The Grind Line: Red Wings’ 2019-20 Ideal Trades

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. Jake Rivard, Thomas Fournier, and Devin Little are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Trading is one of the toughest aspects of hockey. Maximizing your assets while minimizing losses can be a difficult task for general managers across the league. Some general managers succeed, while others tend to struggle. Fortunately for the Red Wings, general manager Steve Yzerman has maintained a solid track record of smart trades throughout his career.

As general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yzerman analyzed situations before settling on trades, earning him players like Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, and even the draft pick that landed him Andrei Vasilevskiy. With his long history of bold, standard-setting trades, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Yzerman make a few trades within the 2019-20 season, if not earlier.

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings team will describe the ideal trade they’d like Yzerman to make in the 2019-20 season. Will he flip an expiring contract for a future draft pick? Or will he make a one-for-one trade for an upgrade to the roster?

Jake Rivard: Mike Green for Josh Ho-Sang

As of right now, the Red Wings have eight picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, with five in the first round. If Yzerman feels confident enough with Detroit’s draft strategy, he may consider trading a player for a prospect, and the player that immediately comes to mind is Mike Green.

Mike Green Red Wings
Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings, December 20, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Green, at 33 years old, is playing the last year of his two-year, $5.375 million contract. Despite his age, he’s still easily the Red Wings’ best defenseman, playing in all situations while maintaining impressive composure on the ice. On a contending team, Green can serve as a depth defenseman and power play specialist; something a lot of teams will be on the hunt for come the trade deadline.

Last year, the New York Islanders were ranked 29th on power play effectiveness. If they want to make a big splash in the postseason, they’ll need more depth on their defense and a much more efficient power play. With that being said, it’s possible that Green would fit in perfectly on their roster.

Josh Ho-Sang - Islanders
Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders, September 17, 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Islanders choose to pursue Green, they’ll need to give up a worthy asset. Josh Ho-Sang, the prodigal son of Long Island, seems to be the perfect fit. At 23 years old, he has struggled to maintain a consistent spot in the Islanders’ lineup, battling attitude problems and inconsistencies throughout his tumultuous career. Ho-Sang is fast, full of potential, and in need of a fresh start. In Detroit, he could succeed in a middle-six role, where he’ll have plenty of time to make a name for himself on a roster undergoing a rebuild.

Proposition: Detroit Red Wings trade D Mike Green for New York Islanders RW Josh Ho-Sang

Thomas Fournier: Evgeny Svechnikov for Rasmus Ristolainen

I’ve talked about trading for Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in the past. He has a strong offensive style of play for a defenseman, and is considered to be one of the best defensemen in his age group at 24 years old. Over the past four seasons with the Sabres, Ristolainen has posted very solid offensive numbers, with most of them coming on the power play; an area where Detroit needs significant help. Through the 2018-19 season, he had the worst plus/minus rating in the league at minus-41. But would moving from one poor performing team to another work out for both parties?  

Rasmus Ristolainen Buffalo Sabres
Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Evgeny Svechnikov, on the other hand, has had many speed bumps along his road to the NHL. He sat out for the entire season in 2018-19 after undergoing knee surgery. He made a strong impression on fans and the team two years ago with his NHL debut, scoring four points in 14 games. He’s mentioned many times that he wants to make the team out of training camp and with spots available, it isn’t impossible. The most intriguing question is whether he can still keep up with players who have had more time to develop. Fortunately, at only 23 years old, he still has time to grow.

Evgeny Svechnikov
Evgeny Svechnikov (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Neither Svechnikov nor Ristolainen have reached their ceiling, but neither is getting any younger. Additionally, both seem to be falling behind in their pipeline, with Svechnikov struggling to stand out against Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno while Ristolainen attempts to hold his own against Rasmus Dahlin. A trade between both teams would need to occur closer to the trade deadline to see if Ristolainen’s play improves. I think Detroit could send Svechnikov and a conditional 4th round to Buffalo for Ristolainen and a conditional 3rd, leaving both teams mutually satisfied.

The Red Wings’ conditional pick could be determined by whether or not Svechnikov plays the majority of the season, while Buffalo’s conditional pick would be received if Ristolainen continues his struggles with his plus/minus totals.

Proposition: Detroit Red Wings trade Evgeny Svechnikov and a conditional 4th round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Rasmus Ristolainen and a conditional 3rd round pick

Devin Little: Evgeny Svechnikov for Haydn Fleury

Ever since the Carolina Hurricanes drafted Andrei Svechnikov with the second pick in the 2018 Entry Draft, I’ve wondered if there could be a trade opportunity between Detroit and Carolina. This seemed possible when
Svechnikov was excited before the draft at the prospect of playing with his brother Evgeny in Detroit. It seems unrealistic to assume that the Red Wings would acquire Andrei. Instead, I think there’s a trade to be had that sends Evgeny Svechnikov to the Hurricanes.

Evgeny Svechnikov
Evgeny Svechnikov, Detroit Red Wings, Sept. 2018. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

As it stands, 2019-20 will be Svechnikov’s make-or-break season. He was the team’s top pick in the 2015 Entrt Draft, but he has yet to break out. He missed all of last season due to surgery on his knee. He has the skill to be an important piece of Detroit’s top nine, but the clock is ticking. Furthermore, with every passing draft, the Red Wings seem to add more and more high-end winger prospects.

The Hurricanes are perhaps the deepest team on defense. They traded away Calvin de Haan this off-season just to ensure that their defensive unit wasn’t overcrowded. That’s a luxury that Red Wing fans wish their team had. Right now, the team has two younger players on the fringe of their roster: Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean. Both were first-round picks in previous drafts and both are knocking on the door, ready for full-time NHL reps.

Haydn Fleury Hurricanes
Haydn Fleury, Carolina Hurricanes, Mar. 1, 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

My preference would be to snag Bean for Svechnikov, but Carolina may value Bean’s upside more than Svechnikov’s. Fleury could fall into Madison Bowey territory, where Detroit takes him on to give him the opportunity to stick in the NHL. Fleury hasn’t had the most consistent opportunities in the NHL, and with a fresh start with the Red Wings, it seems likely that he’d earn additional time. Given the current state of Detroit’s defense, I think Fleury is a gamble worth taking.

Proposition: Red Wings trade F Evgeny Svechnikov for Carolina Hurricanes D Haydn Fleury