We all know how the Detroit Red Wings performed this past season and this team has a long way before it’s ready to assert themselves into the contender conversation again. But, the Wings do have a small nucleus of young players — Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek to name a few — that show some promise and potential light at the end of the tunnel.
The one thing that GM Steve Yzerman has never shied away from (even in his days with the Tampa Bay Lightning) are working the phones to improve his team. And, with the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the books, there could be an opportunity for Yzerman to take advantage of some of the panic that has set in among opposing general managers as well as their fanbases.
With the salary cap expected to remain at the $81.5-million mark, it’s a unique time for the Wings to become buyers considering they have roughly $43-million — some of this remains a payout to Henrik Zetterberg for next season — committed to 10 skaters, plus a goalie (Jonathan Bernier). Of course, the front office will have decisions to make on another 10 RFA’s currently on the roster, most notably Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha and Robby Fabbri, but there should be enough cash flow to stay active in trade talks.
Some of the teams that experienced a surprisingly early exit during the NHL’s return to play format, include the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. All of which, have veterans on not so team-friendly deals that those GM’s could be looking to move. Pens GM Jim Rutherford in particular noted that the team may need some big changes after being knocked out by the Montreal Canadiens during round robin play.
Articles like this one are always fun to put together, so let’s kick back and play the role of “armchair GM” for a moment, shall we?
James Neal (Winger / Edmonton Oilers)
The Oilers and Wings are no strangers to one another when it comes to making a deal and Neal is a veteran winger with three years left at a cap hit of $5.75M. After a red hot start to the 2019-20 campaign, he cooled off considerably, but managed 19 goals in 55 games. At 32, he could be the type of veteran presence a youthful Wings roster could benefit from in the locker room. Taking on his hefty salary and getting an added pick or prospect out of the deal is something that Yzerman could coax out of Ken Holland.
Matt Murray (Goalie / Pittsburgh Penguins)
The Pens were swept under the rug by the New York Islanders last April and followed that up with a quick four-game exit at the hands of the Habs a couple weeks ago. This is a franchise with a history of winning and recently lifted the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. Early departures like these usually lead to big changes and that could start with their situation in the blue paint. Murray seemed very uninspired against the Habs and also came away with a career-worst .899 SV% during the regular season. Although he is a two-time Cup champion, Murray is an RFA and the team may look to invest in Tristan Jarry long-term.
Kasperi Kapanen (Winger / Toronto Maple Leafs)
Kapanen is a player with a lot flare and quick on pursuit of the puck. The Finnish winger tallied 13 goals and 36 points in a bottom six role on a Leafs roster with absolutely no wiggle room. Currently, he plays second fiddle to their core four and could benefit from added playing time on a Wings roster looking for an offensive overhaul. This is a cheap contract at $3.2M over the next two years that Yzerman could take advantage of in the midst of another disappointing end to the season for Leafs Nation.
Ryan Suter (Defense / Minnesota Wild)
Does this sound crazy? It just might. But, let’s consider that Suter (along with Zach Parise) was once at the top of the Wings’ radar in free agency and they just missed out on signing both. Now, this could be an opportunity for Suter to finally play in Detroit. Do we really think he will play out the remaining five years of his contract at a cap hit of more than $7.5M? The core that the Wild put together didn’t get the job done come playoff time and Mikko Koivu is now a UFA — big changes could be on the table in Minny. Yzerman could take on that deal in full, or work his magic from a salary retention angle for the Wild and still get two to three years of solid production out of the veteran rearguard.
Viktor Arvidsson (Winger / Nashville Predators)
It seems the Preds have missed their window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup — coming oh so close in 2017 against the Pens. The first domino to fall was P.K. Subban, as he was sent packing to the New Jersey Devils. Now, after a qualifying round exit at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes, David Poile may be willing to pull the trigger on some more deals. Arvidsson has been a 30-goal scorer twice in his NHL career and once finished with 29 tallies in 2017-18. He’s a cheap cap hit at $4.25M over the next four seasons (I could think of worse ways to spend your money...*ahem*...Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen) and could immediately step in and bolster the Wings’ top six.
Personally, I’d like to see Yzerman take a run at Arvidsson or Kapanen, but the idea for the Wings would be not to give up any of their high-end prospects in the process. Kyle Dubas won’t give away a player like Kapanen for peanuts, but considering the team’s recent playoff failures, moving him or an Andreas Johnsson could be the type of low risk trade that helps him keep his job.
Which of these players would be the best fit in Detroit?
This poll is closed