Less than three weeks separate the Detroit Red Wings from the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. And unlike the previous two seasons, the organization may not completely sell. In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, general manager Ken Holland noted that his decision-making process would be guided by his preference to be competitive as soon as next season and the buyer/seller distribution of NHL teams.
One of our goals [is] to build a team that will be competitive next season. We want to get back to the playoffs. Unless something dramatic happens, it looks like we will miss the playoffs for a third straight year. If I trade away a number of players that can help us next season, unless I get prospect back who is ready to play in the NHL, those assets won’t help us for three, four, years.
With Holland’s positioning in mind, there are still a few questions that need to be answered before the trade deadline. Let’s dive in.
How Can the Defensive Logjam be Alleviated?
When fully healthy, the Red Wings have seven NHL defensemen – and that doesn’t include Luke Witkowski or Filip Hronek, who is presently in the AHL. Plus, you have to consider Joe Hicketts, who’s worthy of a call-up and will need waivers if he doesn’t make the Red Wings next season. There’s just not enough ice time to go around. With that being said, will the Red Wings utilize the trade deadline to open up some roster spots on defense? Nick Jensen and Trevor Daley should draw some interest. Mike Green could, too.
What’s most important is the development of Hronek, Hicketts and Dennis Cholowski. The Red Wings may be fine letting Hronek and Hicketts play impact minutes for the Grand Rapids Griffins, but both should ultimately see more NHL ice time before transitioning into full-time roles in Detroit next season. Cholowski is getting a “reset” on the third pairing after falling into bad habits and improved play could lead to more responsibility. (from ‘Dennis Cholowski’s in-season reset’ – The Athletic Detroit – 2/3/19)
What is Nyquist Worth Short-Term & Long-Term?
One of Detroit’s top players on the trade block is Gustav Nyquist. And like other pending free agents, the Red Wings are interested in signing him to an extension. But should they?
At 29, Nyquist is having a career year. He could command a first-round pick, but would likely not be dealt until Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Artemi Panarin find new homes (or sign contract extensions). If the Red Wings are able to land a late first-round pick for Nyquist, that selection could turn into another Joe Veleno, who fell during the draft and could be an impact player down the road.
Alternatively, re-signing Nyquist gives the Red Wings another top-six forward for the next few seasons. He would likely cost less than the three top-tier forwards mentioned above – somewhere in the ballpark of $5.5 million over four or five seasons.
The Red Wings will need to decide which provides them with the most value: A few more seasons of Nyquist producing 50-plus points in the top-six and an inflated cap hit until he’s 34 or promoting from within and more cap space for the future. Remember: Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha will need new contracts following the 2019-20 season and are due for significant raises.
Is There Sufficient Demand for Jimmy Howard?
At the moment, no contender needs a starting goaltender, though that could change if the Columbus Blue Jackets move disgruntled netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Injuries can happen, too. But with Bobrovsky and Cam Talbot on the block, are there enough buyers to drive up the price of Jimmy Howard?
As I mentioned previously, there’s a big difference in the typical return for a starter and a backup/1B option. Just look at the 2017 Ben Bishop trade. The Red Wings want to bring Howard back and the goalie wants to stay in Detroit. But they have to determine what’s more important:
- Can easily re-sign the netminder
- Instills confidence in the maturing team
- Starting goalie locked in for another two seasons
- Assets for the rebuild (though quality is still to be determined)
- Jettisons the Red Wings toward the No. 1-overall pick in the 2019 Draft
- Limited ability to re-sign Howard
If the Red Wings had more goaltending depth in the system, this decision might be a little easier. Since they don’t, the pressure’s on Holland to make the right move.
Will There be Interest in Other Players?
Apart from Howard, Nyquist and Jensen, Holland may receive inquiries about a few other players. He’ll need to decide if they provide more value as a part of the team (on the ice or off) or as trade chips bringing back picks and prospects.
Luke Glendening, Thomas Vanek and Daley could be great depth adds for contenders. Niklas Kronwall would be as well, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in trading the veteran – both from Kronwall and the organization.
Athanasiou’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors, but it would take quite a haul for the Red Wings to part with their resident speedster. He’s viewed as a core piece and would most likely only be dealt in a hockey trade for a young, top-pairing defenseman. If there is interest in any of the players above, would the offer be enough to offset their internal value?