Red Wings Due for a Trade

The Detroit Red Wings have reached the next phase of their rebuild.

How so? For starters, look at their opening night roster. You’ve got former 30-goal-scorer Dominik Kubalik on the fourth line. Middle-six mainstays Filip Zadina and Pius Suter couldn’t even crack the lineup. And then you have Givani Smith and Jonatan Berggren—NHL-quality forwards—waiting patiently in the AHL.

Related: Red Wings’ 2022-23 Salary Cap Outlook

Clearly, the Red Wings have depth up front. And this excess supply can be an asset if the organization chooses to do something with it.

Red Wings’ Depth Not Going Away

Looking ahead to the next two seasons, it’s evident that Detroit has enough forward depth to compete. But is it the right depth? Let’s dig in and find out.

2023-24 Red Wings

Here’s an early look at how the next year’s team could line up at forward:

Tyler Bertuzzi Dylan Larkin Lucas Raymond
Jakub Vrana Andrew Copp David Perron
Elmer Soderblom Michael Rasmussen Filip Zadina
Dominik Kubalik Joe Veleno Jonatan Berggren
Givani Smith   Robby Fabbri

A few notes about this lineup:

  • Pending UFAs Pius Suter, Adam Erne, and Oskar Sundqvist are excluded.
  • Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi will be UFAs as well, but are likely to return, so they are included.
  • No outside additions, such as external free agents, trades, or waiver claims.

If your fourth line consists of Kubalik, Berggren, and Joe Veleno, you’re doing something right. Adjustments are needed, though.

Joe Veleno Detroit Red Wings
Joe Veleno has the potential to be much better than a fourth-line center. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Robby Fabbri shouldn’t be a depth forward competing for ice time.There’s also Marco Kasper, who could be ready for NHL action at this point. And what if Steve Yzerman opts to sign a key free agent like David Pastrnak or Bo Horvat?

Without any changes over the next year, the Red Wings still have an excess supply of NHL forwards. Specifically, there are quite a few who best align with middle-six roles.

Latest News & Highlights

Moving onto the 2024-25 season, the situation is no different.

2024-25 Red Wings

Two years into the future, this is what Detroit’s lineup could look like:

Tyler Bertuzzi Dylan Larkin Lucas Raymond
Jakub Vrana Andrew Copp Filip Zadina
Elmer Soderblom Michael Rasmussen Marco Kasper
Robby Fabbri Joe Veleno Jonatan Berggren
Givani Smith   Cross Hanas

Again, a few notes about the forward lines:

  • Kubalik and David Perron will be UFAs in 2024 and it’s assumed that they will not be retained.
  • Jakub Vrana will also be a UFA, but it’s hard to imagine the Red Wings letting him walk.
  • Kasper and Cross Hanas are the only prospects included, though others (Carter Mazur, Theodor Niederbach, and Robert Mastrosimone) could be pushing for NHL jobs at this point.
  • No outside additions, such as external free agents, trades, or waiver claims.

As with the year prior, the Red Wings are deep at forward. There’s room for improvement, though.

The top six looks a little thin. Detroit probably needs another star forward in the lineup if they want to make a deep playoff run. That, and 30-year-old Andrew Copp likely won’t be a second-line center at this stage of his career.

Overall, this is a good team. Not a Stanley Cup contender, though.

So where does that leave us?

Red Wings Need to Maximize Their Depth

Having an abundance of depth isn’t a problem. It’s an opportunity, though.

As we can see in the depth charts above, the Red Wings don’t have a Stanley Cup-worthy team – yet. By tinkering with the roster and completing a few savvy trades, Yzerman can redistribute talent across the lineup to form a more well-rounded team.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman
How long until Steve Yzerman and Ken Holland come together on another deal? (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

There’s precedent for this. Before capturing the 2022 Stanley Cup, the Colorado Avalanche drafted and developed their way to contender status. But it took the acquisitions of Nazem Kadri, Devon Toews, and Darcy Kuemper to push them over the edge. Plus Darren Helm, of course.

The Red Wings should follow in their footsteps. We’ve reached the point in the rebuild where it’s time to mold the roster into one of a Stanley Cup contender, and that may mean having to trade away players we’re emotionally connected to.

Related: Projecting Tyler Bertuzzi’s New Red Wings Contract

Final Word

Over the last half decade, the Red Wings have accumulated an abundance of draft picks, selected quality prospects, and developed them into professional hockey players. We’re starting to see the fruits of their labor – prospects like Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno, and Elmer Soderblom have reached the NHL and others are soon to follow.

But with so many players rising to the top at once, something needs to happen. There are too many players and not enough NHL jobs. And they may not be the right players, either.

It’s time for Yzerman to show, once again, why he’s the trade king of the NHL.