Red Wings’ Season Really Begins After the Trade Deadline

For the past several years, Detroit Red Wings fans have looked forward to the trade deadline as the most important and exciting part of the season. The trade deadline has previously served as an opportunity to bolster the organization’s draft pick war chest and prospect pipeline with a postseason berth out of the picture.

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But this year is different. The Red Wings have reached a point in their rebuild where their post-trade deadline games are more important than the trade deadline itself.

Few Red Wings on the Trade Block

Compared to previous seasons, the Red Wings only have a few players who could be dealt at the trade deadline – none of which being of major significance.

Defenseman Nick Leddy is an obvious candidate to be traded. Vladislav Namestnikov could be moved as well, but also has a good chance of re-signing.

Nick Leddy of the Detroit Red Wings
Nick Leddy should fetch a modest return at the trade deadline. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Detroit’s other pending free agents likely won’t gain a ton of interest – or at least won’t command a worthwhile return that surpasses their value to the organization.

There are rumors of teams having interest in Tyler Bertuzzi, but would Steve Yzerman actually trade him? He’s having a career year and has been a driver on Detroit’s second line, which is finally a secondary scoring threat that the team has sorely needed. The return would have to be worth Bertuzzi’s organizational value—plus the damage to Detroit’s growing chemistry—which leads me to believe a trade is not coming.

Related: The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Trade Deadline Outlook

All of this to say, don’t expect major changes at the trade deadline. The Red Wings are past the tear-down phase of their rebuild.

A Glimpse Ahead to the 2022-23 Red Wings

Now that Jakub Vrana is healthy, we can finally see what the future holds. And while there will surely be some additions and subtractions during the offseason, the lineup that Detroit ices the rest of the way should give some indication if the Red Wings have a legitimate shot at the playoffs next season.

Think about it:

  • Vrana playing on a line with Filip Zadina and either Michael Rasmussen or Joe Veleno gives Detroit three scoring lines. Three!
  • Vrana should also bolster the power play, providing the Red Wings with another trigger man and puck transporter during breakouts.
  • Moving Adam Erne to the fourth line better aligns with his skill set and makes the team a little deeper.

The Red Wings are no longer competing for the No. 1-overall draft pick. Instead, each game will serve as an audition for roles on Detroit’s next playoff team.

Related: Red Wings Have Lineup Choices to Make With Vrana Returning

Similarly, the 20 games that take place after the deadline will also help determine offseason plans. The left side of the defense will surely be rebuilt, but what else? Do the Red Wings still need more scoring punch in their lineup? Should the team bring back Thomas Greiss to be the 1B netminder again? Soon, we’ll have answers to these questions.

NHL Cameos for Detroit’s Top Prospects

Finally, there could be a few noteworthy prospect cameos down the stretch – Jonatan Berggren being the most notable.

Detroit’s second-round pick in 2018 has impressed throughout his first year in North America, with 36 points in 49 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins. An injury to a forward in the top nine should warrant a call-up.

Detroit Red Wings prospect Jonatan Berggren.
Jonatan Berggren skating with the Grand Rapids Griffins. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

In addition, it would be great to see Jared McIsaac and/or Donovan Sebrango get a taste of NHL action. The two defensemen likely won’t factor into next year’s plans, but could become full-time NHLers the season after. 

Last but not least, Simon Edvinsson has a slim chance to make his NHL debut this season. With Hockeytown action lasting until late-April this year, an early exit from the SHL playoffs could result in a few games with the Red Wings before it’s all said and done.

Red Wings’ Rebuild Progressing

We’ve reached the point in the rebuild where the future is now. 

Detroit’s performance during their final 20 games is more important to their long-term success than the trade deadline itself. And if the Red Wings can close out the season strong, they should absolutely be considered playoff candidates next year.