While Red Wings fans went into the night in anger and frustration — contemplating the team’s immediate outlook after falling to the New York Rangers in a 5-1 decision, and dropping eleven of the past twelve games — Steve Yzerman was awake, working the phones, wheeling and dealing.
There has been no shortage of trade activity from Yzerman as of late, having made moves for Adam Erne, Alex Biega, and more recently Brendan Perlini, which really made Yzerman’s vision for rebuilding a much clearer one.
The Detroit general manager’s latest move came late Wednesday night, following the defeat at Madison Square Garden: The Red Wings have acquired forward Robby Fabbri from the St. Louis Blues, in exchange for center Jacob de la Rose. A straight up one-for-one trade, a theme in all of Yzerman’s transactions.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 7, 2019
For as simple as the deal looks on paper, there is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with what Detroit gave up:
De la Rose, 24, was picked up on waivers last year by former GM Ken Holland, following a four year tenure with the Montreal Canadiens. In Detroit, the Swedish pivot served as a bottom-6 center who killed penalties. The upside he brought, considering his relatively young age, was never really the selling point of his arrival to the organization. Rather, he was asked to fill a hole in the lineup and act as a stopgap. He did a pretty decent job at it, especially considering Detroit got him for absolutely nothing.
Ultimately, though, a bottom-6 stop gap is the ceiling to his game. Scheduled to hit restricted free agency this upcoming offseason, de la Rose was never going to last long here. And as Detroit’s lost season continues to get worse and worse, his purpose here was becoming moot. The team may struggle even more for the remainder of the season, but at this point, that doesn’t really matter.
Coming back the other way is Fabbri, 23, who was once thought to be a cornerstone piece of the Blues. As a 20-year-old rookie he amassed 18 goals in just 72 games, quite impressive. The next year he potted 11 goals in 51 games, a slight step back on a goal-per-game basis.
The future looked bright for the 2014 first rounder.
Alas, injuries have plagued the last few years of Fabbri’s career. A torn ACL wiped out his entire 2017-18 season. Another knee injury sidelined him for most of 2018-19. The downfall of Fabbri is truly a heartbreaking story, seeing how he was an emerging star not too long ago. He’s no longer the player he once was — scoring just 1 goal through 9 games this season.
That’s not to say he can’t rediscover parts of his game. The talent didn’t go anywhere, after all. From Detroit’s perspective, they got a potential dynamic winger who can score for a player who didn’t have much of a future here to begin with it. I don’t really see an outcome where the Red Wings regret this experiment, even if it ends up failing.
But on a pessimistic note, I’m very hesitant to call this a steal — far from it, actually — as some have proclaimed it to be. Fabbri still has a ways to go to find his former scoring touch, and Detroit isn’t exactly scoring at will right now.
Taking the trade for what it is, the deal certainly makes sense. But start to think circumstantially and questions do arise. Detroit’s biggest hole this season, specifically, is the second line center spot. Valtteri Fillpula is simply a mediocre option and the lack of depth is restricting most of the lineup. For as talented as Brendan Perlini is, who is almost the same player as Fabbri in terms of situation coming in, he hasn’t been able to do much with the centers at his disposal.
That is really where this trade gets confusing. Despite the trades being a win at surface level, Detroit is really just adding more of the same — wingers with some upside looking for a change of scenery (as pending RFAs). Nothing is being done to address the center issue, unless the plan is to try Fabbri down the middle, which isn’t exactly ideal. Fabbri is capable of playing center, however, he has mainly played on the wing for the Blues.
Two years ago if you told me Jacob de la Rose would fetch Robby Fabbri, well, you’d have been nothing short of insane in my eyes. And yet, here we are.
Grade wise this trade is a C+ or B, in reality, for Detroit. They get a reclamation project for a depth center, which obviously is the correct way to go about business in a rebuild. But with the obstacles Fabbri faces (both in terms of health and the roster), this isn’t the best environment for him to regain the level of play he was once at. Combined with the roster clutter now formed on wing, which, in all honesty, seems a bit directionless. If he works out at center, I’ll have to rethink this grade, but, for now, we’ll have to wait and see.
Would I have made the trade myself? Yes. Would I have done it in correspondence with all the previous moves? Well, I certainly would have done it in a much more organized fashion.