If there’s one thing that Steve Yzerman changed once he took over as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, it’s the volume of trades the organization made. From August 2019 until now, Yzerman has completed eight trades – more than half of the 14 total moves the team made from January 2017 to March 2019. As an unusual offseason approaches, fans should expect Yzerman to continue to be aggressive on the trade market.
But who could Yzerman target? As the Red Wings continue to rebuild, it makes sense for the team to try and repeat the success it found with the Robby Fabbri acquisition. There are a number of young players throughout the league who are stuck on competitive teams that aren’t able to give those players the necessary opportunities.
On top of that, the team can also use its financial resources and cap space to acquire players with expensive contracts that would also be able to fill a hole on the roster. In doing so, the Red Wings might also be able to acquire a future asset in return for alleviating the other team’s cap crunch.
With the Red Wings’ newfound flexibility in terms of roster spots and cap space, Yzerman has a ton of avenues to explore. Not every acquisition is going to be a home run: for every successful Fabbri trade, there’s a Brendan Perlini trade dud. So who should Yzerman and the Red Wings target this offseason?
In the 2017 draft, the Red Wings took Michael Rasmussen with the 9th overall pick. Two picks earlier, the New York Rangers took Swedish center Lias Andersson. Since then, the marriage between Andersson and the Rangers has gone sour.
Andersson fled to Sweden after spending some time in the AHL during the 2019-20 season. In 15 games in the SHL, he recorded 12 points, prompting him to sign a one-year deal to remain in Sweden (presumably with an out-clause in the event that he can return to the NHL.) While playing overseas, his offensive game has taken a step forward – a promising development for a player that was quickly entering “bust” territory.
Should the Red Wings acquire him, Andersson could immediately battle with the team’s group of centers (including Rasmussen) for a role on the team. Given the team’s overall lack of depth down the middle, as well as the young Swede’s upside, the Red Wings should seriously consider going after the soon-to-be 22-year-old. As for the cost? The Red Wings would likely have to send either a B-list prospect, or a package of lesser prospects and picks.
We’re going down the middle again. At 31 years old, Kyle Turris is certainly not a young guy looking for an opportunity. Instead, he represents somebody who needs a divorce from the team he currently plays for – the Nashville Predators.
With a cap-hit of $6 million for another four seasons, Turris is getting paid to play a top-six role with the Predators. However, since joining the Predators as part of the Matt Duchene deal almost three years ago, he has accumulated just 96 points in 182 regular-season games. His possession stats are just okay, and he has even been a healthy scratch at times.
With just $8.2 million in cap space, the Predators could use some flexibility. If the Predators are willing to eat some of his cap-hit in order to move him, the Red Wings could provide the third pick of the 2007 draft with a new home. Perhaps the Red Wings could even squeeze a draft pick out of the Predators as part of the deal.
Turris at $3 or 4 million is a lot more palatable (though his remaining term is still a concern) and he would likely be an instant upgrade over guys like Frans Nielsen and Valtteri Filppula down the middle. Perhaps he even steps into a mentor role for a guy like Joe Veleno.
Drafted three spots after the Red Wings took Dennis Cholowski with the 20th pick of the 2016 draft, Borgstrom has become a bit of an enigma for the Florida Panthers. After a successful collegiate career with the University of Denver, many assumed that the Finnish forward would be ready to jump onto the Panthers’ roster and make an impact down the lineup.
Instead, Borgstrom has seen action in just 58 NHL games, collecting 19 points along the way. His performance in the AHL has ranged from dominant to lackluster. This is a guy who still has some promise, but the clock is ticking. As a 6-foot-3-inch tall center, the Red Wings should definitely have some interest in the 23-year-old.
While we’re talking about the Panthers, another player the Red Wings could target is goaltender Sam Montembeault. With 25 games of NHL experience, the young goalie’s base stats have been…well let’s just say that they have left something to be desired. The Red Wings could do a prospect swap with the Panthers to acquire both Borgstrom and Montembeault – adding young depth to two areas where the organization could use it.
The ideal scenario is that the Red Wings will sign Torey Krug to help fill out their defense. However, if that scenario doesn’t come to fruition, the Red Wings need an alternative plan. One such plan can be found in the New York Islanders’ organization.
At 31 years of age, Thomas Hickey is a veteran of 449 regular-season games across seven seasons with the Islanders. He is signed for two more seasons at a reasonable cap hit of $2.5 million. So why could he be on the move? Well, due to the overwhelming amount of defensive depth the Islanders have accumulated, he spent this entire season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.
Hickey could play on the Red Wings’ third pairing as a low-usage defender. He could play alongside a guy like Gustav Lindstrom while providing competition for a guy like Cholowski. And to top it all off, he could probably be had for next to nothing given the fact that the Islanders don’t really need him anymore.
If Yzerman wanted to make a bigger deal with the Islanders, he could also pursue winger Joshua Ho-Sang. Ho-Sang has played 53 games with the Islanders since he was drafted 28th overall in 2014. Despite generally solid play in the AHL, he hasn’t been able to crack the Islanders’ roster on a permanent basis. He could prove to be a case similar to Fabbri where an opportunity with the Red Wings is all he needs to establish himself in the NHL.
As much as I think there’s an opportunity to swing a big deal to upgrade the Red Wings’ roster, the reality of the situation is that Yzerman is going to want to control the cost in any deal he may swing. Value shopping typically excludes the top players in the league – so the Red Wings are likely to target players like those mentioned above due to their reasonable cost.
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None of these players are going to completely transform the Red Wings into playoff contenders. In some cases, it’s not even a guarantee that they would lock down a roster spot. But like the deals Yzerman made during the 2019-20 season, sometimes trades are just an exercise in rolling the dice and seeing what happens.
Make no mistake: there are good players to be had on the trade market this offseason. If the Red Wings can add one or more of these players without digging too deep into their own asset collection, it’ll go a long way towards addressing the overall lack of depth in the organization. Yzerman is a creative general manager, and he’s got cap space at his disposal. The success of this offseason may very well be judged based on how he chooses to use it.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.