Red Wings & Ducks Should Discuss Zegras Deal

The Hockey Writers

The Anaheim Ducks have sent shockwaves across the NHL over the last week.

It started on Jan. 8 when they acquired prospect Cutter Gauthier from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2024 second round pick and defenseman Jamie Drysdale. This was a swap of young, still-developing players as Drysdale was the sixth pick of the 2020 draft and Gauthier was the fifth pick of the 2022 draft.

As the dust began to settle following that shocking transaction, different outlets began reporting that Trevor Zegras, the ninth pick of the 2019 draft and runner-up to Moritz Seider for the Calder Trophy in 2022, has been made available by Ducks general manager (GM) Pat Verbeek. Assuming that is true, a number of teams – including the Detroit Red Wings – should have interest.

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Although the cost to acquire the young forward would be pretty high, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman should definitely call his former assistant GM to see if there’s a way their two teams can come together on a deal.

What Zegras Brings to the Table

Most hockey fans are familiar with Zegras at this point in his career. Not only was the 22-year-old forward on of the cover of Electronic Arts’ NHL 23 alongside Sarah Nurse, but his name has been mentioned countless times across the NHL’s website, YouTube, ESPN, and other outlets due to his flashy style of play.

During his rookie season, Zegras drew the ire of “old school” hockey minds that prefer conservative team play over a single player “skilling it up” – in a lot of ways, he represents the new wave of NHL talent that places an emphasis on skill and creativity.

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In a lot of ways, Zegras provides a lot of the same things that Patrick Kane currently provides for the Red Wings. Like Kane, Zegras is an adept playmaker that is proficient at creating space for himself and his teammates. He’s not going to bring a physical edge to the lineup, but he will frustrate opponents by making plays in the offensive zone. Like Kane, Zegras also grew up in the state of New York, likely contributing to the big city flair that both players possess.

Furthermore, at 22 years of age, Zegras is still developing and has room to improve the deficiencies in his game. Though he is listed as a center, he has spent time on the left wing and that versatility would allow any team that acquires him to fully utilize his offensive tools depending on the talent elsewhere in the lineup. In the case of the Red Wings, he might look just as good on the wing alongside Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond as he would down the middle with Kane and Alex DeBrincat on his wings.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Red Wings’ rising popularity would receive some jet fuel if they added a player as popular as Zegras. If you thought Kane jerseys were flying off the shelves when he signed with Detroit, imagine how many young hockey fans will want a red and white Zegras jersey if a deal comes to fruition.

Any Downside to Acquiring Zegras?

Like Kane, Zegras isn’t exactly known for his defensive contributions. To that point, Zegras has started over 76 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone since his rookie season (per Natural Stat Trick) and generally has not been effective as a defender through his 200 NHL games.

Zegras’s weak two-way game does not and should not devalue him as an asset, however. Just like Kane, Alex Ovechkin and many other offense-first players across the NHL, the trick with players like this is to understand their limitations and put them in a position to build on their strengths. You don’t acquire Zegras to throw him on the penalty kill, you acquire him to juice up the power play.

Another thing for the Red Wings and Yzerman to consider is where he’s coming from. As mentioned earlier, Verbeek, the Ducks’ GM, was Yzerman’s assistant GM going back to their time in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. If Verbeek has made Zegras available, Yzerman was probably one of the first people to know, and the GM of the Red Wings likely knows exactly why Verbeek would be looking to move on from a good, young player like Zegras.

That seems to be the big question that comes with this rumor – why? The Ducks sit near the bottom of the league standings yet again and continue to collect draft picks and young players as they try to shape their future. A 22-year-old forward with two 60-point seasons to his credit would normally be considered a part of that future, so what gives? His seven points in 20 games this season isn’t ideal, but is it really enough to jump ship on him? After acquiring Gauthier from the Flyers, is it just a matter of the Ducks having too many young centers in their organization, or is there something bubbling underneath the surface?

Red Wings Could Add Another Cornerstone

This all comes back to two teams that are in the process of shaping their futures. With Mason McTavish, Leo Carlsson, Troy Terry and now Gauthier (among others), the Ducks possess a high number of quality forwards. Even after trading Drysdale, they still have a handful of promising prospects on the blue line. In trading Zegras, the Ducks would likely want to round out their stockpile of young talent while also adding another premium draft pick to add more to their prospect pool. When you have several premium assets, you can afford to break one down into several lesser-but-still-valuable assets.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings, on the other hand, are on pace for their first 40-win season since the 2015-16 campaign with players like Larkin, DeBrincat and Seider leading the way. Most of the young talent they have accumulated under Yzerman’s watch is playing in the American Hockey League or overseas, meaning that a youth movement is coming to Detroit sooner or later.

Since drafting Raymond in the first round of the 2020 draft, the Red Wings have added two defensemen, two centers and a goaltnender in the first round of the 2021, 2022 and 2023 drafts. A close look at the Red Wings’ prospect pool as a whole reveals that the Red Wings have a number of high-quality defensive prospects and two goalie prospects that could become starters at the NHL level. Another player worth mentioning is winger Jonatan Berggren, a 23-year-old winger that could be on his way out of the Red Wings organization before the end of the season. Combine all of these assets with their stash of draft picks and it is clear that Yzerman has the pieces to put together an offer that Verbeek would have to at least consider.

It was recently revealed that Zegras will miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken ankle. Any team interested in him will have to take that into account, but it shouldn’t significantly effect a team’s interest in him. Whether he eventually settles in down the middle or on the wing, he is a bona fide star in the NHL and has room to become a legitimate superstar. Players like this don’t usually end up on the trade block – and that’s the biggest reason this rumor should be taken with a grain of salt. But if it is legit, Yzerman has Verbeek’s number. This is worth a phone call at the very least.

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