Mar. 29—DETROIT — The NHL trade deadline is in two weeks, April 12, and Red Wings fans can’t wait.
It used to be the Wings, as contenders, would stockpile onto powerful rosters in hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. Now, it’s all about the future, rebuilding, and hoarding draft picks.
The Wings have had moments in the last month of teasing an upward, surprise run. But, let’s face it, the standings, time left in the season, and the way the roster is constructed all add up to another selling season.
Players understand it’s part of the business, but they aren’t thrilled about it, either.
“I’ve been here for a little bit now and have seen some teammates and friends get traded,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “It’s part of the business. At some point here, hopefully we’re not in this position for much longer.”
Players try to keep away from the abundance of speculation on social media, but it’s impossible to totally ignore the rumors.
“When things are going the way they are now it gets compounded and talked about a touch more,” said forward Bobby Ryan, who is likely to be moved. “For me, not being a guy that’s too involved in reading the articles, it’s still making its way through. My wife is asking me about it. I hear it and understand what’s going on. This is the first time I’ve been through it where I’m probably more likely to be traded than not.”
The Wings do have the assets to get assets, and likely good draft picks, in return.
We’ll stick to the 11 — count ’em, 11! — unrestricted free agents on the roster, who are pure rentals for contending teams and are most likely to be traded this time of year.
Likely on the go — Marc Staal: It appears defensemen might become valuable assets leading up to, and including, April 12. There are key injuries occurring around the league, and let’s face it, an experienced defenseman is always handy, and valuable insurance for a contending team.
Staal has played fairly well here, and has been a veteran presence. With his pedigree and experience, a contender will grab him. And when that happens, to have received those upcoming assets along with the second-round pick from the N.Y. Rangers for the Wings to take Staal’s contract off their books, general manager Steve Yzerman deserves credit. — Patrik Nemeth: Again, like Staal, this is a veteran defenseman who does all the dirty work and will be a helpful addition for a contending team looking to add depth.
Returning to Colorado makes sense, but there are a lot of other teams who could use Nemeth’s experience. — Bobby Ryan: Getting hurt Sunday against Columbus wasn’t optimal, and it’s unclear how serious the injury is. But given what Ryan has shown this season, he clearly does have the offensive instincts to produce and is personality blends in any locker room, he’s perfect for a veteran team looking to strengthen their second or third lines. — Sam Gagner: Gagner hasn’t posted the numbers the Wings would have hoped, but in this case, you have to look deeper into numbers and, again, the locker room presence means a lot. Maybe a return to Edmonton, where he’d fit in nicely? You get the sense Gagner could be a sneaky good addition for someone with a deeper talent pool. — Darren Helm: The long-time Wing still is an effective penalty killer and has a role has a third- or fourth-line checking forward. Maybe his hometown Winnipeg Jets? It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wings get a third-round pick for the valuable veteran.
Have a bag packed, just in case — Jonathan Bernier: This one is tricky. Bernier has been out for over a week now with a lower-body issue (maybe groin?), and there’s no timetable for a return. That will make other teams obviously cautious. But Bernier was among the better goalies in the NHL when healthy, and teams like Colorado, Washington, Pittsburgh, have an apparent need to fortify the goaltending position.
Now that Calvin Pickard is slowly emerging as a fallback option to replace Bernier, if needed, for the final weeks of the season, maybe the Wings make Bernier available.
But, the gut feeling remains the Wings would like to re-sign Bernier for the near future. — Luke Glendening: Same feeling here, too. The Wings would like to keep the East Grand Rapids native for a few years longer. The leads the NHL in face-off percentage, and is a terrific example for young players. But, if there’s an offer the Wings can’t refuse, the Wings could trade Glendening and hope to re-sign him in the summer (as they could Bernier, too).
The problem with that scenario, though, is that the given player in question could always fall in love with the new team/city. — Jon Merrill: The Grand Blanc native has been a steady defenseman who has likely earned another contract with the Wings. His versatility has been impressive.
But, again, if there’s an offer too good to refuse, and Merrill would be a perfect depth defenseman for many contenders, he would be moved.
Likely staying put — Valtteri Filppula: Filppula has dropped out of the lineup and hasn’t shown enough for contenders to be interested. He could reappear in the lineup if some of the other forwards are traded. — Alex Biega: The veteran defenseman hasn’t played much at all, and isn’t going to attract interest. If the other defenseman are moved, Biega would likely see his playing time inch upward a little. — Calvin Pickard: Pickard’s performance in the two weekend victories over Columbus were eye-opening. If Pickard can continue this sort of consistency, it might give Yzerman some more leeway to possibly moving Bernier for a valuable haul.