For much of the season, the Red Wings blue-line has been a revolving door. A combination of injuries and sub-par personnel have been the culprit. Hell, at one point the team deployed an entire top-6 of defensemen who had been assigned to Grand Rapids this season.
The Danny DeKeyser injury eight games in was the proverbial snowball that just kept rolling. Since then, Filip Hronek has been asked to play well over 25 minutes a night. And can you really blame head coach Jeff Blashill? Hronek and Patrik Nemeth have been the only consistent blue-liners on the roster.
Now, that’s not to say things won’t get better over time — they will. Dennis Cholowski has shown promising offensive flashes. Defensively he’s been a work in progress but that’s normal for a 21-year-old. And, of course, there is Moritz Seider, who has legitimate potential of being a cornerstone piece to the Red Wings rebuild. As an 18-year-old, he is excelling against men in the AHL.
The Red Wings have also invested heavily in the position over the past few years. In the 2019 draft alone, Steve Yzerman & Co. selected five D-men — three of which came in the top-60. In the past three draft classes combined, they’ve drafted 14. Chances are a few of these picks develop well.
Even then, however, managing a roster based on hope is doomed for failure. Looking ahead to this offseason, five NHL defensemen are set to become free agents.
Keeping this in mind, and the unlikelihood of Mike Green, Trevor Daley, and Jonathan Ericsson returning, there will be holes in next season’s lineup. Even in a best case scenario, where (assuming) DeKeyser will be healthy, as well as Moritz Seider being ready to handle the NHL, Detroit will still be down a quality option.
Nemeth – Hronek
DeKeyser – ???
Cholowski – Seider
Bowey – Biega
That is BEST case scenario at this current juncture. There could be a world where DeKeyser is not ready to return and Seider will still need AHL seasoning. Another run of Madison Bowey in the top-4 doesn’t sound ideal either. GM Steve Yzerman will need to explore the defensive market.
The easy answer is free agency. But if past mega July 1 signings have taught us anything, be wary of the big names. Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug, among others, will be the ones commanding large checks over 6-7 years. Not just for the Red Wings but all teams, these types of premium free agents should be avoided. Over recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of players declining as they enter their 30s. The end result is usually an unmovable contract by the middle of the pact.
Obviously, there can be smart buy-low names out there (see Patrik Nemeth), but this Red Wings team is in need of a more prominent player to man a D-pair. Which is why I recommend exploring the trading block, where one name sticks out: Jake Gardiner of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The fit between Gardiner and the Canes hasn’t worked out, and now reports suggest GM Don Waddell wants to move on from the Wisconsin product. If that be the case, Yzerman should make an inquiry for his services. The primary reason being his contract — which frankly doesn’t make sense.
On a very cap friendly contract making a tad over $4 million per year with three years remaining after this one, Gardiner is a much better gamble than a UFA on a six or seven year contract. He can plug right into the top-4 as well.
What could a deal look like? Well, nothing is a guarantee, and I’m not even mentioning his modified no-trade clause. Gardiner has the power to veto a trade to Motown, and seeing how the 2019-20 season has gone for the Red Wings, he could very well leverage it. But where’s the fun in that!
The hypothetical trade in question might start out as something like this, thanks to Puck Pedia’s new general manager feature, myPuckPedia.
Of course, most of Detroit’s trading chips can be interchangeable. Andreas Athanasiou or Brendan Perlini are other possibilities. At the end of the day, the Red Wings need another quality defenseman at a reasonable cost. Gardiner fits that bill and will give the team an opportunity to improve off of this disastrous season. Rebuild or not, being on pace for the worst regular season in the salary cap era indicates obvious problems. Ones that can’t be pushed aside.
What do you think? Does Gardiner make sense for the Wings? Should Yzerman continue this wait-and-see process, or should he make an aggressive play for another defender? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section!
Do you have a better idea for a trade the Red Wings could make? Head to PuckPedia.com and you can make your own trades and roster today.