Sundqvist and Walman are no-downside bets for the Red Wings
Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
By Mike Gould1 year ago
When the Detroit Red Wings traded @Nick Leddy to the St. Louis Blues on deadline day, they didn’t just recoup a valuable draft pick.
The Red Wings originally parted with a 2021 second-round selection to acquire Leddy from the New York Islanders last summer. On Monday, the Blues sent Detroit a 2023 pick in the same round in exchange for Leddy’s services.
The only other component included in the original Leddy trade was @Richard Panik, a mildly expensive depth forward who the Red Wings dealt to the Islanders in a cap-clearing maneuver. The Wings also retained half of Panik’s $2.75 million cap hit for the final two years of his contract.
When Detroit added Leddy last July, they gave up a second-round pick but were able to get 50% of Panik’s salary for two seasons off the books. This time around, they got that pick back — and they also added two very intriguing players.
@Oskar Sundqvist won the Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019. He played a key depth role on that championship team, picking up four goals and nine points in 25 playoff games while centering a line with @Ivan Barbashev and Alex Steen.
During the 2018–19 regular season, Sundqvist tied with Barbashev for fifth on the Blues with 14 goals in 74 games. He also finished with a career-high 31 points.
Since then, Sundqvist has seen his production consistently decline and also suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the 2020–21 season. In his return to action with the Blues this year, Sundqvist recorded just four goals and 15 points in 41 games.
Sundqvist may not be the player he once was. He was the only Blues regular to post an on-ice expected goals percentage below 40% at five-on-five this season (according to Evolving-Hockey). With Sundqvist on the ice, the Blues generated very few scoring chances and gave up a ton.
That being said, Sundqvist had also seemingly lost his spot in the Blues’ lineup. He no longer received any power-play time, his even-strength deployment was down, and his scoring output may have suffered for it.
With Detroit, Sundqvist will receive a fresh start. He has this year and next remaining on his $2.75 million-AAV contract and can look no further than 2019 Blues teammate @Robby Fabbri to see how players can thrive in Detroit when given the opportunity to challenge for bigger roles.
Sundqvist picked up a goal and an assist in his first game with the Red Wings (a 6–3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday). @Jake Walman also made his Red Wings debut in that contest and logged more than 17 minutes of ice-time.
Walman turned 26 in February. He’s a 6’2″, 215-lb. left-handed defenseman who should slide right into Leddy’s vacated spot on the left side for (at least) the rest of the 2021–22 season.
Signed through the end of this year at a $725,000 cap hit, Walman’s free agency status is still to be determined. If he appears in at least 16 of the Red Wings’ final 19 games, he’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights; however, if he doesn’t meet that GP threshold, he’ll become a Group 6 UFA eligible to sign with any other team.
It would likely be in the Red Wings’ best interests to ride Walman hard down the stretch and ensure he plays enough games to become an RFA. The 2014 third-round draft pick quietly became a solid bottom-pairing defenseman in his final year with the Blues and should get an opportunity to potentially become more in Detroit.
Whereas Sundqvist’s on-ice five-on-five expected goals percentage in 2021–22 ranked last among Blues regulars, Walman’s results in that category were the second-best on the team (behind only depth forward @Dakota Joshua).
The Blues barely conceded any chances during Walman’s shifts this season, although it’s entirely possible that’s also due to the lesser quality of the competition he faced. He’ll get a chance to prove himself against more dangerous players as part of a thinner Red Wings defensive group.
The Red Wings desperately need strong left-handed defenders. For much of the season, they’ve relied on the likes of Leddy, Danny DeKeyser, and Marc Staal to pull more weight than they probably should at this point in their respective careers.
In Walman and @Olli Juolevi, the Red Wings now have two untested but NHL-ready left-shot defensemen who can continue to challenge for regular spots down the stretch. By the time Simon Edvinsson arrives in Detroit, it’s entirely possible one (or even both) of Walman and Juolevi could be a regular in a supporting role.
Leddy was never going to be in Detroit beyond this season. He was purely a rental player, acquired with the intent of mentoring the younger players in this group before being moved to recoup assets.
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman got those assets, alright. In addition to the pick, he added one player looking to bounce back from recent struggles and another looking to prove himself. Any rebuilding team can use players like those.
All told, the Nick Leddy saga in Detroit ended positively for basically everyone involved. Even after an underwhelming tenure in Detroit, Leddy was given another chance to shoot for a Stanley Cup; on the other end of the deal, the Red Wings added three pieces they can use to become a better team going forward.
That’s the definition of a “win-win” proposition.
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