Rumors about Sami Vatanen seeking a contract worth $6 million per season made him a popular trade target for Red Wings fans looking to upgrade the defense in the off season. It appears that either those rumors were just that or Vatanen softened his stance.
The deal works out to a $4.875 million dollar cap hit and according to general fanager contains a modified no trade clause that kicks in at the start of the 2018-19 season.
On the surface this news means there is one less potential trade target for the Red Wings in their quest to improve the mobility and offensive production of their blue line. Dig a little deeper however, and there are some reasons why this could be a good deal for the Red Wings.
First and foremost, Vatanen’s deal sets the bar for the Red Wings and Danny DeKeyser on his impending new contract this off season. Like DeKeyser, Sami Vatanen is a mid-20s defenseman but the on ice similarities pretty much end there though. Check out the HERO chart comparison of the two.
As you can see while DeKeyser is already viewed as one of the better defensemen in the league in his own zone (especially by Jeff Blashill) and his offensive game continues to improve, his production was not at the same level as Vatanen’s. At least some of that was due to his usage, both in terms of on ice situation and personnel (no one outside of Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard logged more ice time with Jonathan Ericsson this past season). I expect his usage will result in DeKeyser receiving either a longer contract or a slightly higher cap hit but Vatanen’s deal should give a general idea of what to expect. It is not however, the only interesting aspect of the deal for the Red Wings or their fans.
Sami Vatanen is not the only restricted free agent defenseman that the Anaheim Ducks had going into this off season. Hampus Lindholm also is due for a new contract and while the Ducks certainly have the cap space to sign him (according to general fanager, after the Vatanen deal they have $14 million in cap space) they do not really have the roster space for everyone. Once Lindholm is signed, they would have 7 defensemen under contract for the next 2 seasons. The problem is those 7 do not include Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour, two very talent prospects who are ready for the NHL.
Now, I am not suggesting that the Anaheim Ducks are going to put Hampus Lindholm on the trade block (although if they do I would give up any Red Wings player or prospect not named Dylan Larkin or Petr Mrazek for him). What I am suggesting is that Anaheim needs to get more scoring from their forwards and it is unlikely Kevin Bieksa, Clayton Stoner or Simon Despres are going to bring in that kind of forward in a trade. This means Anaheim could find themselves in a situation where they have to trade one of their two best blue line prospects or Windsor native Cam Fowler. This is where the Red Wings come in.
To be honest I am not sure what a fair trade for Cam Fowler would look like to the Red Wings. I assume Anaheim would initially ask for Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou or Evgeny Svechnikov. The Wings would presumably prefer to deal one of their current roster players, most likely one of Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist. For reference, here is the HERO chart comparison for Cam Fowler and Danny DeKeyser.
Even though they both had similar overall production numbers, the higher FisrtA/60 and Relative CF/60 says that Fowler is better at getting the puck to teammates in dangerous offensive areas (does not hurt logging a lot of ice time with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry instead of Darren Helm and Luke Glendening either). To top it off he has average 20 plus minutes a game for the Ducks since coming into the league 6 years ago at just 19 years old and you.
He might not be the legitimate top pairing defenseman a lot of Red Wings fans want, but Cam Fowler could just be the kind of defenseman that the Red Wings need and he just might be available in a trade thanks to Vatanen’s new contract.