With the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline around the corner, Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings have an opportunity to acquire more draft picks and prospects to aid the rebuild.
There might be a problem this year, though. At first glance, the Red Wings don’t have many valuable trade chips.
In previous years, Ken Holland had a couple more quality players on expiring contracts to work with. With things being as bad as they are, Yzerman’s hands may be tied – will there be enough demand to move a player or two?
Let’s take a look at a few potential trade chips and the likelihood they’ll be dealt. Keep in mind, there has to be demand and a return on par with a player’s value for a trade to occur. No one—not even Jonathan Ericsson—will be shipped out for a bag of pucks – the NHL just doesn’t work like that.
Andreas Athanasiou’s Fluctuating Value
Let’s start with the most polarizing name on the list, Andreas Athanasiou. Detroit’s speedy winger has battled injuries and poor puck luck this season – his five goals are a far cry from the 30 he tallied last year. But is he part of the Red Wings’ future?
“I think Yzerman’s focus is on locking up young forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi to long-term contracts and I believe he’d be willing to part with Athanasiou for the right price, either by the Feb. 24 trade deadline or, more likely, after the season and prior to the draft.”–Ansar Khan, MLive.com
There will certainly be demand for Athanasiou if he is indeed on the block. However, his value has never been lower. If the Red Wings are going to trade him, they should move Athanasiou for a return closer to his potential value, not his current value. And that’s not in the cards right now.
In the meantime, give Athanasiou time to elevate his stock. The trade market isn’t going anywhere, especially for a player with his game-breaking potential.
Veteran Defensemen for Sale
Heading into the 2019-20 season, it was easy to identify Ericsson, Trevor Daley, and Mike Green as potential trade chips. As pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs), these veteran defensemen could have been viewed as nice adds for contenders looking for depth, given their extensive playoff experience.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, the trio of blueliners have suffered from various injuries and ailments and have not made an impact at either end of the ice. Daley, Ericsson, and Green have combined for two goals (both by Green) in 68 total games.
At the very least, there could be demand for Green. He continues to man the second power play and has a positive expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at five-on-five (51.8 percent). In an ideal environment, Green can thrive on a third pairing and provide some value as a power play quarterback. However, blue line rentals like Sami Vatanen and Erik Gustafsson will likely generate more demand around the deadline. Green would be more of a fallback option.
At this point, Green wouldn’t bring back more than a third-round pick given the projected demand and other blue line options. But is that enough for the Red Wings to deal the stable, veteran mentor?
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It’s also worth noting that Green has a full no-trade clause that becomes a 10-team no-trade list before the deadline. This gives Green a little more control if Yzerman shops him after all.
Jimmy Howard & Jonathan Bernier
Detroit’s goalies are two intriguing options to monitor over the next few weeks. They’ve improved after a disastrous start to the season – Jonathan Bernier especially.
Would the Red Wings trade one of their netminders? Howard is a pending UFA, but there likely isn’t much demand for his waning skill set.
Bernier has another year left on his contract and has been stellar for Detroit as of late. He could generate some interest as a veteran backup for a playoff-bound team. His former team—the Toronto Maple Leafs—could certainly use some stability behind Frederik Andersen.
But moving Bernier (or Howard) would open a massive hole in net for the Red Wings. Calvin Pickard hasn’t played particularly well in two appearances this season and, frankly, no one has consistently given Detroit a chance to win apart from Bernier. Rebuilding is certainly the goal, but team moral should be considered as we enter the second half of a grueling season.
Plus, goaltenders usually don’t fetch very solid returns at the trade deadline. Petr Mrazek netted Detroit a third-round pick in 2018. The Red Wings would be lucky to acquire a better return for Bernier’s services.
Unlike previous years, the Red Wings don’t have much to offer at the trade deadline. Detroit simply doesn’t have another Gustav Nyquist or Nick Jensen to flip as a rental. Athanasiou could be seen as the next Tomas Tatar to be shipped out of town, though the latter was producing at a higher rate when he was dealt.
Instead, Red Wings fans will likely need to wait until the draft to see some fireworks. Yzerman could certainly tinker with the roster at any time – including the middle of the night. But those big trades we covet will likely take place at a later time.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.