Yzerman Wants 'Young Assets' At Trade Deadline -- What Can Wings Expect?

He'll have to get creative to bring in something of value.

Will Burchfield
January 13, 2020 - 5:36 pm
Steve Yzerman

Bruce Bennett / Staff

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As he approaches his first trade deadline as general manager of the Red Wings, Steve Yzerman finds himself in a pickle. He wants to add to Detroit's growing crop of young players, but he doesn't have much to sell. The veterans he was counting on have played down their value. 

“It really depends on what other teams want to do. My plan isn't to be passive,” Yzerman said in a mid-season interview with the team's website. “Certainly, I'm looking for ways to build for the future and in doing that, you're trying to acquire draft picks or prospects or young players that can come into the organization sooner than later. As we sit here today, can I tell you we can definitely do that? No. 

"Over the course of the next couple weeks, you get a better indication of what you might be able to do come the deadline. But if we’re going to do anything, our goal would be to try to acquire young assets, if we can." 

Unlike in recent seasons under Ken Holland, the Red Wings are depleted of obvious trade chips. Last year they collected two 2nd-rounders and a 3rd for Gustav Nyquist and Nick Jensen. In 2018 they acquired a 1st, a 2nd and two 3rds for Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek. And in 2017 they turned Brendan Smith, Thomas Vanek, Tomas Jurco and Steve Ott into a 2nd, three 3rds and a 6th, plus a defensive prospect in Dylan McIlrath. 

That's 12 picks in total, including five in the first two rounds. Barring an outside-the-box move, the Wings will be lucky to get a late-round pick or two this year. Jimmy Howard and Mike Green were the most likely trade candidates when the season began. There was hope that Trevor Daley and Frans Nielsen would be moveable, too. A few months later, it's no surprise Yzerman is speaking with such uncertainty. 

Howard, who turns 36 in March, is mired in the worst season of his career. There's something to be said for his experience, and maybe a contending team could use him as a backup, but his .880 save percentage is glaring. Holland demanded a 1st-round pick for Howard last year, and never got it. Yzerman will have a hard time getting a 6th- or 7th-rounder this year.

Green, 34, is likewise nearing the end of the road. His health is a giant question mark and the offense that defines his game is drying up. He has eight points in 37 games this season, and he's minus-21 to boot. Maybe he'll turn it up ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline, but Green's ceiling is no higher than another late-round pick -- a pick that would surely come with conditions based on his health. 

Daley, 36, is the last of Detroit's rental candidates. And like Green, his durability is a major concern. His playoff experience, including two Stanley Cups, might attract a couple suitors, but we're talking about a third-pair defenseman who has one point in 22 games this season. Fair to say Daley has even less value than Howard and Green. 

As for Nielsen, let's make it simple: no shot. The 35-year-old is signed through 2021-22 with a cap hit of $5.25 million. He has six points in 41 games this season. Even if he were producing at a level closer to his career averages, Nielsen's contract would make a trade almost impossible. 

If Yzerman wants to bring in meaningful assets, he'll have to get creative. Luke Glendening is a name worth watching. He's drawn interest on the trade market in the past and he carries a reasonable $1.8 million cap hit through next season. He's strong in the face-off circle and a great penalty-killer, the kind of smart, checking center useful to any contender. Glendening could feasibly net a 3rd- or 4th-round pick. 

A similar case could be made for Darren Helm, who's quietly had a strong season. He's Detroit's only regular with a positive plus-minus. Helm's $3 million cap hit could be a sticking point, but now would be the time to sell high on the 32-year-old center. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Andreas Athanasiou. It's been a disappointing season for the 25-year-old, who has just five goals a year after pumping in 30. He'll be an RFA in line for a raise this summer. With Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri (among others) also up for new deals, Athanasiou might be left out by the math. His talent and potential would bring in trade offers. The question for Yzerman is whether those offers outweigh the possibility that Athanasiou bounces back in 2021-21. 

Beyond that, the Red Wings' roster is probably locked into place for the next few months. Sure, there might be other tradable assets, like an established NHL defenseman in Patrik Nemeth. But Yzerman isn't inclined to ship out anyone with value, lest a young team become further overmatched. 

"As everyone knows, we're rebuilding and I'm trying to watch and get to know every single player and they're all at different stages of their careers," he said. "With our veteran players, where do they fit in the short term and even the long term? You need players to play. We need to surround the Dylans, the Hroneks and the Manthas with a group of players that help them develop and compete on a nightly basis and gradually get better." 

The Dylans, the Hroneks and the Manthas -- a group maybe most telling for who it excludes. We'll see if it's a window into Yzerman's thinking in the weeks and months ahead.