4 Red Wings Trade Targets This Offseason

The Hockey Writers

A very pivotal summer looms for general manager Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. The team missed the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season while falling just short of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit and the Washington Capitals both finished with 91 points, but it was the Capitals earning the final nod with the tiebreaker (36-27 in regulation wins). Detroit saw vast improvements in the offensive department this season finishing ninth overall in league scoring with 3.35 goals per game (GF/GP). The additions of Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, combined with the emergence of rising star Lucas Raymond had Hockeytown jumping out of their seats right down to the season finale. It was an exciting and encouraging year for this Original Six franchise. But how does this organization build upon these results heading into the 2024-25 season?

Dylan Larkin Andrew Copp Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp celebrate a goal for the Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Red Wings this past season. Goaltending and the team’s defensive zone play did show signs of regression as they struggled to find any sort of consistency for extended stretches. Detroit gave up 32.4 shots per game (SA/GP) which was seventh worst in the NHL while their goal differential was only a plus-2. Ville Husso was brought in prior to the start of the 2022-23 season, but was once again inefficient for the club before succumbing to injuries that limited him to just 19 games this season. I still do not have faith in Husso as the starter moving forward as he has yet to prove himself over a full season in the NHL.

Related: Red Wings Could See Massive Influx of Youth in 2024-25 Season

Alex Lyon, who was originally signed to be the third-string netminder, was forced into the starter’s role after backup James Reimer proved early on that he could not handle the number one duties after Husso went down. Lyon filled in admirably but struggled down the stretch and proved that he too was not the solution in the crease. There is literally no chance that Reimer will come back after completing his one-year deal while Husso and Lyon are on the books for one more season. But can Detroit afford to go that route once again? There is no doubt in this writer’s mind that a legitimate goaltender would have ended this playoff drought. Prized prospects Sebastian Cossa and Trey Augustine are still at least a year or two away from joining the NHL roster. There will be options available via trade this summer if Yzerman feels it’s warranted.

Detroit should have a much different look on the back end heading into the 2024-25 season. Mid-March call-up and highly touted prospect, defenseman Simon Edvinsson, has earned his spot as a regular, while Grand Rapids Griffins blueliner Albert Johansson – who is out of minor league options and would not in any world clear waivers – is also expected to be a factor for the Red Wings come October. Shayne Gostisbehere who led all defensemen in scoring with 56 points in 81 games is an unrestricted free agent and will likely sign for more money elsewhere. I would love to see him return but can’t see it coming to fruition. Moritz Seider, Ben Chiarot, Jake Walman, Olli Maatta, Justin Holl and Jeff Petry are all under contract for the upcoming season. That’s eight players for a maximum seven spots, so Yzerman will have some bold decisions to make this summer. A buyout could be used here and I’m most definitely looking at you, Holl.

Related: Detroit Red Wings: Contract Projections for 2024 RFAs

From an offensive perspective, there is still no word on a contract extension for Kane and I have a hard time seeing him return considering where Detroit currently stands in their rebuild. At 35 years old, “Showtime” provided some electric moments for the Red Wings this past season, but you have to think – at his age and with that surgically repaired hip – he wants one more run at a Cup. That’s not something that’s in the cards for the Red Wings for at least two to three more years and you have to believe he is aware of it.

The other unrestricted free agents include Daniel Sprong, David Perron, and Christian Fischer. Sprong, who appeared to fall out of favor with the coaching staff after a strong start, will likely find greener pastures elsewhere. Perron could be brought back on a short-term, one-year deal but I’m not sure that’s in the best interest of the team right now as Detroit has a plethora of prospects ready to break through. Fischer provided a spark as a bottom-six forward and I think most fans would like to see him come back on a one-to-two-year deal with a low average annual value (AAV).

Bottom line. This team will look different next season. Yzerman should have some intriguing options to consider in the trade market as Detroit looks to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season. The Red Wings’ legend is not afraid to get aggressive when it comes to improving his club. He will have some hefty contracts to negotiate this summer, as Seider and Raymond should be signing long-term extensions that will keep them in Detroit for the next decade. The team should have cap space to make two – possibly three – significant additions via trade this summer. Will it improve their playoff chances after coming “oh so close” this past April? Here’s hoping so, but I’m not so sure that there won’t be some sort of regression. The Red Wings could possibly feature a lineup that includes two to three rookies next season. Listed below are four trade targets Yzerman should consider to get this team over that dreaded playoff “hump”.

Martin Necas – RW, Carolina Hurricanes

Martin Necas was taken 12th overall in the 2017 Draft by the Hurricanes, three picks after Detroit selected Michael Rasmussen at nine. Hindsight is 20/20 but you can bet the organization would like a do-over on that one. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward is a restricted free agent this summer and could be the odd man out for the Canes in 2024-25. Signing players like Jake Guentzel and Seth Jarvis may be the team’s top priority this summer after another disappointing finish in the playoffs that saw Carolina fall to the New York Rangers in six games during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Necas saw a slight dip in production this season – 24 goals and 29 assists in 77 games game played – after posting a career-high 71 points in 82 games (28 goals, 43 assists) during the 2022-23 season, but that’s not something that should concern teams that are looking to acquire him. The lack of production had more to do with his usage and the system he was deployed in. He did see less action on the power play this past season and averaged close to a minute less of ice time (17:21 in 2023-24 compared to 18:24 in 2022-23). There is no denying his offensive skill and his size is something that Detroit could really use up front.

