The 2023 NHL Draft is less than a month away, which means we are less than a month away from draft day trades. The Detroit Red Wings hold five of the top-50 picks in the 2023 NHL Draft (top-43 to be exact), but it seems pretty unlikely that they will leave the first two rounds of the draft with five new prospects. Detroit is at a challenging point in their rebuild, having stocked up on picks and prospects for years and now needing to cash in on that value, in one way or another, to take another step forward next year.
Draft picks are valuable, offering a team the chance to bet on a young player who they think will make a difference in their lineup someday. Do you know what else is valuable? Good NHL players who can make a difference in your lineup today. There has been lots of chatter about the Red Wings possibly packaging some of their draft picks together to land a difference maker at a variety of positions, but Detroit could also package some picks together to make a move up the draft order if they plan to snag a prospect they’re particularly excited about.
What are some of the team’s options to improve this summer and who might they target? Let’s take a look at five mock draft-day trades!
Trade Up in the Top-10 to Snag a Faller
Philadelphia Flyers Receive: 9th overall, 42nd overall
Detroit Red Wings Receive: 7th overall
It’s incredibly rare for a top-10 pick in the draft to be traded, though I think it’s marginally more likely when a top-10 pick is being traded in return. The top group of prospects in this draft is incredibly talented and so early draft picks are going to be hot commodities that will be difficult to come by. You’re likely going to need to overpay a bit on overall value to move up from ninth overall to seventh where the Philadelphia Flyers will be selecting, but it would be well worth it if one of Detroit’s favorite prospects is still on the board.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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Imagine a world where Matvei Michkov is still on the board after the first six picks (something that is getting easier and easier to imagine at this point) and Detroit decides that spending ninth and 41st overall is worth it to land the second/third best prospect in the entire draft. The Flyers are in flux at the moment after a dramatic few seasons and I think they’d welcome the extra draft capital and the chance to add two potential difference makers in the top-41 picks instead of just one.
I think there’s a good chance that one of Detroit’s top six or seven ranked prospects is available to them at ninth overall so they may just stay put, but their haul of draft capital allows them to be flexible and to react to any prospect who might be falling a bit in the top-10 on draft day.
Add Depth on the Right Side
Calgary Flames Receive: 43rd overall pick
Detroit Red Wings Receive: Chris Tanev
When the Red Wings traded Filip Hronek to the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the trade deadline, the right side of their defense group immediately became the team’s biggest weakness. One way to build that depth back up would be to select a right-handed defender or two in the draft this year (someone like Tom Willander or Axel-Sandin Pellikka could be a target for Detroit in the first round), and another would be to trade for some help, preferably someone with experience ushering talented young defensemen into the league.
Chris Tanev is one such option who would fill a position of great need while bringing a ton of character and experience to the table. I think of Tanev as an ideal linemate for someone like Simon Edvinsson as he likely breaks into the NHL this season after he played the role of safety net perfectly for Quinn Hughes when he was in the same stage of his career. He is a consistent defensive defenseman who has just one more year on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
So why would the Calgary Flames even think about trading Tanev? One reason is his health, as Tanev has only played more than 60 games in three of his last seven seasons. Another, and likely more impactful reason is the salary cap, as the Flames currently sit with just over a million dollars in cap space and Tanev costs them $4.5M/year against the cap. That space could go a long way for a team with championship aspirations, plus the emergence of Rasmus Andersson in Calgary makes Tanev’s loss a lot more palatable.
Trade into Top-16 Again
Pittsburgh Penguins Receive: 17th overall, 43rd overall, Austin Czarnik
Detroit Red Wings Receive: 14th overall
With the Penguins fully in win-now mode as new President of Hockey Operations Kyle Dubas tries to maximize their contending window for their aging core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, I would be shocked if they end up selecting 14th overall. They need help now and not a few years down the road so I expect them to either trade back to gain additional trade assets or to trade the pick altogether for a valuable contributor.
Pittsburgh has a solid top-six forward group already so the biggest thing they need up front is forward depth which is why I have them taking on Czarnik who will be, at worst, one of the best players on their AHL affiliate and can provide fourth line minutes if called upon. Czarnik likely doesn’t move the needle a whole lot in a trade which is why I have Detroit adding 17th overall and 43rd overall. Again, this would be an overpay by the Red Wings on total value, so they would only make a trade like this if they were moving up to snag a player that they love who they don’t expect will be on the board at 17.
There’s a good chance that one of Zach Benson, Axel Sandin-Pellikka, and Gabe Perreault will still be on the board at 14, but waiting until 17 could be risky and they may want to jump the line to make sure they get their guy. If the end result of keeping and using picks 17 and 43 were getting one second line/pairing player (17) and one bottom-six/bottom-pairing player (43) versus getting someone they believe will be a top-line contributor at 14, then this deal would absolutely be worth it.
