Red Wings Trade Deadline Notebook: Targets, Strategy & More

The Hockey Writers

The Detroit Red Wings? Trade deadline buyers? In this economy?!

Yes, it’s entirely possible – the Red Wings could add players at the 2024 NHL Trade deadline, rather than sell off. That said, Steve Yzerman will likely wait and see how the next 6-7 games go before making a final determination on deadline strategy – eight standings points in that span should be enough to warrant buying, in my opinion.

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So, if the Red Wings buy, what should we expect? I emptied the notebook on a few options to consider.

Red Wings Need a Depth Forward

When asked what was on his wishlist for the trade deadline, head coach Derek Lalonde had a specific role in mind:

“Probably another versatile forward,” Lalonde shared during a guest appearance on 97.1 The Ticket. “Someone who can play center and the wing. I love the versatility of some of our forwards – the Joe Velenos, the Andrew Copps, the Michael Rasmussens, who can play center and wing.”

Michael Rasmussen Detroit Red Wings
Michael Rasmussen’s versatility was recently rewarded with a new contract. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lalonde quickly followed with a reminder about being patient with the process that has brought them success so far, and that Yzerman would do what’s best for the organization’s long-term interests.

Jumping back to Lalonde’s comments about wanting another versatile forward, a few players come to mind. Nick Bjugstad of the Arizona Coyotes and Nico Sturm of the San Jose Sharks fit the description of a depth forward who can play center and the wing. In addition, both are signed through 2024-25, so they’d have a future in Detroit beyond the final month of the season.

Another player to consider is Jeff Carter. He’s a rental with a no-movement clause, but if the Pittsburgh Penguins fall out of the playoff picture, maybe he’d consider waiving it to join a team headed for the postseason.

All three players have noteworthy attributes beyond their versatility. Bjugstad is a right shot with size and a strong penalty killer. Sturm has won 59.4 percent of his 466 faceoffs. Carter—another right-handed shot—has spent more time on the wing, but has a 63.7 faceoff win percentage on 223 draws and has two Stanley Cup rings.

The Red Wings need another depth center. If they want Joe Veleno on a wing higher in the lineup, then they’ll need someone proven to anchor the fourth line. Christian Fischer can hold it down for now, but is better on the wing. And the only other realistic in-house candidate is Austin Czarnik, who is probably better off in Grand Rapids.

Related: Should the Red Wings Trade Jonatan Berggren?

All three trade candidates mentioned above could come cheap – a mid-level prospect or third-round pick. That’s a small price to pay for what could be an important playoff contributor.

Red Wings Not On the Trade Block

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a few comments, replies, and suggestions about which Red Wings players could be traded. I wanted to set the record straight on a few of those players.

  • Justin Holl – The Red Wings signed him for three years. Clearly, they like Holl enough to give him that contract. They’re not going to cut bait after half a season.
  • Robby Fabbri – It’s highly doubtful that Fabbri is traded. He’s a valued locker room leader, and now is not the time to mess with team chemistry. Plus, he’s a new father and Yzerman looks out for his players – he wouldn’t uproot Fabbri’s family right now.
  • Ben Chairot – Quietly having a good season. Maybe not so quietly now that he’s an overtime hero. Chiarot has limited quality chances against and is playing his best hockey as a Red Wing alongside Jeff Petry. Also, no one wants his contract – two more years still at $4.75 million.

If anyone on the current roster is going to be traded, it will be Olli Määttä. Frankly, I like Määttä, and I want him on the team come playoff time. But he has the most palatable contract among Red Wings defensemen not named Jake Walman or Moritz Seider. 

Olli Maatta Detroit Red Wings
Olli Maatta in a recent game with the Detroit Red Wings. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Plus, with Simon Edvinsson likely joining the Red Wings full-time next season, the Red Wings will need a solid, right-handed partner for their top prospect. Moving Määttä in a package for a right defenseman with term to pair with Shayne Gostisbehere now and Edvinsson next season would be a forward-thinking strategic decision.

Red Wings Could Broker Another Trade

With an abundance of cap space, Yzerman could volunteer to broker a trade between two other teams and retain salary on a player. He last did this in 2021, when the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired David Savard. There’s a perfect trade partner for this as well.

Steve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman has a wide range of options to consider ahead of this year’s trade deadline. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On a recent episode of the 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek brought up how, historically, the Calgary Flames haven’t been keen on retaining salary. It’s unclear if this was a preference of former general manager Brad Treliving or a directive from ownership. What is clear, though, is that the trend is continuing – current GM Craig Conroy dealt pending free agents Tyler Toffoli, Nikita Zadorov, and Elias Lindholm in rebuilding/retooling trades, and didn’t retain salary on any of them.

Calgary also has Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, who could be moved as rentals before the trade deadline. If the Flames want to stick with their “no retained salary” plan, the Red Wings could step in and do it for them. Tanev at $2.25 million is a lot more appealing than Tanev at his current $4.5 million AAV, especially from the perspective of cap-strapped contenders.

Why do this now? For extra ammunition. Detroit could retain half of a rental player’s salary in exchange for a mid-round pick, then parlay that pick into one of the three forwards noted above. Or keep it to maneuver at the draft. Or opt for a 2025 draft pick to use at next year’s trade deadline.

Related: Red Wings’ Trade Deadline Needs Hinge On One Question

The Red Wings are on pace to have over $13 million in deadline cap space. If they’re not going to use it all to acquire players, they might as well broker a deal and get something out of it.

Other Red Wings Trade Deadline Notes

Data courtesy of NHL.com and CapFriendly.

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