He’s also an excellent skater with great vision and boasts a cannon of a shot. The 25-year-old Czechia native could also slot in at center if need be, giving Detroit options in their top six. He is the type of player that Yzerman could and should be willing to part with this year’s first-round pick for. I believe Detroit would have to add a mid-level prospect as well, and I think a package of the 15th overall pick and possibly Griffins defenseman William Wallinder or Shai Buium could get it done. That’s a deal you make when you consider how deep Detroit’s defensive prospect pool is. Necas is a difference-maker and most definitely fits the Red Wings timeline to compete, but you can safely bet there will be a lot of teams looking to acquire his services.

Pavel Buchnevich – RW, St. Louis Blues

Another top-six forward who could have a major impact in Detroit’s top six. Pavel Buchnevich will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2024-25 season and is making a modest $5.8 million in the final year of his contract with the St. Louis Blues. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound forward, like Necas, also saw a slight decline in production with 63 points in 80 games (27 goals, 36 assists) during the 2023-24 season compared to 67 points in 63 games (26 goals, 41 assists) in the season prior.

Buchnevich has been one of the most underrated scorers in the NHL over the past few seasons averaging close to 30 goals and over 60 points in his three years with the Blues. The Russian native would add size up front and instantly become one of Detroit’s top offensive options. At 29 years old, he would – most likely – not command the kind of return that Necas would and could be an enticing option if the Red Wings could sign him to a two-year extension. Would a third-round pick and say Jonatan Berggren entice St. Louis? I think it’s something worth looking into.

Jakob Chychrun – LD, Ottawa Senators

Another player the Red Wings could have had with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Former Detroit GM Ken Holland – at the time – thought it would be best to trade Pavel Datsyuk’s rights to the Arizona Coyotes in a clear cash dump and move down four spots to the 20th selection. Many analysts floated the idea that it was a move made to free up money with the intent of going after Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos who was the most sought-after player in free agency that offseason (Stamkos, of course, chose to re-sign with Tampa Bay with no indication of ever considering the Red Wing as an option). Arizona jumped at the opportunity to take the 6-foot-2, 205-pound rugged blueliner. The player Detroit chose with their first-round pick? Defenseman, Dennis Cholowski. Oops. This writer is still not over that one.

Jakob Chychrun was a highly touted prospect, and was once projected – at the start of his draft year – as a franchise-altering blueliner. The Florida native dropped in the draft due to injury concerns and while he hasn’t become the star that many predicted he would become, he’s been a very solid NHL defenseman that could immediately pay dividends in a top-pairing role alongside Seider. The 26-year-old is under contract for another full season and comes with a reasonable cap hit of $4.6 million. The Senators are also blessed with a surplus of young, talented defenders and you would have to think they are looking to move him for a reasonable price.

Jakob Chychrun Ottawa Senators
Jakob Chychrun, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

He posted 14 goals to go along with 27 assists this past season, while playing in all 82 games for the first time in his career. Prior to that, his previous high was 68 games during his rookie season in 2016-17, so those injuries will factor in a team’s decision to trade for him. Defensively it was not a stellar season for Chychrun, as he finished with a career-worst minus-30 rating, but he also played over 22 minutes a night for one of the most disappointing teams in hockey. He would be an upgrade over any defenseman on Detroit’s roster not named Seider or Edvinsson. Chychrun does have familiarity with the Detroit Metro area having played bantam in the Little Caesars program when he was in his early teens. I have to believe he could be had for a second or third-rounder (tops) and a mid-level prospect from the Griffins. Would I also trade Berggren and a fourth-rounder for him? You bet I would.

Linus Ullmark – G, Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins are in an interesting position having two high-end goalies on their roster in Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. Swayman is 25 years old and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. The Alaska native should see a significant raise – from the $3.475 million he made this year – after going 25-10-8 with a 2.53 goals-against average (GAA) and .917 save percentage (SV%) in 43 starts. Swayman was Boston’s go-to option during their second-round series loss to the Florida Panthers but it was hard to pin their exit on him. Ullmark – at 30 years old – carries a cap hit of $5 million for the 2024-25 season but also has a 16-team no-trade clause. He will be an unrestricted free agent after next season, but remember this – he is also only two years removed from winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. The 6-foot-4 Swede was excellent this season, with a pretty even timeshare between the two, posting similar numbers of 22-10-7 with a 2.57 GAA and .915 SV%.

Related: Ranking the Red Wings’ 2024 Offseason Priorities: Detroit’s Needs & Targets

Ullmark could be an interesting bridge option for Detroit as the organization waits for Cossa and Augustine to develop. Teams not named the Panthers don’t generally like to tie up that much money in two goaltenders, so the Bruins may be forced to move on from Ullmark. He is an intriguing option if he can be had at a reasonable price. Yzerman may not have to give up key assets as Boston probably doesn’t want their goaltending tandem taking up $10 million-plus of the team’s cap space next season. I’m thinking a B-level prospect and a third-round pick may be able to get it done for Yzerman. I believe Husso with Wallinder or Buium could spark a deal between these two Original Six franchises.

Summer Intrigue

This should be a big summer for the Red Wings organization. I have to believe that coming that close to making the playoffs stoked a fire under Yzerman to get this team back to the postseason. It’s not a secret that the Hall of Famer likes to keep things close to the vest, but I can also see him making some big, under-the-radar moves once the playoffs come to an end.

Let me know what you think in the comments below and what moves you would consider. Feel free to add any trade speculations or counter-proposals to the deals I mentioned above as well.

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