Ok, so we know how the NHL draft went for the Red Wings this past weekend. However, I still don’t like how we didn’t address our defense enough, but that’s another argument for another time. Ask anyone around the league, and they’ll tell you the Red Wings had one of the best drafts of any team. Zadina and Veleno dropped, they selected high-upside talent in the form of Berggren, and they made overall good use of their 10 picks.
Enough time has passed where it’s time to start building off this. We know what Ken Holland’s track record the past several years has been, and one good draft isn’t going to change that at all. We are in crunch time between now and July 1, and Holland can prove a lot more to us in that time frame. Let me explain.
Just recently, the Wings announced the signings of Tyler Bertuzzi and Martin Frk. Both to short-term deals for good value as well. However, assuming the Wings re-sign Mantha, Larkin and Athanasiou, that means 12 forward spots are filled already for next year (including Witkowski), you would think, as the Wings always seem to value the veterans more. So that means the prospects like Zadina, Rasmussen and Svechnikov may not be up on Opening Day. Which, let’s be real, everyone wants them to be on the roster. So there are moves that need to be made over the next few days before free agency to clear not only roster spots, but cap space as well.
There are two pretty obvious moves here, however I think one is more likely then the other. Those moves are trading Andreas Athanasiou and Gustav Nyquist. Now with Zadina being such a big-time prospect, the likeliness AA gets moved has increased dramatically. After last year’s contract debacle, AA is back in RFA territory, and you have to think his time in Detroit is slim. It’s best for the entire organization if they can somehow trade him for defensive help, and that’s where Nyquist could come in to play as well.
With 1-year left at $4.75M, moving Nyquist now, rather than at the deadline, would be ideal for this team. He’s in a similar boat as AA where his time in Detroit seems to be coming to a close. Many thought Holland and co. might move Nyquist at last year’s deadline, but they held on to him instead. Adding essentially $5M in cap space could help the defense in free agency as well. He does have a full NTC, so they’d have to get him to waive that, but imagine trading Nyquist, AA and a pick (since we now have 11 in next years draft), for someone like a Colton Parayko, Matt Dumba or Justin Faulk. Not saying you could trade those players for that package alone, but they’re all 26 or younger and could absolutely be a positive addition on the Wings blue line.
Now let’s talk about that defense. The moves the Wings have made so far have all been about clearing the log jam of depth defenders in the minors, not so much about making room on the big club for young guns like Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts or Dennis Cholowski to be on the roster come October 4th. Moves that could fix this? Either trading Nick Jensen, or dare I say it buy out Jonathan Ericsson (gasp).
Let’s be real: only one of those moves are probably possible, and that’s dealing Jensen. He’s a good bottom-pair guy who will only make $812k this year, so you could easily get a late round pick for him. Now on to the fun topic, one every Wings fan on the planet has wanted for years, and continuously been denied time and time again. It’s time for Ericsson to go, it just is.
His contract is much like his game, not great. So buying him out would save a few dollars and also help continue the youth movement on defense. Buying him out would save $2.83M each of the next two years, then cost the Wings $1.4M the two years following. That is worth it to me and if Ken Holland wants to truly show us he’s turned over a new leaf, he’ll get rid of Ericsson and let Hronek, Cholowski or Hicketts take his spot full time.
Look, I’m not saying that all of these moves will happen or that this is as easy at is sounds, but something else needs to change now. We can’t get complacent and just be happy we got guys like Zadina and Veleno in the draft, it’s okay to want more sometimes. Personally, I want the “five or six young players” on the roster come Opening Day, not just talks about it. It’s time to keep the ball rolling and for Ken Holland to prove to us that he truly has changed his ways. Let’s not settle, let’s keep it going, let’s go red wings!