What Next For The Detroit Red Wings?
An update on Patrik Laine plus recent Blackhawks and Red Wings speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe prefaced his latest mailbag segment by wondering if the Winnipeg Jets could attempt to trade Patrik Laine to the Seattle Kraken if unable to sign him to a new contract. The 22-year-old winger becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.
Wiebe believes few teams could afford to pay Laine a hefty long-term salary or the type of return the Jets would seek. The Kraken, however, enter the league next summer unencumbered by the salary-cap constraints faced by the other clubs. Laine could prove a tempting star to build around.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe is merely kicking around a theory here. We don’t know what the Jets will do with Laine or what Kraken GM Ron Francis might do if the winger hit the trade block next offseason. Nevertheless, it could be something worth monitoring as next summer’s expansion draft draws near.
Wiebe goes on to suggest there could be some unresolved issues between Laine and the Jets. However, there’s no concrete evidence suggesting the two sides have reached the point of no return and a trade becomes inevitable.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues are likely Laine’s rumored unhappiness over his role with the Jets. His agent suggested weeks ago his client might be better off playing for a club that would provide him first-line minutes.
It’s believed the Jets brought back Paul Stastny to address that issue. However, that will depend upon whether those two can rekindle their offensive chemistry from Stastny’s brief appearance with the club in 2018.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: In a recent mailbag segment, Charlie Roumeliotis was asked how the Blackhawks will address a surplus of players on their roster if everyone is healthy to start the season.
If Dylan Strome is re-signed and Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith are medically cleared to play, the Blackhawks will have 15 forwards and only 12 spots available. A healthy Brent Seabrook will also result in a crowded blue line with prospects like Ian Mitchell and Wyatt Kalynuk hoping to crack the roster.
As of now, the Blackhawks intend to let training camp sort itself out. If a player gets squeezed out, that’s when a trade could be explored.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw (head) and Smith (back) appear headed for LTIR. Seabrook claims he’s fully recovered from shoulder and hip surgeries and intends to play. The Hawks have the option of demoting one or two lower-salaried players if they have a fully healthy roster. If they go the trade route they could seek a draft pick or prospect.
NHL.COM: Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman will continue trying to find ways to improve his roster for 2020-21. He acknowledged his club’s restrictions in trying to improve each season, pointing out it’s not as simple as swinging trades for a bunch of good players and signing a bunch of free agents.
Yzerman, however, didn’t rule out making moves before the start of the season. He’s aiming to improve in the short term while maintaining flexibility for long-term growth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman proved last season he’s willing to use the trade market to bolster his rebuilding club. One of those moves netted Robby Fabbri, who become one of the few brights spots for the Wings amid an otherwise miserable season.
Cap Friendly indicates the Wings have over $9 million in cap space for 2020-21. If the right opportunity presents itself, Yzerman could use some of that cap room to perhaps add a player who could address some of their short and long-term needs.
An update on Jake DeBrusk plus the latest on the Rangers and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT WILL DEBRUSK’S NEW CONTRACT LOOK LIKE?
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty speculates Jake DeBrusk’s next contract with the Bruins could be between what Ryan Strome signed with the New York Rangers and what Jake Virtanen and Denis Gurianov signed with their respective clubs.
Strome, 27, signed a two-year, $9 million contract this week, with an annual average value of $4.5 million. Virtanen agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal ($2.55 million AAV) with the Vancouver Canucks. Gurianov inked a deal similar to Virtanen’s with the Dallas Stars.
Haggerty suggested DeBrusk could get a two-year bridge deal worth between $3.5 million and $4 million annually. That will put him in line to seek a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk was the subject of some trade speculation in recent weeks. However, I doubt the Bruins part ways with him. While his production can be streaky, he still provides meaningful secondary scoring to the Bruins. They also hold the hammer in contract negotiations and will ink him to an affordable bridge deal.
LATEST ON THE RANGERS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Rangers completed their offseason business after signing Brendan Lemieux on Friday to a two-year contract. While they made no significant acquisitions via trades or free agency, they shed some salary by trading Marc Staal to Detroit and buying out the final season of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract. The Blueshirts also avoided arbitration with Lemieux, Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev.
