The 2016-2017 NHL season is fresh, and the Red Wings have come out of the gate at the speed of a hot-air balloon on a crash course for a mountain range.
No, I’m not going to sit here and complain. If you asked most people before the season started how they thought the Red Wings would do, the answer would likely be to the tune of “not good.” Great, they’re meeting expectations thus far. After the Panthers walloped the Wings on Saturday night, I started thinking about the state of the roster now, and in the future. We all know the defense isn’t great, but I think that for the most part it has slightly surpassed my expectations. The biggest question is how we’re going to make it better, all the while utilizing these young players we have who will be ready to step into an NHL role soon.
Robbie Russo, perhaps one of the best offensive defensemen in the AHL, is in a contract year. He’s an RFA at the end of the season, which means he needs to be in the NHL next season, or else he’ll end up claimed on waivers. Detroit has already lost two young players on waivers this season... Hell, it happened before the season, but I digress — They need to figure out what they are going to do with players like Russo, Sproul, and other players down the line. This is where I started to think, and admittedly started to lose my mind.
My insane plan that will never happen, but probably should
Brendan Smith is a UFA after this season. He’s a good player, but I think this season should be his final bow in Detroit. Despite how the Wings fare this season, whether they’re outside the bubble, or inside fighting for the playoffs, they should strongly consider moving his contract at the trade deadline or even before. At the end of the season, Smith will be looking for a contract that locks him up for at least four years, and the Red Wings are absolutely 100% NOT in the market to do that. Trade him to a contending team. Get a draft pick, maybe a prospect to go along with it. The roster spot is the real asset you gain in trading him.
That roster spot can immediately be given to a player like Russo, or Sproul. You transition into your youth, and start to form some kind of a plan for developing an identity with this blue line. I know most of you will bring up trading him with other assets for Jacob Trouba, and I would definitely do that, but I don’t think that’s realistic. Ha! As if what I am writing about right now is realistic. Shut up, let me talk.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I like Brendan Smith. This proposal is in no way reflective of his performance or character.
Next order of business is clearing yet another roster spot. Who could we pick.. Hmm.. [loud voice from the comment section] “JONATHAN ERICSSON!” Well, yeah, but let’s be real here — Ericsson has no value, his contract is atrocious, and the organization loves him. My proposed player is Mike Green. Before you yell at me, let’s put this into perspective. He has a year on his contract after this season, he’s a useful middle-pair guy that can be utilized on the power-play, and he actually has value. The Red Wings are in transition. They can afford to shed these guys in order to make room on a jam-packed roster. Could it make the team potentially worse? Sure. It could be downright painful, but the fact of the matter is that they will start to form some sort of plan. Now, I’m not sure they’re going to be willing to trade Mike Green. But I know for damn sure he isn’t going to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft.
Ohhhhh yeah, buddy. You forgot about that expansion draft, didn’t you? You thought we were stuck with what we have, huh? WRONG-O.
I think Green would be one of the most lucrative options for an expansion team in the draft. Decent contract, not much term, useful player. We don’t know who the Red Wings will end up protecting, but I’m betting Green won’t be. Assuming he gets taken, that opens up cap space (Kenny, please don’t spend it on anything), and yet another valuable roster spot. BANG! Now you can move another young player into the lineup without having to roll the waiver dice. And yes, I have considered Ericsson being taken in the expansion draft. I would do a backflip off of my house, into a garbage truck to make that happen, but again, I don’t think it will. Nope, Ericsson isn’t even worth having for free.
Conclusion (my head hurts)
I don’t think the Red Wings are going to amount to much in the couple of seasons. I think they absolutely should consider a rebuild in some way, shape, or form but I just cannot see it happening with Ken Holland as GM. Not to mention the big, shiny, multi-million dollar facility that they’re opening up next season. They need to sell tickets. Rebuilding teams don’t do that very well. Not in Detroit, at least. I’m not calling for a fire-sale here. All I’m saying is that it would be wise to take some of your valuable players, ship them off, gain some assets, and form some sort of general plan. No more autopilot, no more worry about “the streak.” The defense is not going to get better by standing PAT. No, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, and get our hands dirty. It might hurt, it could very-well make things miserable temporarily, but it could be a step in the right direction.
Not to mention, if we lose a player like Robbie Russo on waivers, I will scream.