The Grind Line: Predicting Yzerman’s First Red Wings Trade

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. Rachel Anderson, Raymond Harrison, Jake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

When Steve Yzerman took over the Red Wings, many expected the former captain to take charge and right the ship. In the couple months since, we’ve seen a unique approach to the draft, a couple of veteran free agents signed, and zero roster players traded. How curious?

Instead of sweeping changes, Yzerman wants to sit back and make the right decisions – not the quick ones. But at some point, someone will be dealt. After all, Detroit’s general manager hasn’t shied away from the trade front in the past. His 56 trades over nine years in Tampa Bay are evidence of that.

Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings.
Steve Yzerman swung a handful of deals with the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

So which player will be the first to be rolled out of the Motor City? And when? To which team?

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their prediction for Yzerman’s first trade of a roster player. Will it be a bloated contract or pending free agent? Check out the analysis below to find out.

Related: The Grind Line: Grading the Red Wings’ Free Agent Signings

Tony Wolak: Trevor Daley

While the Red Wings have a glut of defensemen, I don’t think Yzerman will be pressed into a move until he’s ready. And for those hoping for something right away, prepare to be disappointed.

In the past, Yzerman hasn’t let external factors dictate his moves – just look at how he handled the Jonathan Drouin situation. Instead, the long-time captain has opted to wait until the time is right and pounce on an opportunity.

In this circumstance, he’ll go into camp with a full roster and wait until another team has a need – he’s not going to sign off on a deal just to trade someone. And since the Red Wings have a surplus of depth defensemen, he’ll move one of his pending unrestricted free agent defensemen after an injury creates a hole on another team’s blue line.

Trevor Daley of the Detroit Red Wings
Trevor Daley is in the last year of his contract and could be a valuable asset to an injury-depleted team. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Trevor Daley will be the first to go. Yzerman should be able to get a mid-round pick in return for the veteran rearguard, which would certainly be palatable for an organization with playoff hopes.

Daley would also be the easiest to move. His contract isn’t as inflated as that of Jonathan Ericsson and the defenseman wouldn’t require as large of a return as Mike Green. Simply put, he’s a depth player – any trade involving him should come together relatively quickly. 

Rachel Anderson: Jonathan Ericsson

Defense has been the theme since Yzerman’s takeover. Drafting several defensemen, signing another in free agency, it won’t surprise me if a trade involves a defenseman in some way. That being said, it’s very likely that Ericsson would be on the trade block for Detroit. He does have worth as a player, but is too inconsistent to remain – especially at his current $4.25 million rate.

Jonathan Ericsson of the Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson could be a nice depth add for a contending team. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Detroit has ample defensive talent coming down the pike, so making room not only in the cap, but on the roster, would be highly beneficial. Though his no-trade list is a whopping 19 teams long, there are plenty of teams that would be happy to take him as a third-pairing guy or that “veteran” presence. 

The Red Wings have a little over $5 million in cap space and trading Ericsson for a mid-round pick or prospect would allow the Red Wings to take on a hefty contract in a subsequent trade. He’s aging and the team as a whole needs to get younger and faster – Ericsson doesn’t fit that model.

Raymond Harrison: Trevor Daley

I think Yzerman’s most likely trade scenario is to move out a veteran defenseman and open up a roster spot for a younger rearguard. After signing Patrik Nemeth on the first day of free agency, the Red Wings now have six NHL defensemen under contract, which does not include Filip Hronek or Dennis Cholowski, as they remain on their entry-level deals.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley.
Trevor Daley’s playoff experience would benefit contending teams. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Daley has one year left on his contract at $3.16 million. He is a serviceable third-pairing blueliner who offers a wealth of veteran leadership. The Red Wings can easily keep part of his salary if they were to trade him away, and I think a sixth-round pick is likely fair value for the 35-year-old. 

A team like the Winnipeg Jets, who lost Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, and Ben Chiarot this offseason could use Daley as a filler while younger defensemen like Sami Niku and Tucker Poolman adjust to the NHL. Just before the season begins would be an ideal time to swing a trade.

Jake Rivard: Mike Green

Yzerman isn’t one to jump the gun on a trade. He’s been very careful and calculated in the past, waiting until the last second to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade to land Ryan McDonagh. With this in mind, he’ll be looking to maximize his returns on expiring contracts. The most promising trade Yzerman could make would no doubt involve Mike Green during the trade deadline.

Mike Green of the Detroit Red Wings
Mike Green’s offensive prowess makes him a valuable trade asset. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Red Wings’ best defenseman has a year left on his contract at $5.375 million. He can easily slot in on the second or third pairing on a contending roster, offering strength on the power play and a solid veteran presence for younger players. If cap space is an issue, the Red Wings can absorb half or a portion of his salary; a second-round pick and middle-tier prospect would be more than fair for a return.

While trading Green could yield the best possible results for Yzerman and the Red Wings, two issues stand in the way to a potential trade. The first involves Green’s contract. With his contract’s modified no-trade clause, Green can submit a list of teams that he is willing to be traded to. It provides Green flexibility, but handicaps potential trades to teams that may otherwise buy higher for his handiwork. 

The other issue that may deter other teams is Green’s injury history. Having just recovered from an infection and a neck injury the year prior, teams may be hesitant to pull the trigger on a trade for an asset that may or may not last the remainder of the season. Time will tell what happens, but Yzerman’s best bet seems to involve the trading of Green.

Which player will the Detroit Red Wings trade first? Share your thoughts below.