Looking to make several improvements over the offseason, the Detroit Red Wings certainly haven’t shied away from adjusting their roster over the past month and it appears the front office could be open to making another significant move before next season begins.
Following a miserable 2019-20 campaign, it’s clear general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff are exploring every option available to them in hopes of taking a positive step forward in 2021. While the team has already acquired players like Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal, Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher, and Jon Merrill, it appears they could consider adding to that group of offseason acquisitions in the near future.
Even though Yzerman has admitted the current state of the trade market is quiet, as the majority of teams across the league are still focused on free agency, it’s possible Detroit could utilize its remaining cap space for a potential salary dump trade that’d also earn them future draft compensation. Since they did exactly that back in September – acquiring Staal and a 2021 second-rounder from the New York Rangers – it’d make plenty of sense to replicate that type of transaction with an organization that desperately requires cap relief.
Considering the Red Wings are approximately $9.5 million (fifth-most cap space) below the $81.5 million salary cap, according to CapFriendly.com, they still have plenty of financial flexibility to acquire a lucrative contract before training camp opens this winter. With that in mind, it seems the front office could explore potential trades with the nine teams currently exceeding the salary cap (Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Vegas Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, and the Edmonton Oilers).
While Detroit doesn’t have many open spots remaining on its roster, they could benefit from adding a right-handed shooting defenseman who could skate alongside Staal on their third defensive pairing. Though defenseman Dan DeKeyser is currently slated to occupy that role, he shoots left and the veteran skater is also coming off season-ending back surgery. So it’d probably be wise to have some competition for that role during camp.
Searching for a right-handed blueliner, it appears the Coyotes could be a perfect trading partner for the Red Wings, as they’ll need to shed some salary before next season and could be tempted to move on from someone like defenseman Jason Demers to open up a spot for one of their top young blueliners. Since he owns a 2020-21 cap hit of just over $3.9 million and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, there’s a strong chance the 32-year old will likely be utilized as a cap-casualty this offseason.
Coming off his injury-riddled 2018-19 campaign – where a season-ending knee injury limited him to just 35 games – Demers was hampered by another knee injury this past season, which caused him to miss multiple weeks. That being said, the 6-foot-1 defenseman was still able to produce respectably when he was on the ice during his third season in the desert.
Over his 50 games in 2019-20, the former seventh-round pick averaged 20:30 minutes of ice time, producing 11 assists, 11 points, 0.22 points per game, 76 hits (most since 2016-17), 70 blocks, 53 shots on net, and 15 takeaways.
Making an impact during his team’s playoff run, the right-hander averaged 18:58 minutes of ice time, creating four assists, four points, 19 blocks, 18 hits, seven shots on net, along with five takeaways through nine postseason contests.
While Demers clearly isn’t the same player who recorded five goals, 25 points, 118 hits, and 85 blocks during the 2014-15 campaign, the defensive-first blueliner can still serve as a quality bottom-four defenseman and could help provide some more veteran leadership to Detroit’s defensive corps. In addition, the Quebec native could also improve the team’s penalty-killing unit, as they generated the lowest success rate (74.3%) in the league this past season.
Since Arizona owns all seven of its 2022 draft selections, it’s reasonable to think Yzerman could receive a fourth or a fifth-round pick along with Demers in exchange for taking on all of his salary and sending either a seventh-rounder or future considerations the other way. As a result, the Red Wings would strengthen their depth on the backend while also further adding to their impressive number of future draft picks at the same time.
Regardless of how Detroit fills out the rest of its roster, there’s no question the overall product on the ice will be significantly improved from the 2019-20 campaign, which should help them avoid finishing dead last in the standings for the second consecutive season.