When the Red Wings made moves in free agency yesterday in an attempt to add depth in key areas to the team, they also added to a couple logjams and potentially squeezed themselves over the Salary Cap. Mike Green's and Brad Richards' combined $9M cap hit leaves them about $6M to sign their restricted free agents (including three forwards who will make the team). What's more though, the Green signing left the Wings with eight waiver-eligible defensemen going into next season.
Eight isn't exactly a bad number. Teams carry that from time-to time. There's no saying how you have to switch up the forward and defensive lineups to get to the 23-man roster. It just makes more sense for the Wings to carry 14 forwards and 7 defensemen. Adding to that is the fact that the list of those eight defensemen does not include Xavier Ouellet or Alexey Marchenko, two NHL-ready defensive prospects who should be getting a look this year.
Of course, there's a wild card among this group and his name is Brian Lashoff. The 24-year old undrafted Red Wings signing is indeed waiver-eligible, but his salary is below the threshold for having any money remain on the Wings' cap if he clears waivers and is assigned. Lashoff also did successfully clear waivers and played well for Grand Rapids last season. It's likely he would be able to do so again.
This leaves us with exactly seven guys, but with no room for Marchenko or Ouellet. Let's hear what Ken Holland has had to say about that:
Holland said ideally he'd like to have Marchenko or Ouellet on roster but right now neither is in the top seven.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) July 2, 2015
Taken at face value, this would seem to be the end of the discussion. Fortunately, Ken Holland has been teaching us for years not to take things at face value (plus it would be boring that way anyway). Let's dig into the official WIIM Ken Holland Quote Translator and see what lies between these lines.
...ideally he'd like to have Marchenko or Ouellet
Ok, one or the other being with the big club is ideal, not both, but one.
...but right now neither is in the top seven.
We can argue until we're blue in the face about whether Marchenko or Ouellet is better than Jakub Kindl or Brendan Smith. I don't think Ken Holland thinks they are and until I hear one way or another from Jeff Blashill, I'm not going to assume he feels differently either. What I'm more interested in is the "right now" part. If we go by the assumption that Ken Holland believes two guys he'd ideally like to have in the roster aren't in the top seven RIGHT NOW, then we can branch that off to say he'd like to wait until one of them overtakes somebody currently in the top seven or he'd like to move somebody out of the top seven to qualify one of them for that position.
Both assumptions work from a logical standpoint, however, let's dig deeper into the logic:
The Red Wings are right now as good as they're going to be on defense. They want to be this level of good to make a run at competing for the cup while they still have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as contributing members to the team. Alexey Marchenko, and Xavier Ouellet still have things to learn in Grand Rapids, but they can be called upon for injuries. Somehow the RFAs come in under the remaining cap space limit and the team doesn't have to make a move to make extra space.
The Red Wings have dug up a little farther than they can afford on the FA signings and will need more space to fill out their roster. Both Ouellet and Marchenko are good enough to be with the club now while Nick Jensen, Ryan Sproul, and Brian Lashoff can all serve in an injury replacement role outside the top seven. Making a hole in the top seven by shipping a guy out is just fine.
If you're in Stance Once here, then we don't have to go any farther. I'm going to press forward while assuming the other stance.
But Why Quincey?
Ok, if we look at this from a standpoint that the Red Wings would be better-positioned to perhaps move a guy out of their current top seven both to save some cap space and also to let the prospect development happen a little faster, then why does it make sense that Kyle Quincey should be the guy to go? Well, there's lots of reasons.
Process of Elimination
Unless something monumental happens, the Red Wings are not shipping out Niklas Kronwall. It goes without saying that a player who continues being called a part of the the team's core is not moving on to get Squishy into the lineup. It's also completely mental to suggest that Mike Green or Danny DeKeyser are gone; the one having just been signed and the other looking like the kind of defenseman you hold onto for a very very long time.
This leaves us with four candidates.
