Grading Red Wings’ Blockbuster Trade for Alex DeBrincat

The Hockey Writers

The trade market had come to a halt since free agency began a little over a week ago. But the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings broke the ice late Sunday night (July 9), with the Senators sending Michigan native Alex DeBrincat to the Red Wings in exchange for Dominik Kubalik, prospect Donovan Sebrango, and two draft picks. 

The Red Wings had seemed like the favorite to acquire DeBrincat for quite some time, but it finally came to fruition this evening. The Red Wings needed scoring help, specifically on the wing, while the Senators got some draft capital and an NHLer in Kubalik. Here are trade grades for each side.

Red Wings Get Big Scoring Upgrade on the Wing

The Red Wings were quite active in free agency, signing J.T. Compher and Daniel Sprong to upgrade their offense and adding Justin Holl and James Reimer for defensive and goaltending depth. It’s clear that general manager Steve Yzerman wants to help push the Red Wings out of that no man’s land that isn’t good enough for the playoffs but not good enough for a high draft pick. 

The hope is that acquiring DeBrincat can help push the Red Wings into the conversation for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. DeBrincat “struggled” this season, finishing with 27 goals and 66 points in 82 games, a down season by his standards. But that dip in production can be tied to some poor shooting luck, as his 10.3 shooting percentage was below the 15.5 career shooting percentage he had coming into the 2022-23 season. 

Alex DeBrincat Ottawa Senators
Alex DeBrincat with the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That led some to believe that DeBrincat needed to have Patrick Kane as his linemate to put up 40 goals, as he did in his time with the Chicago Blackhawks. But make no mistake, DeBrincat is a high-level shot and chance creator who should bounce back this coming season, especially if he gets time alongside Dylan Larkin. An underrated part of his game is his playmaking, and he’ll generate quite a bit of looks on the power play. 

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Yzerman didn’t give up much to acquire DeBrincat, which isn’t a surprise given the Senators didn’t have much leverage. Since DeBrincat was a restricted free agent this offseason, the Red Wings had to get him signed to a new deal. Most of the time, trades like this result in eight-year extensions. But the Red Wings managed to get DeBrincat signed for four years at a cap hit of $7.875 million, the same hit as Kevin Fiala and Jesper Bratt. 

If DeBrincat rebounds, there’s good reason to believe he’ll be worth more than $7.875 million per year. After a series of questionable moves in free agency, that was a tidy bit of business by Yzerman and the Red Wings in acquiring scoring help. 

Red Wings Grade: A- 

Senators Were in a Difficult Spot

It was about a year ago when the Senators acquired DeBrincat from the Blackhawks at the 2022 draft. That move resulted in the Senators giving up the seventh overall pick, which the Blackhawks used to draft Kevin Korchinski, a second-round pick in the 2022 draft, and a third-round selection in the 2024 draft. 

Obviously, Senators GM Pierre Dorion was hoping that DeBrincat would be more than a one-year rental, especially since they weren’t a lock to make the playoffs for the 2022-23 season. He took a gamble, and it didn’t work out. That makes last year’s trade look much worse since the Senators didn’t add a blue-chip prospect through the 2022 draft. 

Such is life, but the Senators did at least recoup some value in this trade with the Red Wings. Kubalik has been inconsistent in his time in the NHL, but he’s coming off a solid season that saw him total 20 goals and 45 points in 81 games. He’s not much of a play driver, but if on a line with playmakers who can feed him pucks in shooting lanes, he can find the back of the net. 

Kubalik has one year left on his deal at a cap hit of $2.5 million. Whether the Senators re-sign him remains to be seen, but he should help their NHL roster for the coming season. They also get a conditional first-round pick in the 2024 draft, with the condition being that Detroit has the option to send their or the Boston Bruins’ first, which they own, in 2024. 

Dorion and the Senators were in a tough spot here. They didn’t have much leverage since DeBrincat wanted to play for the Red Wings and was clear that he wasn’t re-signing long-term with the Senators. They probably should have gotten a bit more since they traded with a team they’ll be squarely competing with for a playoff spot in the Atlantic in 2023-24. But at least they didn’t lose DeBrincat for nothing and got a middle-six scoring option in Kubalik. 

Senators Grade: B-

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