With the turn of the calendar year comes the second half of the NHL season and with the second half of the NHL season comes the race for a playoff spot. Teams who are in position to do so, will soon start to tweak their lineup for a playoff run. Which means…
It’s trade season, baby!
For teams like the Red Wings, who won’t even sniff the playoffs, it means they can work the phones and dangle their pending unrestricted free agents in front of the hungry fish looking to cook a meal worthy of a Stanley Cup.
And is it ever a seller’s market this year.
This week, Craig Custance of The Athletic released his primer for this year’s trade deadline. He lists 20 players who could be moved before the February 25th deadline and what the asking price could be. I really urge you to read the whole piece as it’s very interesting, but below is a recap of the four Red Wings who made the list.
Status: Red Wings haven’t ruled out an extension, but he wouldn’t cost a lot on the trade market.
Analysis: With all of the injuries on the blue line, Nick Jensen has been on full display in Detroit, playing up to 28 minutes in a December game. When the blue line is healthy, though, it’s crowded. With Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek looking like they belong in the NHL, the Wings are going to have to make some chances to their D-corps. They could easily fetch a 3rd round pick for Jensen at the deadline and they should take it.
Status: Has not yet been approached about waiving his NTC.
Analysis: Gustav Nyquist is easily Detroit’s most valuable pending UFA, but, as Custance points out, there plenty of other wingers on the market that could go first. Nyquist is having a really good season on a bad team, which may inflate his value, but I wouldn’t expect him to yield the same return that Tomas Tatar got last year. It would probably take a decent prospect and a 2nd round pick to get a deal done, but they need to approach him about that NTC first!
Status: Asking price is a 1st round pick, likely to re-sign in Detroit
Analysis: The only way that Jimmy Howard gets moved is if a playoff team’s starter goes down with a long-term injury. It’s not out of the question, but it’s not something you hang your hat on. I would expect Howard to stay put at the trade deadline and into the next 2-3 years. The next batch of goalies are still a few years away and Howard can help bridge that gap.
Status: Currently injured, could be worth a 2nd round pick and a decent prospect (per Custance).
Analysis: Trevor Daley’s name was the surprise one on Custance’s list and his value was even more surprising. Daley has always been vaguely mentioned in trade talks because of his low cap hit and veteran experience, but I’ve never seen his asking price being set so high. If the Wings get offered a 2nd round pick and decent prospect for Daley, they should take it immediately, even if it involves retaining some salary.
There are some smaller players in the Red Wings system who I think could be moved either for a later round draft pick or to sweeten a deal for one of the above. Note that these players were not named in Custance’s piece on The Athletic, but are my own speculation.
Joe Hicketts: Hicketts has seen some NHL time and has looked like he could be a capable bottom-pairing defenseman. The problem in Detroit is that the Wings have many of those types of defensemen. Already he’s been passed by Hronek in the depth chart and there’s some good talent coming up behind him. Though it’s unlikely, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hicketts was moved for next to nothing if only to give him a shot somewhere else.
Dominic Turgeon: Basically my Hicketts reasoning, but for a fourth line center. Turgeon has had some injury issues, but he’s playing consistently now and has proven that he can fill in a fourth line role on an NHL roster. With all of the depth contracts the Red Wings have on the books, Turgeon might have a better shot at the show elsewhere.
Martin Frk: Frk is a fringe NHL player at best. His shot has use on the power play and he’s proven that he can grind it out against the boards, but he can’t win a permanent roster spot over some of the other depth players. With his contract up at the end of this year, it’s hard to see a situation where Detroit re-signs him. I could see him used to sweeten the pot in a bigger deal to a team that needs help on the power play.
Andreas Athanasiou: Athanasiou’s name has been floated in trade rumors before. He’s having a career year so far, which makes Detroit less likely to move him, but the team is still in dire need of a top-pairing defenseman. Should one become available (i.e. Dougie Hamilton), Athanasiou is one of the more appealing and expendable players in the Red Wings top-6.
There’s always a lot of hype around the trade deadline, and yet, little seems to happen. The Red Wings are in an interesting spot in their rebuild in that they are almost ready to start accelerating it. That can start at the trade deadline. It’s all a matter of how bold team management is willing to be.
Will they swing for the fences or go slow and steady? We’ll find out by February 3rd.