The city was feeling it. The first real game in Hockeytown had been circled on everyone’s calendar for months. An eventful day that started with a red carpet, concluded with hats flying and cheers of “South Detroit” roaring throughout Little Caesars Arena. The Red Wings had just picked up their second win of the season against the Dallas Stars, lead by a remarkable four goal performance by Anthony Mantha.
The rest of the night was the scene of fanatic celebration. Red Wings fans had nothing else on their minds to think about after such a thrilling home opener.
But suddenly, out of pretty much no where, Steve Yzerman threw us a curve ball, with the team announcing a trade late Sunday night. The blockbuster deal: Prospect David Pope to Vancouver for veteran defensemen Alex Biega. I hope you were sitting down for that one.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 7, 2019
The timing was pretty wacky, catching many off guard. And while this deal does appear to be a rather forgettable one, there are some dots to connect here.
Vancouver decided to depart from the fan favorite due to a roster jam. The trade essentially acts as a thank you, seeing as he just didn’t fit into their depth chart anymore.
Biega, 31, Played in 41 NHL games for the Canucks last season, posting 2 goals and 16 points. He’s been described as a fine number 7 defensemen, who can sub in when needed. Off the ice, Biega is highly regarded as a truly genuine person, and just an all around great guy. The type of guy you bring in to emphasize your culture. An added bonus: He can also play wing, apparently.
Steve Yzerman jumped on the opportunity to bring in Biega for the mere price of David Pope, a 25 year old prospect who is most likely a career AHLer. The Wings own roster clutter on defense will clear up over the course of the season, with injuries and trades expected. So bringing in his services doesn’t impact the logjam too much.
Really, Biega is just the designated press box guy. Another Brian Lashoff-type, if you will. Someone who is serviceable in the NHL when called upon, but can also bounce around between Detroit and Grand Rapids.
He’s already up with the NHL team, stepping in as an extra for the injured Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson. In this situation, the additional body is more valuable then the youth. Despite rebuilding, the age factor doesn’t really matter if you can’t develop said youth in to an NHL player.
Now you may be asking, why not just claim him off waivers?
It basically comes down to flexibility. If Detroit claimed Biega off waivers, they would have been forced to waive a player of their own the same day, in order to keep the roster compliant with league standards. Also, Detroit would have to keep Biega on the NHL roster for 30 days before sending him down, had they claimed him off waivers.
Biega may not be any sort of needle mover, but to bring in someone of his caliber straight up for an AHLer is a clear win. In this league, any sort of victory, big or small, can’t be overlooked.