Following a miserable 2019-20 campaign, the Detroit Red Wings are hopeful they can make several improvements to their squad over the next couple of months, which could help their young core take another positive step forward next season, however long it lasts.
With free agency opening next month, the Red Wings are expected to own the third-most cap space ($32.29 million) in the league, according to Sportrac.com. Considering there’ll be plenty of teams looking to shed some salary this offseason, it would make a ton of sense for general manager Steve Yzerman to capitalize on that situation and acquire additional draft picks for his club.
As it stands right now, Detroit is slated to have 10 different selections at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, including six of them in the first three rounds (fourth overall, 32nd overall, 45th overall, 56th overall, 63rd overall, and 65th overall). Since Yzerman and his staff need to hit on as many picks as they can, it’d be wise to acquire as many selections as possible to maximize their chances next month.
With that in mind, the Red Wings could look to assist the St. Louis Blues, who are in “cap hell” with just $5.9 million in cap space for next season. Based on that small amount, their front office will definitely be looking for a trading partner who could absorb an expensive contract, which would allow them to allocate their spending to retooling their blueline.
Considering Detroit’s roster is thin down the middle, it seems they’d be a good fit to acquire center Tyler Bozak, who carries a cap hit of $5 million and will become an unrestricted free agent after next season. Though his results have been steadily declining over the last few seasons, the 34-year old could actually help the team’s development process in many different ways in 2021.
Despite scoring just 13 goals and 29 points this past season, Bozak’s goal total still would’ve ranked him fifth on the Red Wings and he also would’ve recorded the fifth-most points on their team as well. Additionally, his 55.0 faceoff win percentage would’ve been the second-highest on their squad last season, with only Luke Glendening recording a higher percentage (56.1) among all qualified forwards.
Depending on how the rest of Detroit’s offseason plays out, the veteran center could be positioned on their second line in 2021, which would likely slide Valtteri Filppula down to the third line. As a result, the right-hander could serve as a great leader alongside teammates Robby Fabbri and possibly Filip Zadina if those two are promoted up to the team’s second line.
Even though Bozak’s assists per game numbers have dropped significantly since his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, down to 0.24 this past season from 0.40 in 2017-18, being slotted alongside two top young players could help him increase that metric next season and potentially provide the Red Wings with two strong lines. And if things don’t work out, then the team can easily let him walk out the door next summer and regroup in the offseason.
Along with the advantages that the Saskatchewan native would bring on the ice, Detroit would also be able to acquire a package of draft picks because they’d be taking on the entirety of his salary. With that in mind, Yzerman could potentially ask for St. Louis’ third and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft, while sending a 2021 fourth-round selection in return.
Sure, this asking price might seem a little high, especially since Bozak is only under contract for one more season. That said, the Blues are desperate to shed salary this fall and there’s a very good chance other teams would likely demand a higher pick to offset the veteran’s expensive price tag. So this might be the best offer general manager Doug Armstrong could receive.
While the 2019 Stanley Cup champion does own a 10-team no-trade list, and there’s a real possibility he could void this deal, becoming an important leader on a young team for just one season could pique his interest and might motivate him to come aboard.
Even if the Red Wings don’t acquire Bozak, they’re expected to be aggressive with contending teams that need cap relief and are willing to send a package of picks or prospects the other way. Considering so many organizations fit that description, Yzerman could have plenty of potential suitors lined up for salary dump trades over the next few months.