There is nothing but heartbreak this Valentine’s Day in Hockeytown. With the deeply saddening news of Mr. Ilitch’s passing, and the Red Wings putting together their worst season in over 20 years, it is feeling bleak at Joe Louis Arena. The possibility of a March 1st fire sale for the Red Wings is growing increasingly more likely each passing day that they fail to gain points and ROW in the standings. This is a feeling that Red Wings fans, especially millennial fans such as myself, are simply not accustomed to.
This is Part 1 of my Wings guide to the trade deadline.
The purpose of this article is to highlight players that I think have the potential to be on the move by March 1st. I will talk about the player as well as a destination for the player that makes sense to me and why. I must offer up a disclaimer though as this article is strictly speculation, but speculation with well-rounded thought behind it. If any of these actually happen as I predict, feel free to buy me a Labatt if you ever catch me at the bar.
WHO IS SAFE
Before we get into the player profiles, I want to explain who I believe will remain in Red and White through the season and potentially through their contracts. First off the goalies, I believe that they will both stay Red Wings. There has been some speculation amongst various hockey journalists that Detroit may move Petr Mrazek or Jimmy Howard prior to the deadline. I think that’s not going to happen for a couple reasons. Number one, goaltending has been a strong suit of this team in the past. Last season we always had either 34 or 35 playing well enough to give us a chance to win while the other struggled. This has also been year number one for Red Wings goalie coach Jeff Salajko, and typically in professional sports new coaches has been an accepted excuse for lack of performance. Howard has been battling injury all year and despite his numbers I do not see any teams being willing to place their playoff hopes and sacrifice prospects or picks on an injury plagued goaltender. Lastly, I don’t think you should bail on Mrazek after one bad season under a new goalie coach and playing behind an injury ridden defense that includes a couple of rookies.
There has also been some speculation that Mike Green may be on the move as well at the NHL trade deadline. I believe that Green will play out the rest of his contract in Hockeytown, which expires after the 2017-18 season. Think about it, the defense has been the biggest issue and Green has been the one bright spot on the blue line. Green, 31, will still have enough decent NHL years left post-contract in Detroit to find somewhere to potentially go and win a Stanley Cup. With the correlation of Ken Holland and Mike Green’s contract expiring, this just screams to me that he will stay and be asked to mentor for one more year (and make $6M in the process). Trying to move a defenseman with this price-tag to a contender mid-season, without asking them to give up any key pieces would not be easy either. Just seems like the easiest and most logical option for all parties involved is for Mike to play another 100 games and some change in a Detroit uniform and move on after that is complete.
Tatar, like most Wings, is having a down year. Since his breakthrough rookie campaign, he has shown signs of regression. This may speak to the direction of the Red Wings franchise or it may speak to Tatar himself, I do not know and can only speculate. There is a market though for scoring wingers such as Tatar however to teams chasing the Stanley Cup. This season Tatar has played in 56 games and amassed a meager 26 points (12 G, 14 A). The 2009 2nd round draft pick has 319 career GP with 174 points (86 G, 88 A) in a Red Wings uniform. You have to think that a player like Tatar would thrive on a line with someone who has elite talent, something he isn’t used to in Detroit.
DESTINATION PREDICTION: ST. LOUIS BLUES
Tatar has a $2.75M cap hit and is an RFA at the conclusion of this season. As of right now, the St. Louis Blues have approximately $2.6M in cap space, so some room would need to be created. I believe that Tatar could fetch the Red Wings a prospect and either a 3rd or 4th round draft pick, should the Blues find a way to shed that cap elsewhere. Or, potentially, you may even see a Tomas Tatar for Scottie Upshall and a 3rd or 4th rounder take place. Upshall, 33, is a UFA after this season and has a $900K cap hit who has 9 points (5 G, 4 A) in 50 games played this season. With that trade, the Blues would create cap space for Tatar, and the Wings would get a cheaper veteran player who will be off the books at season’s end. The Blues would also get a viable replacement for Robby Fabbri who tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the year. St. Louis is an organization that has proven they are willing to win at all costs, proven by their willingness to fire one of the greats Ken Hitchcock. Imagine Tatar on a line with Vladamir Tarasenko, Paul Stasny, Alexander Steen or Jaden Schwartz (or any combination of those players). Tatar instantly makes their top 6 better and I think this would be a beneficial situation for all parties involved. Oh look, the Wings play the Blues next too, chatter may begin between Holland and Blues GM Doug Armstrong.