Brooks believes any roster restructuring will have to wait. He noted there was a limited trade market, if any, for DeAngelo, Strome, and Pavel Buchnevich. They have sufficient cap space to promote from within.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the trade market for DeAngelo, Strome or Buchnevich improves over the course of 2020-21. That depends on how they perform and the Rangers’ roster needs. I feel Strome is more valuable to the Rangers right now given his terrific chemistry with Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin. That could leave DeAngelo or Buchnevich as the more likely trade candidates.
RED WINGS NOT DONE MAKING MOVES?
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has sufficient cap space ($9.5 million) to add talent if he chooses. Yzerman acknowledged this during a recent interview, pointing out a number of players remain available in the free-agent market. He said he would consider adding talent as the start of the regular season draws nearer.
Yzerman also indicated he’d be open to adding via trade. However, he said the market is quiet right now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Defensive depth was a big weakness last season for the Wings. Yzerman’s already made moves to address that problem by acquiring Marc Staal, Troy Stecher and Jon Merrill. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if he brought in one more experienced blueliner on a one-year deal. He could also look at adding an experienced checking-line winger.
Recent speculation on the Red Wings, Sharks, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD RED WINGS TARGET KRUG, BARRIE, OR LEHNER?
THE DETROIT NEWS: Bob Wojnowski recently reported Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman acknowledged he might be slightly more aggressive in shaping his roster this off-season via trades and free agency. He wants to build up the supporting cast around Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi as the young core improves.
Yzerman stressed he won’t go into the free-agent market to make a splash. He’ll instead focus on “sensible signings”. He remains confident he’ll re-sign restricted free agents like Mantha and Bertuzzi. “We’re not gonna let them go anywhere, we’ll get deals done,” he said.
Wojnowski speculated the Wings might be interested in pending UFA defensemen like Boston’s Torey Krug and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie or a goalie like Vegas’ Robin Lehner. “But who knows if they’d be interested in the Wings, who have decent young players and lots of draft picks, but few guaranteed stars,” said Wojnowski.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite having plenty of salary-cap space, Yzerman remains focused on a patient rebuild. I expect we’ll see more trades akin to last fall’s Robby Fabbri deal with St. Louis, targeting struggling young players on other clubs. He could be very interested in Krug, Barrie, or Lehner if they express interest in coming to Detroit, but he’ll likely have to settle for affordable second-tier depth talent on short-term deals.
SHARKS FACE BUSY OFF-SEASON
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White recently reported San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces a busy off-season. He must hire a full-time head coach, shore up his goaltending, add scoring depth on the wings, supplement his aging, expensive core with young NHL talent, and do it all with a limited budget.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Resolving the coaching situation seems the easiest of Wilson’s tasks this off-season. Wilson seems to be leaning toward removing the interim tag from head coach Bob Boughner’s title. The rest will be challenging.
Wilson could peddle the 2020 first-round pick he acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning before the trade deadline to bring in an established young NHL player. However, that would leave him without a pick in the opening round.
Most of his core veterans have no-trade protection and hefty contracts. Wilson could shop restricted free agent winger Kevin Labanc, but then he’d have to find someone to replace him. He could pursue a UFA backup like Dallas’ Anton Khudobin or the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, but he’ll have competition from other clubs for their services.
NO LONG-TERM UFA SIGNINGS FOR THE SENATORS
NHL.COM: Mike G. Morreale reports Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is unlikely to sign any unrestricted free agents this year to long-term contracts. He could instead add some veteran depth on short-term deals.
The draft order could also determine how busy Dorion might be in the UFA market. He could have three picks in the first round, seven in the opening two rounds, and 13 over seven rounds. “If you’re going to pick Nos. 1-2, it’s different than picking Nos. 5-6,” Dorion said. “The players going 1-2 probably have a higher chance of playing in the NHL next year. At the same time, we know we’re going to take two good players with our first two picks.”
Morreale speculates Dorion could use some of those picks as trade bait leading up to the draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has sufficient cap room next season to add a couple of decent UFA depth players on short-term deals. He could make his biggest splash at the draft, using some of those extra picks to perhaps pry a quality talent away from a cap-strapped club.
If the Senators win the draft lottery, perhaps Dorion will be tempted to dangle the conditional first-rounder he got from the Islanders in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau deal as trade bait.