Red Wings Need to Be Active in Trade Market

Now that it’s officially the offseason, it’s imperative that the Detroit Red Wings pursue a trade or two. 

It should be noted that this is counter to a point Steve Yzerman made in his end-of-year press conference – that trades are unlikely. That’s okay. I interpreted that as “it’s hard to predict if reasonable trades will arise” rather than an outright declaration that there will be no trades this summer. 

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With that being said, let’s cover a couple scenarios where the Red Wings can benefit from this summer’s trade market. 

Scenario 1: Red Wings Weaponize Cap Space

Based on my projections, the Red Wings will have $51,361,806 committed to 19 NHLers after re-signing their key restricted free agents (RFAs). That means they’ll have $31,138,194 in cap space available – and will be $9,638,194 below the salary cap floor. Yzerman will need to spend at least that much somehow.

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One way to do so would be to acquire bloated contracts from teams up against the salary cap ceiling. The Red Wings did this when they acquired Marc Staal in 2020. Detroit received a second-round pick for taking on the veteran defenseman’s contract without giving up anything in return.

Marc Staal of the Detroit Red Wings
The Marc Staal trade was a brilliant use of cap space by the Red Wings. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In addition, the Red Wings could serve as a middleman in trade, retaining part of a player’s salary to make his cap hit more palatable for the acquiring team. Detroit did this when the Columbus Blue Jackets sent David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning – receiving a fourth-round pick for retaining $2,125,000 of the blueliner’s contract.

Either option could benefit the Red Wings. Surely, the Toronto Maple Leafs want to part with Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million AAV contract this offseason – Detroit needs another goalie, too. THW colleague Devin Little mentioned Sean Monahan as a similar target. There’s also Ryan McDonagh and his $6.75 million cap hit. Additionally, the Red Wings could opt to retain salary on a player like Semyon Varlamov if the New York Islanders want to trade him to a cash-strapped team like the Edmonton Oilers.

Related: Worst Trades in Red Wings History

It should be noted that the Red Wings are only able to retain salary on three players at once, and one of those slots is currently occupied by Richard Panik, who was part of the Nick Leddy deal with the Islanders. They’ll probably want to save one of the two remaining retention slots for the trade deadline as well. This doesn’t apply to acquisitions who remain in Detroit, of course.

Scenario 2: Red Wings Engage in “Hockey Trades”

Looking at Detroit’s organizational depth, there’s a clear need for a second-line center and a top-four left-handed defenseman, with the latter of which being the biggest concern. Unfortunately, this summer’s free agent class lacks quality left defense, leaving the Red Wings in a bit of a bind. 

So if it’s looking like free agency is not the solution to Detroit’s left defense problem, Yzerman could opt to trade for a top-four rearguard. Remember, this is the same GM who dealt 22-year-old, former No. 2-overall pick Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev in 2017 to round out Tampa Bay’s blue line.

Potential Detroit Red Wings trade target Mikhail Sergachev
Might Steve Yzerman trade for Mikhail Sergachev a second time? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Who should the Red Wings target? Well, if Tampa Bay wants to clear cap space, Sergachev could be an intriguing option. Devin Little also pointed out the possibility of going after Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers. Then there’s Nic Hague of the Vegas Golden Knights. A few writers have brought his name up already and I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of trying to acquire him – whether through trade or offer sheet.

All three of these defensemen fit in well with Detroit’s rebuild timeline, but would also require significant assets in return. You have to spend money to make money, though.

Related: Red Wings Rebuild: Contend or Continue Tear Down?

Less appealing options include Brenden Dillion, Joel Edmundson, Brayden McNabb, Marcus Pettersson, and Nate Schmidt. These defensemen wouldn’t cost as much as the trio mentioned above, but wouldn’t match their production levels either. Still, they’d be an upgrade over Detroit’s current left-handed defensemen.

Recommendation for the Red Wings

One way or another, the Red Wings will have to part with some of their cap space. That said, they need to be strategic about it, and not throw money away unnecessarily. Cap space is an asset, after all.

My preference would be to acquire Mrazek along with a prospect sweetener from the Maple Leafs, who desperately need cap space. In addition, I’d recommend pursuing Hague – offering a second-round pick and Donovan Sebrango. If declined, the Red Wings should then offer sheet Hague with a two-year contract with a $4 million AAV. If accepted, this would only cost Detroit their second rounder.

These two moves would help shore up two organizational deficiencies and add roughly $8 million to the payroll – keeping Detroit below the salary cap floor.