The All-Star break is behind us and it is time to turn our attention to the next red circle on the calendar: The Trade Deadline.
The Red Wings’ playoff streak is in serious jeopardy, which should make them sellers at the deadline for the first time in over two decades. The Red Wings have some quality pieces that other teams covet and over the next week the Wings Nation team is going to break down players that could be on the move. Let’s start with the most obvious, Thomas Vanek.
Vanek is a 33-year-old winger that is on-pace to have his best season since 2011-12. Vanek is a two-time 40-goal scorer and has resurrected his career after some down seasons in 2014 with the Canadiens and Islanders and 2015-16 with Minnesota. Vanek was healthy scratched a number of times last season before being bought out by the Wild on July 24th. The Red Wings gave him a shot on a low-risk one-year deal and it has been one of the lone bright spots this season, but it doesn’t look like it will lead to extending the playoff streak.
Vanek has missed 12 games with a hip and lower-body injury, but leads the Red Wings in points per game (.838), assists per game (.514) and is tied with Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou for the team-lead in goals per game (.324).
Vanek has carries a 50.75 CorsiFor% (per Puckalyitcs) on a team that has struggled in that area all season long—it equates to a +3.15 CF% relative to the Red Wings, which is third among forwards (behind only Mantha and Frans Nielsen).
One area where Vanek excels is his passing. The veteran winger has dazzled Red Wings fans with silky feeds all-year, like this no-look feed to set-up Athanasiou a few weeks ago:
Vanek is comfortable in a top-6 offensive role and should be highly sought after as we approach the February 28th trade deadline.
The Red Wings signed Vanek to a one-year deal worth $2.6 million (per NHLNumbers) last July, so he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The one-year deal worked as two things for Detroit. Either a “prove it to me” contract if the Red Wings remained a playoff team or a “trade him for an asset” deal, which is what it’s going to end up being. His contract is very digestible for contenders to add to their payroll which means there should be plenty of suitors, thus driving up his trade value.
Vanek has said multiple times that he “likes Detroit,” making it entirely possible that he could be traded at the deadline and re-sign again this summer, but that’s been said before and rarely actually ends up happening. Money talks.
Vanek’s resurgence has been great for Detroit, because even without any team success, his trade value has skyrocketed, especially over the last month and a half. Vanek has seven goals and nine assists (16 points) in 17 games since December 17th, which is tied for 35th in the NHL over that span.
His near point-per-game scoring pace is something that any playoff hopeful would like to add. A couple of teams that come to mind when thinking about potential trade partners for Detroit are the Blue Jackets, Senators and Islanders in the Eastern Conference and the Blackhawks, Predators and Kings in the West.
The Red Wings should be looking to get a First Round pick back for Vanek. It’s entirely possible that the Red Wings could have a top-5 pick and another pick in the top-25, which would be a good start to this “rebuild” idea we are all trying to get used to. Vanek should be one of the biggest fish on the market and a strong start to February could go a long way for both Vanek and the Red Wings’ future.