This dummy, what a joke that high stick was. This could in turn actually ruin his chances of being traded at the deadline depending on how long of a suspension he gets. If he only gets 6 at his hearing, that could still be okay considering the Red Wings have 5 games left before the deadline. Much like Tatar, Nyquist has been declining too. I’ve always thought that 14 and 21 are virtually the same player with very slight but distinct differences. Nyquist, 27, carries with him an ugly $4.75M cap hit through the 2018-19 season. Nyquist has played 56 games this season and has a total of 29 points (7 G, 22 A). The 2008 4th rounder has played 317 games in a Detroit jersey and has earned 187 career points (83 G, 104 A). You can see the very similar stats in Nyquist that you do Tatar. I will admit, that I believe he is definitely less likely to be traded than Tatar but we do know that teams have at least inquired about him and his availability. Between the ugly cap hit and contract, and the ugly high sticking incident, it may be more likely that he could get moved in the summer. However, that is not going to stop me from predicting and hoping he gets traded away sooner rather than later..
DESTINATION PREDICTION: LOS ANGELES KINGS
Just like Tatar, Nyquist could fetch the Wings a prospect and 3rd or 4th round pick for trading away his services. As of right now, the Kings have approximately $6.6M in cap space, which would be enough for Nyquist. However, RFA’s after this season such as Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are due raises. The Kings are definitely a team that needs winger depth and has a core of aging forwards, if they would like to return to form and make a deep playoff run Nyquist definitely makes them better instantaneously. Gus on a wing with either Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter would be something beautiful to watch. If King’s GM Dean Lombardi can find a way to add Nyquist while not handcuffing himself for the summer, I think it’s a move that makes sense for the Kings and the Wings. It would be the first step in shedding terrible Holland contracts and allow Nyquist an opportunity to win a Cup and hopefully keep his fricking stick down.
I am a big Vanek fan, and I wish we could have had him on this team in any year before this year because he would have been a big difference maker. Vanek is the guy all the “hockey experts” expect Ken Holland to move. A reasonable return for Vanek and his very reasonable $2.6M cap hit would be a 1st or 2nd round draft pick, and you can almost guarantee he will be traded at this point. You feel for the guy, because he seems to like playing in Detroit and has had to move a lot during his NHL career. Unfortunately the simple business decision is to trade him and get a high round draft pick, and there really is nothing else to it. Vanek, 33, has 36 points (14 G, 22 A) in 43 games played this season. The former 5th overall pick has played in 860 games in his career, totaling 685 points (330 G, 355 A).
DESTINATION PREDICTION: COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Yeah, Columbus. As a Red Wings and University of Michigan fan (and someone who shares a last name with the Ohio State football coach) this actually pains me to talk about. Can you imagine though Thomas Vanek in the Blue Jackets top 6 with Saad, Wennberg, Foligno, Dubinsky, and Atkinson? In my humble opinion, that is not a team I would want to run into come playoff time with that forward core. Vanek could take the place of Boone Jenner in their top 6, and Josh Anderson is waiver exempt. They have the cap space, can make the roster space with relative ease, and it makes them way more dangerous moving forward. Columbus is neck and neck with defending Cup champs Pittsburgh, and you have to believe Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is going to try and make a move in effort to separate themselves from Pittsburgh. In the Metropolitan, Washington is almost a lock as the division winner, but the 2 seed in that division is completely up for grabs and it is still a coveted position. This, like Vanek’s original signing in Detroit, is a very low risk and incredibly high reward kind of move for the Jackets. Kekalinen may come calling, and with recent games between CBJ and DET perhaps talks have already taken place between the two GM’s.
Tomorrow, in Part 2 of our Wings guide to the deadline, we will look at the remainder of the list and give some final thoughts to Ken Holland before he gets to work.