With the 2020 NHL Draft and Free Agency rapidly approaching, many teams are scrambling to make roster moves to free up cap space. The Salary Cap will not be increasing this year due to the league shut down. Without a cap increase, many teams are pressed against the cap ceiling and will be forced into making moves to free up space for new and returning players. This creates an opportunity for many teams to manipulate those in a cap crunch via trades. With that in mind, we will look at a few players and teams the Detroit Red Wings could attempt to exploit to strengthen their roster. And as such, take a giant step forward in their rebuild process. Here’s a look at some Detroit Red Wings trade targets.
Detroit Red Wings Trade Targets
Goaltending – The Wings Biggest Void
Detroit announced that they would not offer Jimmy Howard a contract extension. That leaves them with Jonathan Bernier as their only NHL quality goaltender. A few free-agent options available, but it could be hard to convince a high-end goaltender to sign in Detroit with the team’s state. But there are multiple teams against the cap ceiling looking for relief that could part with a goaltender.
One goalie to look at is Antti Raanta of the Arizona Coyotes. Raanta is 31 years old with one year left on his contract, where he has a $4.25 million cap hit. He had a .921 Save Percentage in 33 games for Arizona this past season. Arizona is not generally a team thought to have cap troubles, but they currently have a little over $1 million in cap space. And with the emergence of Darcy Kuemper, Raanta may very well be expendable. Arizona also has no draft picks in the first three rounds this year, make a Raanta trade potentially ridiculously cheap for Detroit.
Another goaltender is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, Matt Murray. The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed Tristan Jarry to a three-year extension. And with a drop in play the last few years, it appears Murray has played himself out of Pittsburgh. Murray was thrust into the spotlight at just 22 years old and found quick success. He will surely be eager for an opportunity to regain his form and backstop another team in the playoffs. And potentially to another championship. At just 26 years old, his experience could be invaluable to a young Red Wings lineup as they look to find their way back into playoff contention.
Adding Depth Up Front
Detroit has nine forwards signed to contracts currently with six others as RFA’s. Names like Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi on the list of RFA’s who should be back in the Winged Wheel next season. Many of the players currently signed are near the end of their current contracts and perhaps careers. Not only that, but they are also no longer producing like they once did. Many these are now replaceable.
Sticking with the Penguins, we see that they have plenty of quality forwards on reasonable contracts. One name that ultimately stands out is Bryan Rust. Rust is 28 years old, a two-time Stanley Cup Champion as well, and a proven performer. He is coming off a career season as well, where he scored 27-goals and had 56-points. He is a solid all-around player who is reliable on the penalty kill as well. At $3.5 million for the next two seasons, he would be a steal for Detroit in a package deal with Murray.
Moving on from Pittsburgh but staying in the Eastern Conference, we direct our eyes to the newly crowned Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Not only are they up against the cap with many players to resign, but it is a team that Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman is exceptionally familiar with. With just over $5.3 million in cap space available for the Lightning, the Wings could pick out an impact player. Someone that helps both teams would be Ondrej Palat. Palat is 29 years old and has two years left on his contract at $5.3 million per season. And as we saw through these playoffs, Palat is an impact forward who can do it all. From grinding down low to scoring clutch goals, he would make an immediate impact.
Strengthening the Defence
Examining Detroit’s defence, a lot of youth that has been added through the draft in recent years. Players like Dennis Cholowski, Moritz Seider, and Filip Hronek are all looking to take the next steps in their careers. And the recent addition of Marc Staal adds needed depth and experience. The team could benefit from a well-rounded player who falls a bit more in the middle—one who may not have the mileage of Staal, but still has big-game experience.
A player that fits that criteria well is Brayden McNabb of the Vegas Golden Knights. After the signing of Robin Lehner, Vegas is now over the salary cap heading into the draft. McNabb, 29 years old, is a big, robust, and left-handed defenceman who plays a physical game, something Detroit lacks. Though he won’t be helping put the puck in the net too often, he will certainly help keep it out of their own. And with two-years and just a $2.5 million cap hit, he would be a bargain Red Wings trade targets.
Our last defenceman also hails from the Pacific Division, a rival to the Knights, Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers. Nurse is a similar player to McNabb, big and robust with a mean streak. But he is just 25 years old and will help produce more on the offensive side of the puck. He had 41 points in 82 games during the 2018-19 season. And Nurse 33 points before the most recent season was cut short due to the pandemic. Edmonton has nearly $8.75 million in cap space available and needs to sign up to eight players to fill their roster. Clearing the $5.6 million that Nurse makes would help relieve their financial struggle. Though it would be a painful move for them on the ice.
Taking Advantage of the Rich
While Detroit is certainly not a poor team from an ownership perspective, the one ice product has struggled mightily in recent years. This has led to a healthy prospect system, and plenty of draft picks for upcoming drafts. With the cap space available, targeting players such as these could be a way to truly accelerate the rebuild. And return the Red Wings to the glory the city of Detroit had become so accustomed to over the last 30 years.