There were rumblings on social media earlier this week (ahem, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen) that Red Wings GM Ken Holland has been fielding calls regarding Danny DeKeyser. That’s right, DeKeyser. The most obvious trade chip for Holland entering this year’s trade deadline is veteran defenseman Mike Green. Green is on pace for his first 40-point season since 2014-15 with the Washington Capitals, but his 5v5 numbers are nothing to write home about. In DeKeyser’s defense, everyone has been ragging on his 5v5 CF% this season -- currently at 47.6% -- but, the fact is he’s tied with Green. Okay, okay. That’s the only time I will defend DDK in this article. However, I think the Wings have far worse problems than number 65 on the blueline and the real reason I question why anybody would trade for him is the length and AAV of his contract (4 more years at $5M each year).
Of course, Holland pieced together another of his “impressive” deals when he signed DDK in July 2016 to a six-year, $30-million contract extension. At first glance, I thought it could have been worse. But, just two years into the deal, it’s been hard to justify paying him that much. DDK joined a long list of Holland’s contract debacles and so, ahead of trade deadline 2018, we seemingly have another immovable object on the Wings’ roster. With four years remaining at a $5M AAV, any possible trade scenario will likely have to involve a retainer by the Wings or possibly a big contract coming back in the deal (but that defeats the purpose doesn’t it?). Let’s dive into some potential suitors for DDK ahead of this month’s deadline frenzy...
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been rumored to be shopping veteran defenseman Jack Johnson for months now, and he will be a UFA this summer. Some of you reading at home might consider it a head scratcher from the Blue Jackets’ perspective, but they will have rid themselves a “supposed” locker room distraction while adding a veteran defenseman with some playoff experience to a rather young squad. DDK might be a solid bottom-pairing blueliner with Top-4 potential and he might fit nicely on the Blue Jackets without having to play top minutes. On the flip side, the Wings might have to sweeten the pot with a prospect or pick even if they retain some of DDK’s salary, but they might even swing a pick or prospect coming back from Columbus and the ultimate goal here is to rid themselves of another poor, long-term contract.
Could Holland pull one over on the New York Rangers’ front office like last season? It’s possible. Holland actually managed to do something right at this time last year when he sent Brendan Smith packing to the Rangers in exchange for a 2017 3rd-round pick and a 2018 2nd-round pick. Why is this significant? Well, the Rangers inked the 29-year-old to a four-year, $17.4-million deal this summer and just placed him on waivers last week...one point, Holland. It’s easy to say the Rangers might have learned from their mistake, but DDK going to the ‘Big Apple’ isn’t that far-fetched. The team will likely be sellers at the deadline, and that could start with captain Ryan McDonagh. If the Wings retain some salary, then they could land a pick or two in return and the Rangers have plenty to boot.
Lastly, perhaps the Vancouver Canucks might come calling? After all, you could draw the correlation that Holland might end up as their next GM (but then again, that could be labelled as tampering?) and maybe he secretly values DDK more than the fans think? The Canucks are pressed against the salary cap, but former Red Wing Thomas Vanek has an expiring contract. Plus, the Wings could pluck one of the Canucks’ goalies in the deal considering they have plenty of uncertainty in their own crease moving forward. Adding one of Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek in the package might make Jim Benning more inclined to deal Jacob Markstrom or Anders Nilsson—at that point, it’s anyone’s guess.
Overall, the Wings have a window to trade DeKeyser as his NTC kicks in on January 1, 2021. It might seem far away, but trust me when I say we’ve been down this road before with Holland (the Jonathan Ericsson buyout debacle last summer) and the earlier he makes this deal, the better. The Wings need to sell as much as they can like last season and continue piling up the draft picks and any potential prospects that opposing GM’s might throw in the mix. Holland has made too many questionable decisions to count over the past few years, but he now has a shot at redemption before the deadline.