Yzerman Should Weaponize the Cap at the Trade Deadline

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In the latest of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts, he makes reference to several teams that could help cap-strapped clubs out and Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings are one of them:

16. The lack of cap space will be the biggest impediment to making trades. So many teams are so tight, or in long-term injury. Arizona is using two of three retained-salary slots (Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson), so the Coyotes can only do one more. Other teams with space (Buffalo, Columbus, Detroit, Ottawa) could be kingmakers here.

Last year Yzerman took some money on, albeit a smaller amount, in the deal that enabled David Savard to go to Tampa. He took on a quarter of the 50% hit retained in the deal by Columbus ($1.06M) and acquired a 4th round pick from Tampa. Doesn’t seem like much does it? At the 2021 NHL Draft months later, Yzerman bundled that pick with Detroit’s 38th overall choice to snag Shai Buium at 36.

Heading into this season’s trade deadline, Yzerman has even more cap space to work with, and two spots to retain salary with. Better yet, the Red Wings will have more money to work with when the offseason begins while some more costly contracts (think Danny DeKeyser) fall off.

Why Yzerman Would Be More Willing to use Cap Room

Simple: Drafting and developing. When asked about it at the press conference announcing Nick Lidstrom’s hiring as vice president of hockey operations, Yzerman reiterated that he wouldn’t put a timeline on things and that he would do what was best for the team.

The Red Wings are now in the middle of a rebuild–not quite good enough to make a real playoff push but not bad enough to sink to the bottom of the conference any longer. If there’s ever a time where Yzerman would take some contracts on to leverage prospects or picks, it’s now.

Several teams could be desperate enough to unload a contract to get breathing room–and might be willing to part with a high pick or a decent prospect.

Edmonton comes to mind immediately. The Oilers are an absolute mess right now, and Ken Holland appears prime to make a panic move in the same vein of his Kyle Quincey trade in 2012–which of course–happened to be involving Yzerman.

Holland has indicated he won’t part with top prospects or a first round pick. Yzerman has also gotten the best of him in trades since then–both Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Green were wins in his favor. Would Holland be willing to go back to the well again?

If the pressure continues to heat up, which seems to be pretty likely, Holland is prime to pull the trigger on something that gives the Oilers a chance to make noise and escape their current predicament.

Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay could be willing partners, too. Toronto has its own pressure cooker–wanting to avoid another first round disappointment. Pittsburgh is looking to add hardware before the window snaps shut. And Tampa seeks to get its third straight Cup, though they’re quite good at moving around the Cup without losing too much. If they want to get a bigger piece, and need to shed salary to do so, Yzerman would seem a creative and willing partner to do so.

If there’s ever a season where the Red Wings will use Cap Space to add picks and prospects, it’s this season. The only question that remains is which team–or teams–will do business with Yzerman.

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