As the season starts to fall apart around the Detroit Red Wings with their historic quarter-century playoff streak more than likely coming to an end, the focus now must be to rebuild to create new memories that can be celebrated as much as the old ones have been for the longest time. The team has plenty of assets to dangle between now and March 1st, plus the pre-deadline trades have set the market to the team’s favor (Hello Martin Hanzal, Ron Hainsey, and Patrick Eaves). Already trading Tomas Jurco for a third round pick in this year’s draft on Friday, it seems Ken Holland is making preparations for more moves, and the opportunity is there for him to run this deadline and haul in goodies along with improving draft positioning.
That said, here is Last Word on Red Wings’ trade deadline primer, featuring contributions from writers Nick Seguin and Trevor Toczydlowski.
Detroit Red Wings Trade Deadline Primer
As Good as Gone:
Thomas Vanek (Griffin)
When the Wings signed Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million contract, they hoped the 33-year old winger would be motivated to regain his name in the NHL after getting bought out of the last year of his deal with Minnesota. He came off the first season in his career that he didn’t score 20 goals (18), and he tied his career low in points with 41. For a man that was getting paid $6.5 million per season, the Wild were not enamoured with the 300-goal scorer’s production. Enter Detroit with the “show-me” contract, and the rest is history. His 15 goals through 47 contests top the team and his 38 points rank second to Henrik Zetterberg’s 46, with Vanek playing 13 less games.
Though the Vienna, Austria native has scored 25+ goals eight times in his career, a prime aspect of his game that goes overlooked is his playmaking ability and sense, both the best on the team. Whether it’s fighting for loose pucks in the corner, spotting an open forward, or a simple spin off his man to beat out an icing, its been a pleasure to watch him don the Winged Wheel. On the worst power play in the game, he has five goals and 11 points. In terms of expected goals for when he’s on the ice, his 3.03 mark ranks 23rd among all forwards minimum 410 minutes and tops Detroit as the only one above three. He is a defensive liability, as an his fenwick-against per 60 minutes is worst on the team at 45.51, but he more than makes up for it with his offensive creativity.
What He’s Worth:
First round pick or second round pick plus mid-level prospect
Nashville Predators, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks
Brendan Smith (Griffin)
Smith, the noted Corsi-god, despite talks of Detroit trying to get him re-signed will find a new home come 3 p.m. Wednesday. A pending unrestricted free agent with a $2.75 million cap hit, the now-28-year old blueliner has failed to take the next step in Detroit and the raw numbers show it. Still without a season with more than five goals and 20 points, he’s put up just two markers and five points through 33 contests in 2016-17. In his defense, Smith has had to fight through a nagging knee injury that kept him out for a month at the start of January. However, he has not panned out like the Red Wings hoped he would when they took him 27th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. However, he can be serviceable to a playoff contender due to what was alluded to earlier, his possession game.
The former Wisconsin Badger has been underappreciated in Detroit for the way he zings the puck up ice and joins the rush. Among Detroit defensemen, he ranked third in Corsi-for per 60 minutes (52.09), fourth in fenwick-for per 60 (39.07), and second in shots-for per 60 (29.71). Sure, he’ll make the occasional bone-headed giveaway in his own end or pinch at inopportune times, but he’s one of the few Detroit Red Wings that possess this ability to get the puck to forwards starting the transition game. In his last 13 games, he seems to be regaining his form, posting an overall 55.07% Corsi-for percentage, an 11% increase from his first 20 games. With other established defensemen around him, Smith has the potential to be a poor man’s Justin Schultz at this deadline, and anyone looking for offensive insurance from the back end could wind up with a nice depth piece.
What He’s Worth:
Second round pick
New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames
Entertain the Thought:
Mike Green (Nick)
Green came to the Red Wings as a free agent last season. He inked a three year, $18 million deal to bring some scoring to the Red Wings goal-starved blueline. Bring scoring he did! Since he joined the team, Green has scored a total of 17 goals and 61 points. This is best among team defensemen and top-5 on the team. This season, Green has put up 10 goals and 26 points. Unfortunately, the Red Wings haven’t been able to get their powerplay going the last couple of years, but Green is a solid candidate to quarterback a powerplay for a team that has one that actually works.
At 31-years-old, Green has plenty of gas left in the tank and the $6 million dollar cap hit is actually pretty affordable. The Red Wings could get a good return on him if they decide to totally sell. That being said, shipping Green out of town means the Wings lose their most offensively gifted defenseman and a veteran in the locker room. It’s unlikely to happen this season, but maybe next year when he’s a pending unrestricted free agent, they can sell him as a rental.
What He’s Worth:
A proven NHL-ready forward and a first/second round draft pick.
Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers
Tomas Tatar (Trevor)
Tatar came into the league as a full time member of the Red Wings in during the 2013-2014 season along with other trade candidate Gustav Nyquist. As part of the “Kid Line” with Nyquist and Riley Sheahan, Tatar put up 19 goals and 20 assists in 73 games donning the winged wheel. He then followed it up with a career high 29 goals and 56 points in 2014-2015, and was decently productive in a playoff series loss in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. His numbers again were strong during last season, although his goals did drop to 21 and points down to 45. Apart from his four point performance in the 2014-15 playoffs, Tatar has been completely quiet in the other 10 playoff games totaling just three points and 12 penalty minutes.
Although it feels like he has had a sub-par season, which to an extent he has, much of that is due to the struggles of the team as a whole, not just Tatar. He is tied for second on the team with 14 goals, and is fifth in total points, just one behind Nyquist. His advanced stats back this up. He is 4th on the team in both Corsi for and Fenwick for percentages with 51.2% and 50.4% respectively. His PDO, which accounts for combined save and shooting percentage while a player in on the ice ranks ranks in the bottom third of the team. The Ilava, Slovakia native is still young having just turned 26 in December, and only made $2.75 million this season. He is a pending restricted free agent, so a team will have to invest in him if they want additional scoring for their respective playoff run.
What He’s Worth:
Top-9 forward & mid round pick, or 2nd round pick and mid-level prospect
Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens
Gustav Nyquist (Griffin)
The “Goose” is currently in the cage serving his six-game suspension with two contests remaining until he’s freed. That should not deter the Red Wings from at least gauging interest in the now-27-year old forward given the set market. Though he has not been the same player from 2013-15 when he had back-to-back 27+ goal seasons topping out at 54 points in ‘14-15, he would fetch a more than decent return for his role as a scorer.
His raw numbers may not sound appealing, scoring seven goals and 29 points in 56 games, on pace for a career low in both categories. However, his extremely consistent possession numbers show it’s not for a lack of trying. He currently ranks third on the team in terms of shots for per 60 (31.19), fourth in Fenwick-for per 60 (42.27), and third in Corsi-for per 60 (55.16). He is not a game-breaker, as revealed in the last two seasons, and needs one to get him the puck to increase his offensive output.
Nyquist does carry a $4.75 million cap hit for the next three seasons, so the Wings will more than likely have to retain some salary if they choose to move him. Once looked at as a future leader of the team, the Halmstad native is entering his second straight season of decline where at one point he went on an absolutely miserable stretch of scoring one goal in 35 games already this season, and he’s in the middle of an 11-game drought right now. He’s been known to be a power play sniper in the right system, scoring 14 goals in 2014-15 on the man advantage. Being on the worst unit in the league has done him no favors, as that column has shrunk to one. Even though it is a weaker draft this season according to pundits with first rounders and second rounders getting tossed around like Cory Emmerton to and from Grand Rapids, the Wings should see what teams would be willing to part with, especially on the back end for a guy that almost touched 30 goals just two seasons ago.
What He’s Worth:
First round pick and mid-level prospect
Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens
Dylan Larkin (Nick)
Larkin exploded into the league last year as a nineteen year old rookie. Taken 15th overall at the NHL Entry Draft in 2014, Larkin was the highest Red Wings draft pick since 1991. He immediately made an impact on the ice, scoring in his first game and leading the Red Wings in goals and points by the All-Star Break. He finished the season leading the team with 23 goals. His 45 points were good for third on the roster, behind Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. He was also the Red Wings representative at the All-Star game where he broke the twenty year old fastest skater record.
Once the rest of the league figured out how to defend against Larkin, his offense cooled off, and has he has just 19 points with 12 goals this season. He’s also struggling in the transition from wing to center where he was scheduled to play to take minutes off of Zetterberg (that has’t panned out). Larkin is only twenty years old and he still has a lot to work on. The Red Wings recognize this and have firmly planted Larkin on their untouchables list.
Anthony Mantha (Griffin)
He’s a sure building block. Next…Just kidding, Mantha needs his due. Called “a spare part” by General Manager Ken Holland at the end of last season when he was sent to Grand Rapids, the 22-year old product of the QMJHL Val d’Or Foreurs has been one of the more impactful Detroit forwards this season. His 13 goals and 31 points rank second and third on the team respectively, doing it as high as 15 less games than other players.
His impact on linemate Henrik Zetterberg has been tremendous as the two have formed impressive chemistry as consistent duo since Mantha’s call-up. In the first 15 games of the year, Zetterberg posted a 46.97% Corsi-for percentage. Since Mantha’s call-up, he’s coming in at a 52% mark, with Mantha himself leading all Detroiters with a 54.12% mark minimum 35 games played. Both players are one-two in Red Wing scoring since November 12th with Zetterberg netting 36 and Mantha 31.
