The Grind Line: Grading the Red Wings’ Trade Deadline Moves

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.

It was no surprise to see the Red Wings sell prior to this year’s trade deadline. As the team continues to rebuild, trading pending free agents and other veterans for draft picks and prospects has become the norm this time of year.

To recap, the Red Wings completed four trades in the days leading up to the deadline:

  • Acquired a 2022 fourth-round pick from the Colorado Avalanche for D Patrik Nemeth.
  • Acquired Tampa Bay’s 2021 fourth-round pick in a three-way trade with the Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for D Brian Lashoff and retaining $1,062,500 of D David Savard’s cap hit.
  • Acquired C Hayden Verbeek and Ottawa’s 2021 fifth-round pick from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for D Jon Merrill.
  • Acquired LW Jakub Vrana, RW Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick from the Washington Capitals for LW Anthony Mantha.

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team grades Steve Yzerman’s 2021 trade deadline deals.

Tony Wolak: Shock & Awe

Okay, let’s be honest. You don’t care about the Merrill, Nemeth, and Savard/cap space deals. Adding three mid-round draft picks for pending free agents is great, but that’s not why you’re here.

You’re here because of the Mantha trade. Here’s how I see it: Vrana and Panik are substitutes for Mantha and Bobby Ryan, who’s out for the season. One-for-one replacements who can come in and not miss a beat.

The fact that there’s first- and second-round picks coming back as well solidifies this trade as a steal. While it’s bittersweet to see Mantha go, this is a huge boost for Detroit’s rebuild.

One additional thought: It’s Filip Zadina’s time to shine. Detroit’s top goal-scorer is now their 2018 first-round pick. Let’s see how he finishes out the season stepping into Mantha’s old role.

Grade: A

Devin Little: I Love Extra First Round Picks

When we submitted our “wish list” items for a recent The Grind Line column, an additional first round pick topped my list. Well, it might have cost Mantha to get it, but Yzerman did the *darn* thing. The Red Wings now have multiple first-round picks for the first time in the Yzerman era, and for the first time since 2018. 

Former Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha
Former Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Paul Sancya)

While all the other deals certainly yielded some value—I’m a huge fan of Yzerman wielding his salary cap space to gather a pick from the Savard deal—the belle of this ball is the Mantha trade. Dealing a player like that can easily become a losing proposition; I’m sure most of us won’t be surprised if he is reignited by joining the Capitals and becomes the player we wanted him to be in Detroit. Despite that, Yzerman not only acquired a couple of premium picks, but he also acquired a player in Vrana that I think could easily be a solid player for Detroit for the next couple of years – and then you could flip him for an additional return if you’d like!

Fourth- and fifth-round picks are fine. Building up the Red Wings’ 2022 draft capital is great. But acquiring an additional first and second rounder? Come on. Trust the Yzerplan. 

Grade: A

Patrick Brown: Buzzer Beater!

I was content in grading the Red Wings’ deadline deals in the C+/B- range, especially after Bobby Ryan went down with an injury and seemingly limited any potential for a blockbuster trade. Then the Yzerplan took full effect.

Bobby Ryan Detroit Red Wings
All seemed lost when trade chip Bobby Ryan went down with a season-ending injury. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

There had been plenty of mock deals involving Mantha over the past few weeks, but few rivaled what the Red Wings actually got for the young forward. Draft assets? Check. Skilled winger that’s a restricted free agent? Check. Veteran winger who can assist in a rebuild? Check.


It’s truly an amazing thing. I remember back in the early 2000s, I would be excited to see which player the Red Wings would bring in at the deadline to help with a Stanley Cup push, and it was always exciting. For the first time in a long while, I experienced that same sense of excitement at the trade deadline, but this felt a bit more magnified because it’s around the team’s long-term health, versus its immediate future.

With one deal, Yzerman helped solidify the trajectory of the team’s rebuild, all while unloading a contract that many had questioned as Mantha continued his wildly inconsistent play. 

Grade: A+

Kyle Knopp: Last Second Victory!

I was very happy with the first three trades the Wings made. I thought they opened up some options for young players to get extra looks on the blueline this season and strengthened the rebuild with two fourths and a fifth. 

Detroit Red Wings defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek
Expect Dennis Cholowski to get more ice time with Jon Merrill and Patrik Nemeth gone. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

At that time I would have given the Wings a C+ mainly for the fact they had failed to move on Luke Glendening. 

Then Yzerman snipes one with one second remaining! 

As Tony mentioned, Vrana and Panik will be able to step in and replace the voids left by Mantha and Ryan which will keep the team competitive for the rest of the season. Getting a first- and second-round pick in the deal was icing on the cake. It will also allow Zadina, Svechnikov, and Rasmussen the opportunities to move up and prove their worth for the future. 

I will give the Wings an A—it would have been an A+ if we could have moved Glendening and/or Bernier for a couple extra picks—but trusting in Yzerman puts the team in a great position moving forward once again. 

Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

Moving Glendening and/or Bernier for picks and prospects would have bumped this grade up to an A+. That said, the Red Wings still did well for themselves at the 2021 trade deadline.

How would you grade the Red Wings’ trade deadline moves? Comment below.