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Are Red Wings' Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist on the Trade Block?

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In a summer of change, will the Wings change out one of their young scorers?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

While we watch the second round of the NHL playoffs again bereft of the Red Wings, we're stuck with a few dreadful realizations about what being a hockey fan in May has been like for the majority of non-Wings fans all this time. Between rooting against hated teams and hoping your AHL squad can get the job done, you're also stuck with the ignominy of paying attention to the IIHF World Championship to keep track of our favorite hockey players.

Put simply, it sucks.

In addition to all of this, we're left with some real harsh questions facing the Red Wings going into next season about what General Manager Ken Holland has to pull off to turn a team he called "just not good enough" back into a contender. Among those, perhaps the trickiest consideration is how to simultaneously upgrade the team's defense while also finding the missing offensive spark for the Red Wings. In doing so, would the Wings put one of their two best goal scorers over the last two seasons on the block? I think so, and here's why:

Ken Holland's Comments

We've already gone over the end-of-season comments by Detroit's GM as far as how it made us feel (for better or worse), but I want to go back over what felt like a number of hints as far as where the team stands and what the future might be for the two European wingers. You can watch the presser here, but here's what stood out to me.

The Size Argument - Of the most-memorable things Holland mentioned was that among the "legitimate criticisms" of the team was that they're not big enough. He mentioned the 2015 run to the playoffs in losing Franzen & Cole just prior to the postseason and then having Abdelkader hurt as events which badly hurt their chances. While he couched the discussion with a confirmation he's not interested in changing Detroit into a team of atomic super-monsters, it's hard not to see the two smallish wingers fall behind the crosshairs when it comes to looking for areas to get bigger.

The Age Argument - Holland started out talking about how the last reload took because Pavel Datsyuk & Henrik Zetterberg stepped up to really take over the team in their mid-20s at essentially the same ages that Nyquist and Tatar are now. He stopped himself short of accusing the two of failing to do the same, but it certainly felt like there was a disappointment that they turned out to be complementary scorers instead of the next generation of homegrown superstars.

The Hockey-Store Argument - Holland made it pretty clear that the team needs the next generation of stars for the team to get back to contention and mentioned that those stars don't hit free agency. Combined with the indication that they would look to be aggressive at the draft, it certainly adds to the hint that just about everything on the table.

What he Didn't Say - Ken Holland didn't name any names as far as people who failed this season, as that's not his style, but in all of the discussion he came the closest to saying that Tatar and Nyquist's shortcomings were killer (based on the talk about some guys not taking "the next step" and the previously-mentioned discussion about the age when guys turn into stars). Holland mentioned players like Mrazek, Larkin, and DeKeyser glowingly. Perhaps the lack of praise spoke just as loudly as anything else.

The Press

When one of the most-senior diggers Helene St. James released her end-of-season player grades, she could only bring herself to give failing grades to two players. The person who couldn't bring herself to fail Jonathan Ericsson and who passed Joakim Andersson with an average grade provided failing grades to both Tatar and Nyquist. Obviously, this is just the opinion of one digger, but the last time we saw Helene go this hard after a player was Valtteri Filppula in the months leading up to his departure from the team.

Outside of player grade discussions, Tatar has answered the question from the rest of the diggers on what he feels about being used as a trading chip, telling them that he would understand such a move. There's also the various quotes from Tatar both domestic and abroad questioning his usage, though the more-recent ones seem to be much more about wanting to fit into whichever role was given, it's not hard to fathom frustration.

The press in Detroit hardly ever leads the way, generally acting more as mouthpieces to the organization than a critical eye, but there seems to be a lot of smoke around the idea that the organization may be done with one of these two players. Even asking guys how they'd feel about being traded is a generally new thing and we've so far only seen that about Tatar and Jimmy Howard (whose "on the block" status is the worst-kept secret in hockey right now).

The Redundancy

For the biggest fans of each player, it might be a bit insulting to imply they're essentially the same player. Nyquist moves north-south a bit quicker and backchecks pretty well. Tatar is a better puck-dangler and plays the body much more often.  Nyquist has a professionally polished demeanor about him; Tatar has a certain fire. When things are going badly, Nyquist disappears from view while Tatar sticks out like a sore thumb.

But when you're looking at the basics each player brings, both come down to being scoring wingers who can make an exceptional centerman thrive but apparently cannot drive a top six corps by himself. Each is a player who can find space, but has trouble consistently creating it.

Each is a part of a Detroit forwards corps who badly failed to score enough goals and each fits the "smallish" mold that makes people think they're easy to play against.

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On the Block?

Player Age Cap Hit Remaining Years
Tomas Tatar 26 $2.75M 1 year (RFA)
Gustav Nyquist 27 $4.75M 3 years (UFA)

If you're looking at getting rid of one of these guys, I have to lean towards Tomas Tatar being the one who gets moved. Not only are the diggers specifically asking the question of him instead of Nyquist, but the fact that Tatar found himself bumped to the fourth line seems to indicate that the team things more-highly of Nyquist as well. Not only that, but Tatar carries a friendlier cap hit and contract situation than Nyquist.

While Nyquist carries the known-quantity cap hit of $4.75M for the next three years, Tatar's RFA status means essentially that if he has the kind of season that's going to cost a team $4.75M or more in his follow-up contract, then it's real hard to consider that a lost trade. There's also the backloading in Nyquist's contract where he will be paid $5.25M and then $5.5M in the last two years of the deal, which limits his value to budget teams.

One reason the Wings might want to consider keeping Tatar over Nyquist if they have to move one of them is that not only does it save them $2M in cap space, but also it saves them from the concern of the full no-trade clause that kicks in on Gustav Nyquist's deal in 2017.

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All-in-all, we've got nothing but speculation to go on in considering whether the Wings are preparing to trade Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar. I feel that the collection of information that's come out in the last two months does indicate that part of the coming shakeup for the Wings will involve the loss of one of their mid-20s scoring wingers. I just hope that if one or both are moved, that Ken Holland is able to get appropriate value. Selling 20-30 goals off a team that struggled to score enough is a dangerous proposition, but it might be exactly what the team needs.