Though Mantha is starting to get figured out lately scoring two goals in his last 20 games, it has been encouraging to see him get acclimated to the League this season and he will only adapt with age. At 6’5”, 221 pounds, his body and shot that was utilized for 57 goals in 57 games with the Foreurs are of course strong suits, but what really has surprised many is his sneaky quick skating ability that has allowed him to be sprung for breakaways and used the outside to uncork a wrister top shelf. The Longueuil, Quebec native just needs time to mature as other areas of his game start to come to the fore, especially the as a net front presence on the man advantage. He’ll be scoring more than one power play goal (his total so far this year) per season with his skill set.
Andreas Athanasiou (Trevor)
There are numerous examples of the energy and charge that AA brings to fans and teammates alike (see Dallas, Feb. 29, 2016, and Pittsburgh, Jan. 14, 2017.) Jeff Blashill acknowledged that Athanasiou has tremendous offensive talent, but didn’t feel like he brought 100% of his effort to both sides of the puck. That resulted in a healthy scratch for AA in mid January. He responded to the benching by putting up six points in the following three contests and he has been a staple in the lineup ever since. He still doesn’t get the amount of playing time that he deserves as he ranks third-lowest in time on ice among players with at least 35 games played. Only Drew Miller and Steve Ott play less, and by default that means Riley Sheahan, who hasn’t scored a goal all season plays more than a player tied for second on the team in goals with 14.
Athanasiou has been much improved since he was scratched, and has been proving that he has what it takes to be a productive second line winger in the NHL to this point. Although Larkin has been figured out fairly well by teams around the league, AA has speed that cannot be planned for until one has to defend it in person. If he gets the puck with a few strides behind him, his excellent hands will make sure the puck ends up in the back of the net more often then not.
Steve Ott (Griffin)
Well, it is quite surprising that Ott is in a position to be marketed via a trade deadline piece with reported interest in his services, but here we go. Though Ott has six goals in his last 164 games and he is a downright awful possession player coming it a 44.8% Corsi-for percentage, he’s the heart argument in a nutshell. He’s managed to stay in the league for over 800 games, including 55 playoff games where he’s been to two Conference Finals. The $800,000 cap hit is livable, and he was used as a penalty killer. Buyer beware, he’s currently ranked 21st-worst among forwards who have played at least 50 minutes on the penalty kill in terms of Fenwick-against (78.06). He’ll do all the old school intangibles your team can handle, though. A comparable trade would be the Vernon Fiddler deal, which notched the Dallas Stars a fourth round pick. He’s scored one less goal than Ott this season.
What He’s Worth:
Fourth-sixth round pick
Riley Sheahan (Griffin)
Garnering interest from three-to-four teams, especially the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sheahan if he is traded will be a reclamation project for the team that acquires him. A former first round pick out of Notre Dame, the 25-year old center by trade has had an unbelievably terrible year, scoring zero (!) goals in 58 (!!!!) games while adding nine assists. Before anyone asks how he could be in high demand, one has to look at the prior few seasons. He’s two years removed from a 36-point season and came off a career year in goals last season with 14. He still is 25, and in the right system, his career could quickly regain steam. He has one year remaining with a cap hit of $2.1 million, and has been used by head coach Jeff Blashill sparingly on the penalty kill (66:51) and power play (59:26). The team that acquires him must convince him or put him in the right situation to utilize the rocket of a wrist shot he has, something used too sparingly in Detroit playing with grinders like Ott and Luke Glendening most of the time. Sheahan could play wing if need be, as that was the original plan coming into this season before injuries took their toll.
What He’s Worth:
*Second-third round pick
*A first round pick and Sheahan were used in the same sentence on a Sportsnet panel, and given the Jurco deal and level of interest, there could be a middle ground.
Drew Miller (Trevor)
As a fellow Spartan, Miller would seem easy to cheer for. He is until he steps onto the ice. He has struggled immensely this year, although his five goals might lead you to believe otherwise. A look at his advanced stats paint a much clearer picture of who Miller has been this season. He is lowest on the team with a 41.4% Corsi for and a 42.4% Fenwick for. For as much hate as Ott gets, Miller has actually been worse in nearly every measureable category. He is a veteran and “great locker room guy,” and for the right team could be an intangible asset. His time in Detroit has come and gone, as he was sent down to Grand Rapids on multiple occasions this season, and it’d be best for him and the organization to let him move on.
What He’s Worth:
fourth-seventh round pick
As stated in the beginning, this deadline could be a jumpstart for Detroit’s rebuild with as many assets as they have on their team in the present. It is best to make use of those assets while giving those with the Grand Rapids Griffins an extended look for the rest of the year. Martin Frk, Robbie Russo, Tyler Bertuzzi, Evgeni Svechnikov, and others should see some type of NHL ice time as tryout segments for next season’s training camp as the team officially begins its rebuild. Post-Deadline, Ken Holland’s “expect less” proclamation will start to kick in for the Red Wing faithful as Detroit positions themselves in the best possible spot for a top-five selection in the upcoming Draft. They should also expect something else as they make the journey from Joe Louis Arena to Little Caesar’s Arena:
Various advanced statistics courtesy of Corsica.hockey