Ever since the Detroit Red Wings declared themselves as sellers prior to the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, general manager Ken Holland has made good on his word to rebuild the organization through the draft.
In that time, the long-time GM has stockpiled picks and prospects while sending veterans and rentals out. After years of building for right now, Holland is now thinking of the future and positioning the Red Wings for another long playoff streak and a shot (or multiple chances) to bring the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown.
With a new contract for Dylan Larkin on the horizon, the Red Wings will need to be creative to come in under the salary cap upper limit. Holland will certainly need to kick tires on potential trades to move out hefty contracts.
Should fans trust Holland to complete yet another trade? Let’s find out how he’s fared since the rebuild plan was first decreed and see for ourselves.
Jurco Sent Packing
TRADE: Detroit trades Tomas Jurco to Chicago for a 2017 third-round pick (Keith Petruzzelli).
ANALYSIS: This swap looked good the moment it hit Twitter. It looked even better after the Red Wings nabbed a potential franchise goalie with the pick they acquired for Jurco, who didn’t seem to have a future with the organization and has since been non-tendered by Chicago.
Mr. Smith Goes to New York
TRADE: Detroit trades Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers for a 2017 third-round pick (Zach Gallant) and a 2018 second-round pick (Jonatan Berggren).
ANALYSIS: So far, so good. After a promising start to his career, Smith never developed into a top-four defenseman that Detroit had envisioned. Instead of committing nearly $4 million per year to a depth player, the Red Wings traded him for two solid picks. Berggren (No. 4-ranked prospect) alone would have a nice return for Smith, who would be buried in the minors the following season after re-signing with the Rangers that offseason.
Vanek Visits the Sunshine State
TRADE: Detroit trades Thomas Vanek to Florida for Dylan McIlrath and a 2017 third-round pick (Kasper Kotkansalo).
ANALYSIS: Considering the returns for Jurco and Smith, it was puzzling to see Vanek traded for an AHL defenseman and a third-rounder. The reality is that this was the best offer Holland received for the rental forward despite his impressive season to that point (38 points in 48 games). Hopefully Kotkansalo (No. 18-ranked prospect) can develop into a defensive-minded NHLer after a few more seasons at Boston University and swing this trade more in Detroit’s favor.
Ott Shipped to Montreal
TRADE: Detroit trades Steve Ott to Montreal for a 2018 sixth-round pick (Tim Berni).
ANALYSIS: A valuable presence in the locker room, Ott was a nice rental for the Red Wings. The draft pick acquired for the veteran forward was later flipped to Columbus at the 2018 NHL Draft for a fifth-rounder next year. Essentially acquiring a fifth-round pick for 11 games of Ott—who’s now an assistant coach with the Blues—was a shrewd move by Holland.
TRADE: Detroit trades a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick (not exercised) to Calgary for Tom McCollum.
ANALYSIS: McCollum never appeared in a game for the Red Wings this past season, so Detroit didn’t need to send any compensation to the Flames. In Grand Rapids, the veteran netminder helped the Griffins reach the playoffs after starter Jared Coreau was called up to Hockeytown.
Sheahan Sent to the Steel City
TRADE: Detroit trades Riley Sheahan and a 2018 fifth-round pick (Justin Almeida) to Pittsburgh for Scott Wilson and a 2018 third-round pick (Jesper Eliasson).
ANALYSIS: The frustration around this trade centered on Sheahan’s lack of development and Detroit’s wasting of a 2010 first-round pick, especially when you consider the fact that Evgeny Kuznetsov was taken five picks after the big center. Sheahan’s lack of production the previous season and through the first eight games of the 2017-18 campaign was nauseating. So was Wilson’s stint in Hockeytown after the deal.
In a vacuum, this was a fine deal at the time. It just didn’t benefit the Red Wings in any way besides moving up 45 spots in the 2018 NHL Draft and cutting salary. This trade should have never happened, just like Sheahan shouldn’t have nearly gone a whole season without a goal.
Sproul Joins Smith
TRADE: Detroit trades Ryan Sproul to the New York Rangers for Matt Puempel.
ANALYSIS: With Joe Hicketts, Dennis Cholowski, and Filip Hronek on the way, the Red Wings found Sproul to be expendable and received a pretty good AHLer for the defenseman. Puempel probably won’t play for the Red Wings anytime soon, but it was a worthy gamble on a former first-round pick.
Great Scott, That Was Quick
TRADE: Detroit trades Scott Wilson to Buffalo for a 2019 fifth-round pick.
ANALYSIS: For a forward who hadn’t recorded a point through 20 games, a fifth-round selection was a nice pick up. However, the Red Wings probably expected more out of Wilson, who had produced 26 points in 78 games with Pittsburgh the year before. Like the Sheahan trade, it was acceptable in a vacuum, but shouldn’t have ever happened.
Mrazek’s Tenure Ends
TRADE: Detroit trades Petr Mrazek to Philadelphia for a conditional 2018 fourth-round pick (exercised – became a third-round pick: Seth Barton) and a conditional 2019 third-round pick (not exercised).
ANALYSIS: I think we’re starting to see a common theme here. Like Sheahan and Wilson, Mrazek should have performed better and, thus, not been dealt. However, the third-round pick they received for a goaltender with a 2.89 goals-against average was a nice acquisition. Barton (No. 21-ranked prospect) is a long-term project, but has the skating and puck-moving skills to push for an NHL job one day.
Still, many—including myself—thought Mrazek could become Detroit’s franchise goaltender with some refinements.
Gambling on a Tatar Trade
TRADE: Detroit trades Tomas Tatar to Vegas for a 2018 first-round pick (Joe Veleno), a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2021 third-round pick.
ANALYSIS: In the last few minutes of the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, Holland pulled off a heist – with Vegas, no less. Maybe Veleno, the No. 2-ranked Red Wings prospect, should wear No. 11 in Detroit in honor of the steal he was a part of and Ocean’s Eleven.
It was tough to see Tatar go, but the return that Detroit received was well worth parting ways with the scorer. Veleno alone may have been a good swap. Getting an extra second-round pick next year and a third-rounder down the road—while opening up $5.3 million in cap space through the 2020-21 campaign—only sweetened the deal.
Overall, Holland did a great job acquiring draft picks for players who didn’t factor into the long term. While Sheahan, Mrazek, and others didn’t pan out as hoped, at least Detroit got something useful in return for them. Plus, you can’t blame Holland for their lack of NHL progress – that’s on the coaching staff.
As the Red Wings continue on with their rebuild, Holland has shown the competency to make the right moves. His recent two-year extension is evidence that ownership believes that as well. He’ll do just fine with the next few swaps that come to fruition.