The Detroit Red Wings’ roster is expected to undergo changes over the next three weeks, as general manager Steve Yzerman uses the April 12 trade deadline to fuel the rebuild.
Knowing the franchise will be a seller for yet another spring isn’t much fun for the players, even when their names are not part of the rumor mill.
“I’ve been here for a little bit now and seen some teammates and friends get traded,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “It’s part of the business. At some point here, hopefully we’re not in this position for much longer.”
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Larkin headlines the core of young veterans who already have established they are part of the rebuild. Others in that group include forward Tyler Bertuzzi and defenseman Filip Hronek. Anthony Mantha’s considerably improved play over the past 10 days highlights why a trade would be a gamble: He’s a highly skilled forward who projects as a 30-goal scorer, but he also disappears for stretches, as he did for the entire first half this season.
Defenseman Moritz Seider headlines the core of prospects who are expected to boost the rebuild. The sixth overall pick in 2019 notched his 21st assist Friday, giving him 27 points in 39 games for Rögle in the Swedish Hockey League. Others in this group include 2020 first-round pick Lucas Raymond and 2018 draft picks Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIsaac.
At last year’s trade deadline — Yzerman’s first since being named GM of the Wings in April 2019 — he was limited by a lack of personnel and injuries. He made two deals with Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland, who’d been the GM in Detroit until voluntarily stepping back to facilitate Yzerman’s arrival.
Mike Green, a veteran offensive defenseman who was dealing with health issues, yielded a conditional pick which ended up as fourth-round goaltender Jan Bednar.
Yzerman also traded forward Andreas Athanasiou, a one-time 30-goal scorer, in a package deal that yielded second-round picks in 2020 (Theodor Niederbach) and 2021, plus veteran forward Sam Gagner.
Larkin recalled how players found out about the Athanasiou trade.
“We showed up for (the) game and we were playing soccer,” Larkin said. “He got pulled out of the game. It was him and Greener.
“It was a tough feeling, but you have to be a pro. We understood it. At least we got the chance to see him after and say goodbye. Sometimes, you don’t even get a chance to see the guy.”
The Wings are scheduled to play in Columbus on April 12. Players who may not be teammates the next day include Gagner, Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Patrik Nemeth and Jonathan Bernier. All are on expiring contracts, and their “rental” status should appeal to teams looking to pad lineups before the playoffs.
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Bernier’s status is in flux, depending on his recovery in time from a lower-body soft-tissue injury suffered Thursday. He has been the Wings’ best player, posting a .918 save percentage in 17 games. Teams such as Tampa Bay, Toronto and Colorado are all looking to shore up their goaltending, and Bernier could be an attractive addition given his steadiness over the past two seasons backstopping a team nowhere near the playoff picture.
It has taken two months for the Wings to really jell, to emerge from a rash of COVID-19 protocols and injuries and establish a degree of swagger. That may well be eroded over the next three weeks because Yzerman needs to do what he can to ensure the Wings will someday be buyers this time of year. That’s understood within the locker room.
“We can’t think about the deadline, as much as it uproots somebody’s life to be moved to another city,” Larkin said. “We are not thinking about that. We are focused on each other and what we need to do to win.”
Hit the books!
What: “The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings.”
Author: Helene St. James, who has covered the Red Wings at the Detroit Free Press since 1996. Foreword by Chris Osgood, winner of three Stanley Cups as a Wings goaltender.
Publisher: Triumph Books.
Pages: 336 pages (paperback).
Availability: Available in leading bookstores and online from booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
About the book: “The Big 50” brings to life the men and moments that made the Red Wings such a dynamic and iconic franchise for nearly a century. The book features never-before-told stories about the greats such as Howe, Yzerman, Lidstrom and Lindsay, the near-greats beloved by fans and the great memories of Fight Night, the Fabulous Fifties, the Team for the Ages, the Grind Line, The Joe and much more.
Get it signed! For a personalized copy of “The Big 50,” contact St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.