With free agency slated to open next month, the Detroit Red Wings have their sights set on the future and will be looking to add complementary pieces to their young core. Searching for veteran players, could they bring back someone who has spent the last three seasons in Michigan?
After spending his first 11 seasons in Dallas, defenseman Trevor Daley split time between Chicago and Pittsburgh over his next two seasons, scoring 11 goals and 47 points during that span. Hitting the open market during the 2017 offseason, the former second-round pick signed a three-year, $9.5 million deal with Detroit and has served as a leader on and off the ice over the last three seasons.
Playing 77 games during his inaugural season, the left-hander averaged the second-highest time on ice (20:42), producing nine goals, 16 points (lowest total since 2012-13), 103 shots on net, 24 hits, 11 takeaways, and 125 blocks (tied for team-lead). Considering the Red Wings recorded the fourth-fewest goals for (217) in the league during the 2017-18 season, it wasn’t shocking to witness the two-time Stanley Cup champion struggle offensively.
Reaching new lows from 2018-2020, Daley has battled to stay healthy over the last two seasons, missing a combined 77 games since the 2018-2019 campaign. Despite his inability to stay on the ice, the veteran defenseman still found a way to generate decent numbers, creating two goals, 15 points, 84 shots on net, 23 hits, 15 takeaways, and 97 blocks over his last 87 games.
Considering Daley’s injury history and that he’s turning 37-years old next month, no one would blame general manager Steve Yzerman for parting ways with the 5-foot-11 blueliner and replacing him with someone slightly younger. But taking into account his leadership, especially his mentoring role with Filip Hronek, it might make sense to keep him around for one more season.
Regardless of what happens with the expanded playoff format next season, it’s probably safe to assume the Red Wings won’t be making the playoffs in 2021. Continuing to focus on development, keeping someone who’s familiar with the team’s top young defensemen would likely be a favorable decision over signing an external player to serve as the new leader.
While Daley’s time on the first defensive pairing is likely over, there’s a very good chance he could still produce quality results on the second or third pairing. Since Detroit owns a lot more right-handed shooting defensemen than left-handers, the Ontario native could fill that void for them if he’s able to stay healthy, which the long layoff should help him achieve.
So for argument’s sake, let’s say the Red Wings decide to re-sign Daley on a one-year deal. What would his salary be? Well, it definitely wouldn’t climb anywhere as high as his $3.16 million salary from this past season. While the team currently owns the third-most cap space in the league ($32.29 million), according to Sportrac.com, there’s no need to overpay for the former Penguin this time around.
Since defenseman Dan Hamhuis has also struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons, playing in 60 games or fewer since the 2018-19 campaign, and is only one year older, his $1.25 million salary from this past season would be a solid comparison. At that figure, the Red Wings would still have plenty of space to provide teammates Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi with new deals along with adding a few significant pieces as well.
Regardless of how the offseason shapes out, it would probably be wise for Detroit to at least explore the idea of bringing Daley back for another season. Even if he turns them down, and there’s certainly a chance that could happen, it seems like a worthwhile conversation to have before the free-agent frenzy period begins next month. But if he accepts and performs effectively, perhaps the Red Wings could trade him at the deadline for a decent return.