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4 early trade deadline candidates

These Red Wings may have a new home come March.

Edmonton Oilers v Detroit Red Wings”n Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

The trade deadline will take place March 21, 2022, but that’s never stopped Steve Yzerman from acting early.

In the past, he’s pulled the trigger on a variety of players, flipping everyone from Patrik Nemeth to Jacob de la Rose to bolster the roster. These efforts, so far, have managed to pay off. Whether it’s earning more draft picks or finding a mainstay like Robby Fabbri, Yzerman has yet to pass up a trade opportunity that hasn’t bettered the Red Wings in some way or another.

This trade deadline could be one of the most chaotic to date. Headlining the upcoming free agent class are big names like Filip Forsberg and Kevin Fiala. Teams that miss out on these players will look to bolster their depth in preparation for the playoffs. What the Red Wings lack in impact players they make up for in cost-controlled depth.

Whether would-be contenders are on the hunt for additional offense or want to boost their backend, these four candidates make more than compelling trade bait.

Candidate #1: Troy Stecher

Stecher is having a strange season in Detroit. After a solid 2020-21 campaign, the former Canuck was left exposed in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and spent the first few games of 2021-22 on the bench. An injury has left him sidelined for the past month. So far, Stecher has only played six games this season, racking up just one assist in that timeframe.

Despite his struggles to crack the lineup, Stecher makes an intriguing trade deadline candidate. At just a $1.7M cap hit, he comes in as an affordable bottom-four threat with a touch of two-way awareness. The defenseman was a significant boon to Detroit’s bottom pairing, quite literally carrying Marc Staal statistically last season. As Detroit moves through its rebuild, Gustav Lindstrom has all but seized Stecher’s spot, playing to the same level as Stecher or higher through 12 games.

As a depth defensive player, Stecher will, at most, net the Red Wings a third round draft pick. Realistically, however, his lack of play time and injury may impact offers. Stecher may find himself a new home if he’s packaged in a deal. Barring that, a late pick is likely the asking price for the defenseman.

Candidate #2: Robby Fabbri

Last season, the Red Wings traded away Anthony Mantha, who was seen as a key component of the team’s core. This season, another dramatic move appears to be on the horizon. Once Jakub Vrana returns from his injury, one of the wingers on Detroit’s top-six will be relegated to the third line. Lucas Raymond and Tyler Bertuzzi are all but stapled to captain Dylan Larkin’s wing, and Filip Zadina’s possession metrics set him apart from the rest of the team. The odd man out in the equation is Robby Fabbri.

The forward, acquired in the de la Rose trade, has been one of the most effective players on the roster since his acquisition in 2019-20. With eight points in 20 games this season, he’s a capable middle-six threat that can play up and down nearly any lineup. He’s a complete package on the ice, blocking shots, taking hits, and outworking his opposition to generate scoring opportunities.

Of all the trade candidates on Detroit’s roster, Fabbri is the most talented — and would likely warrant the biggest return. If Yzerman wants to pull off a Mantha-lite trade, Fabbri may be the perfect candidate. Fabbri is only 25 and carries just a $2.95M cap hit. If the Red Wings elect to retain salary, a contender could receive a 45-55-point player at just a $1.475M cap hit. That type of budget will require higher picks and potentially a prospect or two to come back the other way.

Candidate #3: Vladislav Namestnikov

Namestnikov has had a surprisingly strong start to his season. In 20 games, he’s strung together seven goals and 10 points. For the record, he ended last season with just eight goals. This remarkable improvement is due in no short part to his 25.9% shooting percentage. Over one in four shots Namestnikov takes on goal make it to the net. While these numbers are far from sustainable, they might be just the thing needed to help Yzerman sell high.

One of the biggest asks of the trade deadline is offensive depth. Players like Blake Coleman and Patric Hornqvist can often be the missing piece teams need to go all the way. While Namesntikov is neither of those players, he’s no slouch in his own end. He can play across the bottom-six and provide a touch of scoring to teams that need a little extra oomph.

Namestnikov is no stranger to the trade deadline. He’s been host to a handful of deadline deals and has played for five teams in his young career. This season is no exception. Now, the Russian forward brings scoring depth, veteran experience, and one of his highest scoring paces to-date. He’s got all the tools he needs to succeed — now it’s up to his suitors to pony up.

Candidate #4: Nick Leddy

Leddy’s acquisition left a lot of fans puzzled. In exchange for a second round pick, Leddy entered the fold in Detroit on the last year of his contract. Since then, he’s done exactly what he did with the New York Islanders — generate offense while playing sound defense. At the start of the season, Leddy looked like one of the team’s best defensemen. His clean zone entries were a far cry from the blundering attempts in recent years by Detroit players. He’s since returned to earth, but remains one of Detroit’s top blueliners.

Leddy was brought in to help the younger defensemen develop. With the way Seider has played and the way Gustav Lindstrom’s elevated his game, his efforts appear to be fruitful. The biggest factor standing in the way of his time in Detroit is his contract. At the end of this season, Leddy will be a free agent. Barring a contract extension, there’s no guarantee that the defenseman will remain in Detroit. Between a deal coming to an end and a host of teams hungering for defensive depth, Leddy appears to be a perfect candidate for the deadline.

Ironically enough, the team that looks like it could use Leddy the most is the New York Islanders. With a 5-8-2 record, they’re one of the biggest underperformers of the season. Injuries have sidelined many of their best players, leading them to rely on names like Robin Salo and Grant Hutton to defend. Leddy’s return, coupled with a 50% salary retention, could give the Islanders just enough depth to make a push for the playoffs. The question, however, remains in the price — and just how much the Red Wings will expect in return.