The case for Jonathan Ericsson
Jonathan Ericsson is not a top-pairing defenseman. We know that, the league knows that, everybody knows that. Ericsson also carries a $4.25M cap hit for the next six seasons and has a modified no-trade clause. There's also this nugget from Blashill about the potential pairings:
Early indication from #RedWings coach Jeff Blashill is he'll pair Mike Green with Danny DeKeyser, keep Kronwall & Ericsson. 3rd pair TBD— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 1, 2015
Ericsson and Kronwall are apparently besties and Kronwall likes working with Riggy. The discussion here isn't about whether they SHOULD be together, but more a statement on the idea that it means Ericsson is a lot less likely to be moved.
The Case for Brendan Smith & Jakub Kindl
I'm cheating by putting these two together, but the back-to-back quotes I have here make it more fitting. Kindl has a $2.4M cap hit for the next two years while Smith has a hit of $2.75M for the same time frame. Neither has a no-trade clause.
Couple notes from Jeff Blashill's availability: Said he likes Smith's offensive potential and will give him shot on PP (in camp) ...— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) July 2, 2015
Blashill also likes Kindl's abilities and wants to give him a chance to resurrect his career here.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) July 2, 2015
Blashill isn't the GM, but he sounds like he wants to work with these two and see what can be accomplished. I still wouldn't be surprised to see Kindl moved, but the Wings have been trying to do that for some time with no luck. He simply lacks the value. Smith could also be moved regardless of this quote, but he was also just re-signed and I'm not sure Ken Holland has ever done a sign-and-trade with a player. I do like the "in camp" qualifier that Khan threw up there about him though. Adds intrigue.
The Lone Man Standing
So we've covered three of the four players that it wouldn't be weird to consider trade bait and are left with only Kyle Quincey. The strange thing coming out here is that while Blashill has talked about his plans for Smith and Kindl and Ken Holland has discussed Marchenko and Ouellet, I've yet to see much being said about the 29-year old Quincey with one year left on his $4.25M deal (that conveniently lacks a no-trade clause).
In fact, the only thing we've seen so far is the quote that Helene said above about how Quincey's defensive partner last season now belongs to Mike Green and some guesses from Ted Kulfan and Keith Gave about how Quincey would "likely" be paired with Smith on the third pairing going forward.
The silence is almost deafening.
The Case for Quincey
Since the Red Wings gave up a first round pick to re-acquire Kyle Quincey in a deal that landed the Lightning Andrei Vasilevskiy, Quincey hasn't been terribly-well received. he turned UFA last year, but found no takers during the daylight hours of July 1st before opting to sign a two-year deal to return to Detroit. Quincey's deal will expire after this season.
To his credit, Quincey played very well paired next to Danny DeKeyser last season, at times being called Detroit's most-consistent pair by head coach Mike Babcock. Quincey seemed to find that balance between snarl and effectiveness while DeKeysers vision and support really helped Quincey simplify a game that had perhaps been too complicated by previous pairings with Brendan Smith (a player not nearly as polished as DeKeyser).
This solid performance last season means Quincey should have actual trade value on the market for a team looking for a defenseman. He comes with a reasonable cap hit and a good attitude. As of this writing, there are three teams currently below the cap floor who will need to spend more to get to the minimum level. Two of them (Arizona and New Jersey) have fewer than seven NHL defensemen on their rosters. All three of them (Nashville being the third) would meet the floor just by adding Quincey. In addition to that, The Buffalo Sabres currently only have 5 NHL defensemen with more than $17M in cap space.
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The Red Wings don't have to move a defenseman right now. It's entirely possible that they get their RFAs signed to deals that keep them under the cap and they go into the season with Kyle Quincey and his $4.25M cap hit playing as a veteran presence on the third pair while Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet continue developing in Grand Rapids. However, I think it makes sense for the Wings to make a move both from a cap savings standpoint and from a developmental standpoint. If they are going to make a move, Kyle Quincey represents the most-sensible one to make.