The Red Wings have reached their bye week after a disappointing 3-1 loss at the hands of the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. The Wings were never going to be buyers or contenders as they have spent most of the season in the basement of not only the Eastern Conference, but the entire NHL. Before Tuesday’s game, Bob McKenzie, one of the more reliable NHL insiders, reported some inside information on Red Wings’ defenseman Brendan Smith with the trade deadline just days away:
McKenzie: #RedWings "are getting lots of calls on defenseman Brendan Smith." 1/2— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 21, 2017
McKenzie: Before #RedWings potentially trade Brendan Smith, they're going to talk to his reps this week about cost of poss. extension. 2/2— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 21, 2017
If McKenzie’s comments are true, and there is little evidence to tell us that they aren’t, this would be an erroneous tactic by Ken Holland.
Brendan Smith has been a fine player for the Red Wings, but he never fell into the primary role that the team has wanted him to. If the team is in fact receiving “lots” of calls on him, then considering an extension is the wrong call. The Wings re-signed Smith to a two-year extension worth $5.5 million back in 2015. Smith is a pending unrestricted free agent going into this offseason, which means the Wings will no longer have the benefit of him being a restricted free agent to play in their favor. Let’s not forget that the team is flush with young defensemen (Smith is 28 years old) such as Robbie Russo, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, and promising prospects such as Joe Hicketts and Vili Saarijarvi.
The Red Wings are currently riding a fine line of getting lurched into a possible teardown and rebuild. At this point, given the team’s performance this season, that seems nothing but certain. If the team does indeed have multiple offers or calls on an impending free agent, they must consider what is on the table. We don’t know what teams are offering for Smith — It could be future considerations, or late draft picks, in which case the reports make more sense. This doesn’t take away from the fact that the Wings are no longer in a position to retain older UFA players.
Yes, this is a bizarre tactic for a team who is sailing in uncharted waters right now. What Ken Holland needs to do is orchestrate a string of sensible transactions to put this team in a position to assume what needs to be done. If there is an offer on the table for a player like Brendan Smith that includes draft picks or prospects, the trigger must be pulled.