There have been lots of talks recently about the Vegas Golden Knights. They signed the biggest name on the market in Alex Pietrangelo. However, that led them down a world of cap troubles. Because of it, they have had to sell off Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt for almost nothing. And now, rumour has it they are exploring a trade for Max Pacioretty as they are still over the salary cap. There may be a better option though. That option could be seeing the Detroit Red Wings trade for defenceman Alec Martinez. Martinez has one year left on his contract and makes $4 million. This would put the Knights under the cap and with a sweetener, could help the Red Wings too.
Detroit Red Wings Trade Could Help Both Teams
Let’s start with the player himself. Martinez is a veteran defenceman who has won multiple Stanley Cups. He even has an overtime Cup-clinching goal under his belt, something very few people can boast. However, the days of being an extremely effective defenceman appear to be behind him. While he had a bit of a bounce-back last season, his overall results from the past three seasons just have not been there. His team bleeds shots when he is on the ice. And yes, he spent a lot of time on some bad Los Angeles Kings teams, but if the team is worse when you’re on the ice, maybe you are part of the issue?
Above, you can see Martinez’s three-season sample from Evolving-Hockey. He is below average when it comes to both generating shots and quality of chances in the offensive zone. As well, his team struggles very heavily in quality and quantity against when he is on the ice. Overall, he is probably not worth the cap hit. However, even if he was, Vegas may have to look to move him anyway due to the fact that they don’t have another option.
What a Detroit Red Wings Trade May Look Like
The reason a Detroit Red Wings trade makes sense is because there are very few teams with actual cap room. Of those teams, lots of them are either seeing massive budget cuts or may want to be good and use that space more efficiently. However, the Red Wings are in a rebuild and may be able to stomach one year of that contract. After all, they did the exact same thing with Marc Staal.
The idea here would be very similar. The Red Wings would receive Martinez along with a Vegas 2021 2nd. Heading back to Vegas is either an AHL contract or someone like Alex Biega if the Wings want to keep an extra NHL slot open. Biega is cheap, so he would fit under the cap, but he also isn’t someone that is in Detroit’s long-term plans either. Maybe they want to keep him as a taxi squad player, in which case, a basic AHL player could head back the other way. Now, let’s take a look at why either team would be interested in this.
There are a few benefits for Vegas here. For starters, they are now under the cap if this trade goes through. They would have roughly three million dollars in space left, which could even allow them to target other free agents that are cheap. With the market squeeze, it seems very likely that we will see lots of good players sign a cheap one-year deal. Especially if they get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. If Vegas loses Martinez, could someone like Sami Vatanen become an option to replace him for a year? Vatanen will be asking for more than three million, however, if it is one of his best options for one season, it seems reasonable enough he’d consider it. If Vegas feels they could replace Martinez internally with someone like Nicolas Hague, maybe they look for more depth up front. Either way, they’d have some space to play with to even further upgrade their team.
This would also allow them to keep Pacioretty, at least for now. While a move may still need to be made next season, it gives them the best possible chance to compete this season. Pacioretty has a lot more to give than Martinez does. So even if you have to give up an asset to get rid of Martinez, keeping Pacioretty for another year would be more than worth it.
As well, the Knights have two seconds this year. So, they can afford to move one while still not totally sacrificing their draft capital. This becomes important for the trade deadline. Or simply re-stocking their prospect pipeline as it is starting to get dry. Either way, there is plenty of upside for Vegas here.
For Detroit, there are many different benefits that are still useful. They’re bringing in another veteran that has tons of playoff experience. That experience can help your young players as the season goes along. Detroit’s focus will be on helping the young core grow while also expecting to have a high pick. Getting a veteran with lots of experience could be a huge plus. On top of that, they add to their already deep draft class, which has three current second-rounders in 2021. There is no such thing as too many picks, as they can always be moved to acquire good players in the future. Or, let draft wizard Steve Yzerman take his shot at lots of high-upside guys for the future.
On top of that, given that Martinez is regarded highly around the league, and that he will likely have a big role on a Detroit blueline, the Wings might even be able to flip him again. Come deadline time, another team like Vegas was last year may look for depth on the defence. If Martinez can look respectable with the Wings, there is a solid chance a team takes him for some kind of asset. While it may not be major, anything helps in a rebuild.
If Martinez doesn’t work out in Detroit, it’s just one season. They can simply walk away at the end of the year and still have a draft pick to show for it. There really would be no downside for the Wings. Unless they feel the kids on the blueline are extremely ready. However, even then, competition is always a good thing. A proven guy like Martinez would make any rookie work for a spot.
We may not see this trade, but it really makes too much sense for both sides. Detroit has $9.5 million in cap space right now, and would still have $5.5 million after the trade. This would by no means limit themselves at all this season. For Vegas, it’s all about winning now. And unfortunately enough, moving on from Martinez this soon maybe the best way to do that. Whether you can replace him on the blueline or not, it might be the better option for one season. Pacioretty is a huge part of that forward core. Considering they already lost Stastny, how much more skill do you want to lose upfront?
Martinez brings something different, yes. However, given his struggles recently, there may be better internal or cheaper external ways to replace what he brings on the ice. And at this point, that may have to be good enough for Vegas, given their cap situation.