But, as things come into focus following the trade deadline, there appears to be little doubt the Wings are one of the league’s biggest winners.
General manager Steve Yzerman made a trio of smaller moves heading into Monday’s deadline, before completing one of the NHL’s biggest deals in the waning moments: Shipping forward Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals for forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, a first-round pick in the 2021 draft and a second-round pick in the 2022 draft.
Mantha, 26, is viewed as a big-bodied addition as the Capitals brace for a Stanley Cup run, starting in the rugged East. Mantha, who is fresh off signing a four-year extension, owns a pair of seasons in which he’s scored at least 24 goals.
The Red Wings received a young forward in the 25-year-old Vrana (11 goals, 25 points in 39 games), plus Panik (three goals, nine points in 36 games) as well as more draft assets.
Yzerman’s handiwork has been widely praised by NHL analysts, including Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, who gave the Red Wings an A-plus in the deal.
Wyshynski called it “another Jedi mind trick from Steve Yzerman.”
“… The Wings used their cap space to their advantage,” writes Wyshynski, who gave the Capitals a B-plus. “Panik makes $2.75 million against the cap through 2022-23 and is a serviceable player. Vrana has shown the potential for even more scoring than his 25 goals in 69 games last season, and he’ll get a showcase in rebuilding Detroit. …
“But as Yzerman has done time and time again, it’s the draft capital from the Capitals that’s really made this trade a great one for Detroit. They now have two first-rounders, three second-rounders, two third-rounders and two fourth-rounders in this season’s draft. Granted, you’d hope it was in a draft with a little more certainty in scouting and player development. But that’s a treasure trove, and Yzerman continues to find ways to add to it.”
The Red Wings also popped up as deadline “winners” in analysis from The Athletic and TSN’s Craig Button.
Sean McIndoe of The Athletic tapped the Wings as one of his five deadline-day winners, writing Detroit “got a windfall for Anthony Mantha, a guy Steve Yzerman had pretty clearly soured on. I don’t know if he’s right or wrong there, but I do know that too many GMs wait forever on guys they’ve given up on, then make their move when the market has disappeared. If you’re going to sell on a 26-year-old, sell high.”
Button, in a video posted on TSN, said Vrana should step in and fill Mantha’s role offensively.
“Anthony Mantha is exactly what he is,” Button said, “and what Steve Yzerman was able to do to get a player (Vrana) who will produce and be just as productive offensively as Anthony Mantha, plus a first- and a second-round (pick)? Detroit Red Wings (are) big winners.”
Steven Ellis of The Hockey News wrote that the Red Wings got quite a return for one of their best players over the past decade.
“Mantha hasn’t had a great season by any means (but neither have the Red Wings) but he’s usually good for 15 goals and nearly hit 50 points twice on a non-playoff contender. Now, he’ll be a key contributor to Washington’s top six and given the price it took to get him, the Capitals clearly think he’s worth it. Vrana has a chance to get more ice time after being such a solid shooter despite averaging sub-13 minutes throughout his career. He might very well become a star in Michigan.”
Yzerman made several other moves over the weekend.
► The Red Wings traded defenseman Jon Merrill to Montreal for a 2021 fifth-round pick and prospect forward Hayden Verbeek.
► Detroit also dealt defenseman Patrik Nemeth to Colorado for a 2022 fourth-round draft pick.
► The Wings also acquired a 2021 fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay for serving as a middleman between Tampa Bay and Columbus and taking on some of the salary of defenseman David Savard’s contract (Savard landed in Tampa).