Trade for Jeremy Swayman
Boston Bruins Receive: 41st overall pick
Detroit Red Wings Receive: Jeremy Swayman (RFA rights), Mike Reilly
You might have seen that mock trade and immediately gone to the comment section to complain about how unrealistic it is, but hear me out. I think this is the type of trade that Detroit’s current management group has become comfortable making, and it would alleviate a ton of cap stress in Boston.
The Bruins have a bit under $5 million in cap space next year and haven’t signed UFAs like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Trent Frederic, as well as RFA goaltender Jeremy Swayman. In fact, the team only has seven forwards signed right now so even if they filled those roster spots with players on league minimum contracts, they’d be nearly at the salary cap. With this in mind, I don’t think the Bruins will be able to afford to extend Swayman.
If you’re a Red Wings fan, this kind of trade might sound familiar after Detroit made similar deals for the rights to sign goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso in consecutive years (2021 and 2022 offseasons), finding goaltenders who had recently bloomed into quality NHL players on good teams who couldn’t afford to extend them. Detroit has been able to take advantage of that both times, landing Ned and Husso for greatly reduced rates (each goalie only cost Detroit a third round pick), and I think they could do it again here.
Obviously, Swayman (24) is younger than both Husso (27) and Nedeljkovic (25) were when they were traded and comes with a proven track-record of success in the NCAA and the NHL. That’s why I have Detroit paying more than a third rounder, as well as taking back an inefficient contract in Mike Rielly which helps Boston free up some much-needed space. Rielly is a depth defender who spent much of the year in the press box and the AHL, but could provide some help for the Grand Rapids Griffins or fill in with the NHL squad should injuries occur next season. Maybe this deal still costs Detroit more and I’d be happy to change the pick to Boston’s own 2024 first rounder (from the Bertuzzi trade), but that’s the only first rounder I’d likely entertain trading in this case.
I don’t expect Boston to be hoping to move on from Swayman, but the prospect of losing other important players might allow Detroit enough leverage to pry him away from the Bruins. There’s also a chance that older players like Bergeron and Krejci opt for retirement this year and management decides to try and get younger in which case Swayman would almost certainly stay. Could Linus Ullmark be the one dealt in that case? He has two years remaining at a $5M/year cap hit and could be available if Boston thinks this year was his peak and not something that he will repeat. That $5M in cap space would also give them a great chunk of cash to throw Swayman’s way.
Add Another First Rounder
Toronto Maple Leafs Receive: 43rd overall pick
Detroit Red Wings Receive: Matt Murray, 28th overall pick
Matt Murray’s contract was a big risk for the Maple Leafs to take on last offseason, and with the emergence of Ilya Samsonov as their starting goalie, it is now likely that they will need to pay a team to take on the final year of Murray’s contract (roughly $4.7M cap hit). If so, Detroit will be one of the teams vying for the chance to get paid to take on a year of Murray, with the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes likely competing for the same chance. It’s worth mentioning that Murray is due $8M in actual dollars next season despite the lowered cap hit, something that will scare off some potential buyers.
Last year, Toronto traded the 25th overall pick and Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the 38th overall pick. Chicago moved up 13 draft spots and the price was two years of Mrazek at a $3.8M cap hit. In my mock trade, Detroit would be moving up 15 spots, and the cost would be taking on Murray’s $4.7M cap hit which would provide Toronto’s new general manager Brad Treliving with a great deal more wiggle room in his first offseason with the club.
One of the biggest questions of this offseason for Detroit is who will play backup to Ville Husso? Husso showed flashes of brilliance last season, but the fatigue of playing a full starter’s workload was clearly too much for him and Detroit needs to find a goalie capable of playing about 25 games in relief. Murray can likely provide that, though not at the highest level, if he can stay healthy, and that is a massive “if”. Regardless, the Red Wings landing a backup goalie and moving from 43 to 28 in the same trade would be massive, no matter how overpaid that backup is.
Mock Trades are Just For Fun
Draft day is enjoyable for a multitude of reasons, and draft-day trades are just an added wrinkle that keeps us fans on our toes. The only time most hockey fans like seeing NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on stage is when he’s jumping up between picks to announce a trade like the legendary “you’re gonna want to hear this” he had back in 2013 when the host New Jersey Devils traded away the ninth overall pick.
Remember, mock trades are not meant to be accurate (though I tried my best), but rather are designed to be fun. If you love one of these trades, then I likely didn’t have Detroit pay enough because the only sure-fire way to know a mock trade is put together well is if fans from both sides hate it a bit. Regardless, I still feel pretty strongly that Detroit won’t be using all five of their top-43 picks (though I’d be intrigued if they did), and I hope we get an exciting move or two from Steve Yzerman and co. on June 28 or 29.
What do you think of my mock trades? Would you say yes to any of these deals? Do you have any mock draft day trades of your own? Sound off in the comment section below!