Detroit — The Red Wings have needs throughout their lineup.
One look at the record, and especially the way the second half of the season unfolded, and you know this lineup isn’t where general manager Steve Yzerman would want it to be.
Free agency is one way to strengthen a roster. You can sign players and not give away any assets of your own, which general managers generally prefer.
But there is, always, the trade market.
Yzerman has proven to be quite adept over the years at making shrewd trades to improve his teams in Tampa Bay, and for the last three seasons with the Wings. Be it young players who weren’t getting a larger role with their teams (Robby Fabbri, Oskar Sundqvist), or veterans teams were looking to unload because of cash reasons (Marc Staal, Nick Leddy), or straight hockey trades (Jakub Vrana), Yzerman has shown his willingness to deal.
It could be a way the Wings can improve this summer.
Though at this season-ending press conference, Yzerman was quick to lessen the expectations.
“I don’t foresee there being a real trade that would make sense,” Yzerman said, adding “maybe something will come up.”
The Wings haven’t had many marketable assets the last few seasons. This summer, though, is a bit different.
If Yzerman chooses to make a trade, there are players who maybe don’t fit the Wings as well anymore — but could somewhere else.
Here are five Wings on the current roster who could be dealt in the right trade:
For the previous few seasons, Hronek was considered the Wings’ top defenseman and appeared to be a key piece of the nucleus in the rebuild.
Now, not so much.
Hronek had a disappointing season, with an influx of defensemen entering the pipeline, it’s reasonable to expect Hronek’s name to be mentioned in trade talks.
Hronek is only 24, and he has two years left on his contract at a $4.4 million salary-cap hit per season. That’s very reasonable for a young defenseman who had career highs of 33 assists and 38 points.
But the valleys were steep for Hronek, who was a healthy scratch for a pair of games in October and had a minus-29 rating. The edge Hronek played with the last few seasons, the ability to get under opposing players’ skins, wasn’t consistently there.
In a trade, Hronek could bring back some useful pieces.
Is it too early to call Zadina a bust?
Probably, in that Zadina is only 22 and has shown a willingness to work and improve his overall game.
But the results haven’t been there.
The 2018 No. 6 overall pick only scored 10 goals and had 24 points total, with a minus-24 rating, in 74 games. The Wings expected much more this season.
Zadina’s confidence wavers with his offensive production, and the way things went this season, he didn’t play with much confidence. The indecision on whether to shoot or pass, not getting into the “tough” areas around the crease to score, and lack of consistent accuracy with his shot are issues that have plagued Zadina in the NHL.
Zadina is a restricted free agent, so any potential trade would likely hinge on some cost certainty in that regard.
There’s also the belief that Zadina could still thrive under a new coaching staff, as former coach Jeff Blashill had done all he could with Zadina.
Bertuzzi is coming off a career-best season with 30 goals, 32 assists and 62 points, is 27, and is entering the final year of a two-year contract with a cap hit of $4.75 million per season.
All those factors make Bertuzzi a terrific fit for the Wings moving forward.
But, in a strange way, they also make Bertuzzi an interesting trade target.
Bertuzzi will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023 and his salary ask might be more than Yzerman is willing to pay. The fact Bertuzzi didn’t get vaccinated for COVID and was unable to play in Canada throughout the season created havoc, and weakened the Wings’ lineups.
Plus, Bertuzzi would bring in return the best trade packages from teams, given his worth to current playoff-contending teams. The Wings would have to listen to any proposals.
This one feels more like a trade-deadline move, if the Wings are out of playoff contention. But Suter’s long-term future with the Wings could be in doubt.
Suter was signed to a two-year contract worth $6.5 million ($3.25 million cap hit) but didn’t prove to be the ideal answer as a second-line center. Suter had 15 goals and 36 points while playing all 82 games, but endured a pair of long scoring droughts and his lack of size (5-foot-11, 176-pounds) was an issue against bigger, stronger opponents.
The versatility Suter brought was a positive, and a coach can play him in a scoring or checking role. Suter, also, could be more suited for a third-line role, where he could be slotted with the Wings if Yzerman can acquire a proven center.
Again, this is another player who could be more useful to a contender at the trade deadline, adding size and grit in a checking role.
Erne, 27, earned a two-year contract worth $4.2 million ($2.1 million salary-cap hit) after scoring a career-high 11 goals in 2020-21 and flashing potential as a helpful power forward.
The expectation was Erne could score at least 11 again, and hopefully more, while his game continued to grow.
But Erne only scored six goals this season, and wasn’t as big a consistent factor. It was a disappointing season.
There will be changes among the forwards, and Erne’s spot on the roster may not be entirely secure going forward. But, at least to begin next season, Erne is likely to get the chance to rebound, possibly increasing his worth to other teams.