With August upon us, time is running out as Red Wings general manager Ken Holland is on the record wanting to obtain a top four defenseman. He has also stated he will be looking closer to camp to make such a deal, as we are getting closer to training camp and the rumor mill is very quiet for Detroit, as expected.
The possible defenseman rumored all offseason to be on the move may not be on the move until closer to the 2017 NHL trade deadline, if at all: Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets, Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues, Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche or even Cam Fowler from the Anaheim Ducks.
A trade for a top four defenseman is tougher now that the Red Wings have spent their cap space and now they not only have to put together a great package but now must match close to dollar for dollar going the other way.
Let’s take a look back at the recent history of trades between August through October. In the 2014-2015 season there were no major trades in August and September and in October of 2014 Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy were traded. Last season Kris Versteeg and Michael Grabner were the biggest names to switch teams via trade between August- October 2015. In 2013-14 between August and October nothing earth shattering took place either.
For the Wings to upgrade the defense, it would have to be a pretty significant deal — one with a prospect, roster player and a first round pick, maybe more — recent history tells us most non-cap-crunched teams are not in a position or not willing to do such moves this close to training camp and the start of the season.
The Red Wings have done nothing to address a weak blueline this summer except for “kicking tires”, which apparently never results in anything of substance. They also will need to have a seventh defenseman on the roster to join Mike Green, Danny Dekeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith and Alexey Marchenko. That should be one of either Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen or Ryan Sproul. Keep in mind Sproul is still a restricted free agent.
Holland stated in a Mlive article, "When it comes to players, you gotta draft them and develop them." The Wings did just that with Ouellet, Jensen and Sproul; now they need to use them. The defense is not good enough or even close to being good enough for them not to have a legitimate chance of making the roster.
Meaning, obviously not all three will make it and a long shot of two of them making it but if two of the three come to camp and one plays well enough to remain as the 6th or 7th defenseman and the other plays better and looks better than Ericsson (just to throw a name out) then Holland must find a way to move on from Ericsson. The good general managers in the cap world always seem to find a way to do just that. This is even more important when you consider all three have to clear waivers to play in Grand Rapids next season as well.
Regardless of how you feel about some of the players the Wings have lost to waivers, traded for late round picks or traded for a rental player just to be bounced in the first round, the cycle has to stop and you have to see what these players can do on a regular basis.
The Red Wings have not done a good job of moving out higher priced players while moving in younger players to fill the spot and then having those young players turn into core contributors. They also need to be more successful in having those young players fill out the roster on the 3rd and 4th line and on the third defensive pair.
If they want to get a top four defenseman and preferably a top pair defenseman, they are going to have to overpay via trade. That fact won’t change tomorrow, it won't change at the deadline and won’t change next summer. Holland needs to be bold, needs to take a risk or the defense will never be upgraded significantly.