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Could the Red Wings net Nic Hague?

The Knights need cap help. The Wings need defense.

Vegas Golden Knights v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings are no stranger to problem-solving.

During the 2020-21 season, they played suitor to two team’s cap woes: the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. For the former, they retained 50% of David Savard’s cap space in exchange for a fourth round pick. From the latter, they took on Richard Panik for a second round pick (or a first, depending on how much the Caps valued the space). At the time, Detroit was nowhere close to contention. They were well out of the playoff picture and were more than comfortable earning as many assets as possible.

This situation, while sharing some similarities on one end, differ on the other. According to CapFriendly, the Vegas Golden Knights are close to $2.6M above the salary cap. They need to sign key players like Reilly Smith and Brett Howden to extensions if they hope to contend. Even with the trade for Shea Weber’s cap hit, they’re still in a bind. Something needs to give — and that something could be Nic Hague.

Who in the world is Nic Hague?

For those unfamiliar, Nic Hague is a left-handed defenseman for the Knights. Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 215 lbs, Hague is a towering threat on the blueline. He played the majority of last season on the team’s top defensive pairing after Alec Martinez went down with an injury. While he only put together 14 points in 52 games, his play-driving and shots on goal have made huge strides since his rookie season. At 23 years of age, the 2017 draft pick still has room to grow — and plenty of talent to back it up.

Why, then, would the Knights trade him? As it stands, the team has one of the best defensive cores in the league. Alec Martinez, Alex Pieterangelo, Brayden McNabb, and Shea Theodore make up their star-studded top-four. To make matters more complicated, Zach Whitecloud, once an undrafted player, has shown he’s more than capable of shouldering a role on the top-four. With very little money to work with, and a defensive core already locked up through the coming seasons, a difficult decision will need to be made.

What can Hague bring to Detroit?

Let me spin you a tall tale:

Imagine an impenetrable wall of physicality. I’m talking the tallest titanic corps in the NHL. 6’4” Moritz Seider, 6’5” Simon Edvinsson, and 6’6” Nic Hague utterly dominating the competition with the reach of giants and the power of titans. Getting past one of them will be an ordeal in and of itself. Consistently weaving past wave after wave of warriors the size of windmills would be enough to exhaust any star. Throw in a few Pretty Tall Guys like Albert Johansson (6’0”) and Donovan Sebrango (6’1”) and you’ve got yourself a mountain range of defensemen ready to bring the hurt.

Hague can play both sides of the ice, block an abnormally large amount of shots, and serve as a perfect militiaman defender. Need a depth defender? He’s got you covered. Have to sub someone in at the top pairing for a bit? When there’s a will, there’s a Hague.

What’s the cost?

Here’s where things get a little tricky. For a 23-year-old defenseman, Hague will likely have his fair share of suitors. The sooner they offload his contract, the more options Vegas has. Still, there’s a fine line between playing it safe and jumping the gun. If they can’t get anything else done with the roster, a draft day trade could easily solve their worries. In this hypothetical scenario, if Detroit doesn’t feel happy with much of the talent in later rounds, they can weaponize one of their draft picks in a trade.

Given Hague’s value, the higher of Detroit’s 2022 second-round picks (40th overall) should more than cover the value for Hague’s RFA rights. While second-round picks are often thrown around in hypothetical trades (so much so that it’s become a pet peeve of mine), this is the only move that would make sense for Detroit to get this deal done. Vegas can’t accept other players: their cap space is too tight. If they want insurance down the line, they may even ask for Detroit’s 2023 second-round pick. Either of these would be more than worth their weight in gold for the trade.

Should Vegas need additional cap help, the Red Wings could absorb Laurent Brossoit’s contract as a sweetener, thus solving their backup conundrums for at least another year. There’s a lot that could be done with this kind of deal, and, with the unique situation each team finds itself in, there are multiple solutions to get a deal done.