What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Tony Wolak, Devin Little, Patrick Brown, and Kyle Knopp are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
As Detroit’s rebuild progresses, you have to wonder when it’s going to end – when exactly are the Red Wings going to be a contender again? If that’s not for a few years, you have to wonder which current Red Wings will be part of that team.
Now 26, Anthony Mantha could be on the decline when we see playoff action in Hockeytown again. So that begs the question, should the Red Wings trade Mantha and add to their prospect pipeline, potentially making future teams better?
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team evaluates the merits of trading Mantha. Does the hulking forward still fit into the long-term picture here in Detroit?
Tony Wolak: Yes, Before the Trade Deadline
First and foremost, the Red Wings shouldn’t settle on the best offer presented before the trade deadline. If there isn’t a good deal out there, walk away. However, if a team puts forth an outstanding offer for Mantha, Yzerman should pull the trigger.
Earlier this month, The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta noted that the Los Angeles Kings have some interest in Mantha. If Rob Blake and the Kings offer a package centering around Los Angeles’ 2021 first-round pick plus one of Tobias Bjornfot, Arthur Kailyev, or Gabe Vilardi, Detroit should jump on it. More would need to be included, but those pieces would be remarkable gets for the rebuilding Red Wings.
Waiting until the offseason could be problematic. Yes, there may be more suitors overall, but Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres could complicate matters. Mantha would likely become a second priority for interested teams with Eichel possibly being available.
Devin Little: No, Not Yet
At the end of my piece where I traded Mantha to the Montreal Canadiens, I made the following note:
“Despite all of this, I don’t want to trade Mantha. If they trade him, he’s the type of player that you know would explode anytime he plays against the Red Wings.”
I stand by this sentiment, and I can elaborate on it further. When Yzerman signed Mantha to his current four-year deal, I have to think that the intention was making the power forward a core member of the Red Wings. You typically don’t sign guys to long-term deals just to ship them out less than a year later. While the Red Wings are building up their team and prospect pool, it helps to have a guy like him on the ice to improve the team’s chances of winning games. In the long-term, he can be replaced. In the short-term, however, the Red Wings get a lot worse by subtracting this player. If you’re thinking trading Mantha is a pro-tank move, you’re right, but this isn’t the year or draft class worth tanking for – that’s next season.
Furthermore, if you’re going to trade a guy like Mantha, I don’t think you should do it during a season where he’s going through an endless slump. That depresses his trade value, and you absolutely must get maximum value out of moving a guy like him. There’s a reason I didn’t list him as a sell-high candidate for this team.
In the end, as Tony said, if the right offer comes along, Yzerman should absolutely pull the trigger. But I’m just not convinced that the right offer is going to come along in the year 2021.
Patrick Brown: Yes, Before the Trade Deadline
It’s starting to become evident that Mantha may not be one of the team’s cornerstone pieces, despite Yzerman’s significant investment in him last offseason. The strategy to wait and see if he can improve his game before making a deal, one that is frequently brought up, has a lot of potential to backfire.
After all, what if his game never improves?
Mantha is a notoriously streaky player. So much so, in fact, that even when he rights the ship, it seemingly goes unnoticed. Yes, he started slow this season. But now he’s near the top in almost every offensive category for the Red Wings, though it’s hard to tell based on the chatter coming from the Hockeytown faithful. I think Mantha has an incredible career ahead of him, but at this point, a change of scenery would likely be good.
Like Tony said, waiting until the offseason is riskier, especially considering what some teams in the playoff hunt may be willing to give up. Given that it would not be a short-term rental, he comes at a reasonable price, and his trade value as a Red Wing may never be higher than it is right now, a pre-deadline deal makes the most sense.
Kyle Knopp: No, Unless an Amazing Offer Comes In
This is not the time for the Red Wings to get sentimental when it comes to being afraid to trade guys. If there is an offer on the table for any player, especially Mantha, Yzerman should take it under careful consideration.
With that said, unless the offer is too good to pass up, I believe the Wings have invested in rebuilding the team around Mantha and should continue down that path. Mantha is a 6-foot-5, 234 pound winger with speed that can play both sides, not something that comes around often in the NHL. When he is on his game, he is reminiscent of a young Rick Nash, a smooth-skating power forward with a quick shot release.
A player like Mantha should yield a high return, but with the season he has been having this year, I’m not sure teams will be willing to offer as much. However, if one does come along and offer the right price, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yzerman make the deal.