at The Athletic.  It would have to be on the cheap and it would have to be with the caveat that the Wings don’t try to turn Grigorenko into a grinder.

If you want a grinding center who can play on the fourth line, bring back Landon Ferraro.  Worst-case scenario, you can probably get him through waivers to Grand Rapids, as the Blues slid him through last year.

Red Wings Leave Mrazek Exposed for Expansion Draft

There were few surprises when the Red Wings’ expansion draft protection list was (eventually) released this morning, but the one that did come down was a big one, as the team opted to protect goalie Jimmy Howard rather than Petr Mrazek.

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

I’ve been ranting about this on Twitter all morning, so obviously I think this is the wrong move.  Let me touch on a couple other things first, though.

I half-expected Niklas Kronwall to be protected, even though his contract and injury history make him pretty much unclaimable, so seeing him available is good.  Similarly, the Red Wings could have left Andreas Athanasiou unprotected to protect Darren Helm but didn’t.  So there were some good choices here.

Let’s come back to the goalies, though.

Yesterday the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames made waves with the Coyotes sending veteran goalie Mike Smith to the Flames for a pick and a prospect.  At the time, I wondered how Ken Holland couldn’t have gotten a deal done to send Jimmy Howard to Calgary instead, as the Wings certainly could have asked for less, with the cleared cap space being the real acquisition for Detroit.  After all, Smith is two years older than Howard, signed for more money, and had worse stats than Howard last season.

One response was that Smith is seen as more durable than Howard.  While that’s possible, it’d be somewhat ridiculous, as Howard missed significant time last season but Smith missed half the year in 2015-16.

Another idea was that Calgary GM Brad Treliving specifically wanted Smith, as he was with the Coyotes when they signed him.  That’s always possible, but I find it hard to believe that familiarity was worth the higher price paid for Smith than the Wings would have to have asked for Howard.  Either Treliving did a disservice to the Flames by overpaying for a goalie or Ken Holland did a disservice to the Red Wings by not negotiating hard enough to trade Howard.

I’m also focusing on Howard here because we know the Flames traded for Smith and Howard is more like Smith than Mrazek is.  We have no idea what kind of deal it would have taken to move Mrazek to Calgary but we can guess what kind of deal would have gotten Howard there.

If Howard gets dealt yesterday, Mrazek gets protected today, and concerns about losing a goalie for nothing are gone.

I think it could have been avoided, but regardless the reason, the Red Wings hit yesterday’s deadline with two NHL goalies on their roster and could only protect one.

With that out of the way, some thoughts on protecting Howard over Mrazek…

There’s a lot of chatter that neither will be selected because there are better goalies available.  If that’s the case, I would think you try to slide Howard through because at 33 and with a $5.29 million cap hit and coming off an injury-filled season, it’s less likely that he gets claimed, just in case.

If there’s a deal in place to “guide” the Golden Knights towards picking a certain player, it doesn’t matter who you have unprotected.  That said, Ken Holland said he wasn’t going to do that.  Kenny has lied to us before, though.

Ignoring both of those, the reason to leave Mrazek unprotected is because you don’t care if you lose him.  For a team in the Red Wings’ position, that’s a mistake.  This team needs to get younger and cheaper, even if that means worse (which I think it arguable).  Shed bad contracts and look to the future.  You do that by protecting Mrazek, not Howard.

Protecting Howard over Mrazek feels like sacrificing youth for another playoff push.  It feels like the tie goes to the veteran.  It feels like the “Red Wings Way” that led to the end of the playoff streak and no long playoff runs in nearly a decade.

Looking at the 2017-18 Red Wings

With the trade deadline having passed, we can start to get a look at the contracts the Red Wings will likely carry into next season, and from that see what the team might look like.

The bad news: It’s a lot like this one.

The only unrestricted free agents in the Wings’ lineup right now are Drew Miller and Mitch Callahan.  Assuming they don’t return (or end up in GR, where Callahan was recalled from yesterday), Detroit’s roster is as follows:

Forwards
Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen
Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul

Goaltenders
Jared Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek

That’s 11 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies.  It’s a $67.7 million cap hit, not counting new contracts for restricted free agents Tomas Tatar and Xavier Ouellet.  It’s a pretty full roster.

So where does that leave the Red Wings as far as options for getting better?

With all of the picks they grabbed at the trade deadline, there’s the draft, but unless they manage to win the draft lottery I don’t think you can expect anyone Detroit selects this summer to be NHL-ready next fall.

The Wings could call up players from the Grand Rapids Griffins to rebuild from within.  Maybe they give Matt Lorito a chance or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That’s what a truly rebuilding team would probably do.

There are trades, which Ken Holland has spoken a little bit about over the last couple days.  That said, Holland’s plan late last summer was to trade the team’s forward depth for defensive talent and those deals weren’t there.  The market will be different this summer and the expansion draft may impact things as well but if the Wings’ history is any indicator, this path can’t be relied on.

Finally, there’s Detroit’s tried-and-true method: Free agency.  Go back to that list of players, though, and pick the one(s) you see being exiled from the lineup in favor of a newcomer.  Unless the Wings are willing to bench a player like Luke Glendening or Riley Sheahan, there’s only one spot on the roster for adding players.

As I said, there is the expansion draft to make things interesting.  If I’m Ken Holland, I hope for Vegas to claim Jimmy Howard, freeing up cap space and solving the goalie logjam.  That doesn’t open a spot anywhere that they’d want to sign a free agent, though.

Holland is going to have to get creative.  Maybe that means trading a player like Sheahan to the Golden Knights in return for them agreeing to claim Howard, which would given them cap space and an extra roster spot to add forward help.

Without that creativity, though, we’re already looking at next year’s lineup, and we know that’s not good enough.