Detroit Red Wings Roster: Jakub Kindl and the Difficulty of Asset Management
Showcasing a player for a trade is harder than it looks.
If the Detroit Red Wings were looking to maximize the value of Jakub Kindl in a trade, they would have given the defenseman up for assets after the 2013 playoffs.
At the time and in hindsight, the Red Wings were never going to do any such thing, however. Kindl had finally started to show the form the Red Wings were hoping he'd reach after spending several seasons in Grand Rapids and as a press box regular his first few seasons in Detroit. When a team spends that much time on a player and developing him, and he finally seems to reach that potential, the team isn't going to just ship him away unless they get something really good in return. Detroit showed as much faith in Kindl when they re-signed Kindl to a four-year extension worth $9.6 million in the following offseason.
Fast forward a season and a few games, and Kindl probably would be back in the press box rotation if the Detroit defense had more depth (and also didn't have easy waiver-exempt solutions to the blue line log jam). Before the season even began, this was the position the Red Wings were reduced to:
Told Red Wings are "very active" in taking calls to try & trade Jakub Kindl. Nothing imminent by any stretch, but they are shopping him.— Greg Brady (@bradyfan590) October 7, 2014
Defensemen over the last few years have been a high-demand commodity. Kindl isn't exactly what's very in-demand, however, because he's not clearly the missing piece any Cup contender needs to put themselves over the edge. Moreover, at 27 years old, he's not the kind of young talent that can see a team through a rebuild and develop into an effective contributor when the team finally gets good. So where does that leave the Red Wings, who've been trying to "shop" Kindl to teams in the hopes of acquiring assets for him?
This situation had the same problem as Anthony Mantha potentially making the NHL roster: Whatever happens ultimately comes down to how they play. In the case of Kindl, how he plays determines if Kindl is valuable enough to be traded for something useful, how much value he can garner in a trade, and if the Red Wings decide to trade him at all.
The first issue is whether Kindl can be traded for something more than "future considerations." Strictly in terms of value, Kindl has almost none as a tradable NHL asset. Being the number six defenseman on a team pretty thin at defense doesn't help, and while he hasn't been a total dumpster fire early on this season, it's not enough to erase the year he had last year. There's a chance a team will take a flyer on him in a "change of scenery" situation or similar narrative, hoping that he'll get back to his 2013 playoffs performance on a more consistent basis.
The opposite issue is that if Kindl does indeed start playing up to his potential — or even just up to his contract at this point — then it becomes difficult for the Red Wings to decide to trade him. If they have a defenseman who's helping the team win games, they're not going to just give him away unless it's a sure-fire deal that's going to help the team and be an upgrade over what they already have.
In the trade market, there's always the possibility to package assets rather than trade a single player straight-up, but how likely is it that Kindl gets packaged for an upgrade on the blue line? And what would those other assets be? Would it even be worth it at that point, if Kindl does play his way to a hypothetical, valuable trade offer?
This is the current difficulty facing the Red Wings and their 2005 first-round pick. Kindl still has two seasons after this one left on his contract, and if head coach Mike Babcock's comments are any indication, Kindl could be pushed even further down the depth chart if circumstances were different. How long will they keep "showcasing" him in the hope someone takes him so Ouellet gets his full-time gig in Detroit? Does Kindl still have a future in Detroit at this point?
All Kindl can really do about it right now is play and hope for the best.