With the news coming down today about Brendan Smith being traded to the Rangers, Red Wings fans everywhere are no longer in denial: This team is rebuilding.
The question that still lingers, however, is two-fold:
How many other players will be traded (if any)?
How massive of a rebuild are we talking?
What’s most surprising about the Smith trade isn’t the fact that he was traded. Smith was a pending UFA, and, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, was asking for a new deal somewhere in the range of 3 years, at $3.5 million or more per year. He wasn’t playing up to his expected ability, and his last point came in a game against the Senators, back in December of last year.
What was surprising was the return that the Red Wings got for Smith, from the New York Rangers. We all have heard about how this draft class is “weak” or “lacks sizzle”, so maybe at first glance, the fact that the Rangers gave up two draft picks isn’t that surprising. However, the 2nd round pick that they gave up was for the 2018 draft, and the other pick they gave up was a 3rd in this year’s draft. This was a surprisingly high return that Red Wings GM Ken Holland netted for a player who has been injured and a healthy scratch so much this season, that he’s only played in 33 games.
Because of this return, and the return that we’ve seen for other defensemen such as Kevin Shattenkirk , it’s not too crazy to ask the question: should the Red Wings trade Mike Green?
Stay with me for this one. Let’s say that some team desperate for defence (Colorado, Toronto, Edmonton, Boston etc.) is willing to trade for Mike Green to add some stability, veteran experience, and scoring (did I mention he’s a right handed shot?). If Washington is willing to go all in on a rential in Kevin Shattenkirk to the tune of a 1st round pick, a prospect and a conditional 2nd/3rd, what’s to say that one of these teams isn’t willing to do something similar with Mike Green?
Now don’t hear me saying that Mike Green and Kevin Shattenkirk are the same player. Green is 3 years older, he carries a cap hit of 6$ million instead of $4.25 million, and he’s no longer the scoring boon he once was. What he does have is term. Paying that price for Shattenkirk guarantees you a few months of his production. Paying a similar price for Green guarantees you those same months, plus another full season; and while Green isn’t the same player anymore, that extra season might make the difference in price.
So, if the Red Wings were able to get even a 1st round pick in 2017 or 2018 for Mike Green before March 1st’s deadline, would it be worth it? That all depends on what kind of rebuild we’re talking about in Detroit.
If the Red Wings were to ship Green off for just picks, no prospects or roster players, their defence would probably look something like this next season:
While that doesn’t scream “bottom feeder”, it certainly doesn’t scream “Cup contender” either. If the Red Wings are interested in a 2-5 year rebuild, then shipping Green off while the market is so high on defencemen might actually be a great idea. Sure, they would have guys like Jensen (27 gp), Ouellet (74 gp), and Sproul (25 gp) who all have under 100 games of NHL experience on their roster. That might actually be a problem. But what it also would do is give these guys a chance to stay up with the Red Wings for a full season. None of those 3 guys have ever played a full season in the NHL (Ouellet’s most games in a season is 44 in the NHL), so it’s hard to know what they are capable of.
It’s definitely a rose-coloured-glasses moment when you look at that Red Wings defence and hope for anything but a bottom 5 finish in the NHL; but if nothing else, the Red Wings are pretty good at developing young players. The emergence of Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou this season is great proof of that. Heck, even the rookie seasons that Nyquist and Tatar had in Detroit are proof of that. Given that Chris Chelios is a special assistant coach with the Red Wings currently, it’s not too crazy to think that the likes of Jensen, Ouellet, and Sproul could come into their own with an entire NHL season under their belt.
If Ken Holland is looking to make the playoffs again next season, then this pipe dream is essentially invalid. If restarting a 25 year playoff streak is in Holland’s mind, then trading Mike Green makes no sense.
Regardless of what happens come 2pm Eastern on March 1st, 2017, the Red Wings will still have been sellers for the first time in my lifetime. It’s almost fun to dream about the selling capability your team has, once you come to grips with the horrifying fact of missing the playoffs. It’s not something we’re used to, as Red Wings fans, but it’s something we have to embrace.