Detroit Red Wings: Scanning the horizon for help for the future

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

At the trade deadline, Detroit Red Wings General Manager (GM) Steve Yzerman did mostly as we expected. Thanks to his friendship with Ken Holland, we shipped out Mike Green, and Andreas Athanasiou for a few draft picks.

Here is hoping Yzerman can spin a little magic out of two second-round picks and a fourth-rounder for the Detroit Red Wings. He has done it before, plucking both Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point for the Tampa Bay Lightning with similarly-ranged draft picks.

Without Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou, the Red Wings now seem even more depleted. We thought we had already cratered, but apparently not yet. We best measure “depletion” by how hard the Wings must work, how tightly they must function as a unit, and how few mistakes they must make just to be in the running simply to win an odd game now and again.

We can root for defenseman Moritz Seider to be called up, and that might happen. But projecting a semi-savior role on any 18-year-old is fraught with peril. Scanning the horizon of available free agents this summer, can we see any possible relief from other sources? The defense core is the foundation from which we must first rebuild

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The goal here is to shore up a foundation that allows younger prospects to develop without being dogged by the despair of playing on the worst NHL team, only to develop a permanent inferiority complex as a result.

Detroit Jock City Co-Expert Tyler Kotila has already written fascinatingly here about signing Robin Lehner to form a goalie tandem with Jonathan Bernier. Lehner is a plucky survivor, even if not the most stable clubhouse presence.

Bernier thrives on more work rather than less. So he will need to yield enough playing time to justify bringing in Lehner as a free agent.

Of course, for any free agent signing, our subpar team being such an easy mark for other NHL teams makes it tougher to attract and sign players. What player seeks that out, right?

What the Detroit Red Wings need now is like the Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez signing by the Detroit Tigers for 2004. Yes, two more years of floundering followed, but in the third year, they were in post-season play. Pudge brought back respectability, professionalism, talent, and hope after the depths of a 43 win season in 2003.

The two juiciest NHL 2020 defensemen free agents available are Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug.  I cannot imagine the St. Louis Blues will allow Pietrangelo to get far. The Boston Bruins feel similarly about Krug but have a more uncertain salary-cap reality. Krug wants to stay in Boston, even to the point of offering them a hometown discount.

With Krug growing up playing in Livonia, can Yzerman find any hometown leverage to appeal to his heartstrings? Certainly, we can expect no dollar discount, much as the Tigers had to overpay Rodriguez.

Remember, we had planned upon Danny Dekeyser to anchor the defense, but back surgery ended that eight games into this season. No one knows if he is capable of playing again at an NHL level, never mind securing our defense.

Perhaps we are better off contemplating something more like a Tyson Barrie free-agent signing.  While he is no shutdown defender, he has a nose for the net. He was a second-pair defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche.  He started out slowly under Mike Babcock, no big surprise.

Sheldon Keefe’s tenure has seen a resurgence in Barrie’s performance. But talk persists in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization about Barrie’s poor fit with the team. He has leadership characteristics, vital for our trickle of young defensemen into our team.

At age 28, Barrie is desirable because he wouldn’t quickly age out of the picture. But what about older defensemen like an Andy Greene or a Jay Bouwmeester as veteran leader-guide free-agent defensemen for the greening of a young defense?

We must consider changing our team mix now because our current roster has proven that it cannot win. Learned helplessness, acquired from the trauma of losing too much, is not something we want to impart. Have you noticed Dylan Larkin‘s face this season?

Must Read. A Lehner and Bernier tandem would be exceptional. light

Minimally, Yzerman might consider “addition by subtraction.” Sam Gagner already has more goals this season as a Red Wing than Justin Abdelkader. Jonathan Ericsson’s bad choices haunt the team. Trevor Daley is clearly done. Brendan Perlini lacks competitive fire. We cut loose such as these and alter the mix.