Detroit — What does it all mean for the Red Wings, trade deadline 2018?
It means they are rebuilding and not going fast enough, with enough results.
Signs of some acceleration and greater effect are perceptible. But the reconstruction still lags.
They became sellers in 2018, just as they were in 2017, and did a nice job of collecting cherished and critical draft picks, the resources integral to rebuilding given the state of the personnel rules.
This year, by trading Petr Mrazek and Tomas Tatar, they also have finally begun moving out some salary.
That is a good, but overdue, development.
Meanwhile, Mrazek and Tatar were producers, and far from the top choices for the rummage sale the Wings are best advised to endure. But some fans are learning what management already knew: Beggars cannot be choosey.
Given the state of the Red Wings’ roster, the measure of talent and performance compared to their contracts, there might well have been some pleading in recent days. Previous decisions management made to lock up several players at generous salary and term, even as the need for a reconstruction loomed, have made the remodeling project more difficult.
It contributes to guys like Mrazek and Tatar going first, because they attract the best offers.
As Mike Babcock said over the weekend, “It’s called ‘trade’ deadline. So, it’s not like Christmas where someone drops off gifts.”
That reality led to the hope the Red Wings would have handled their goaltending situation better, beginning in the summer of 2016.
Mrazek and Jimmy Howard gave them an enviable tandem. Get them both going and, given the state of the roster, get one of them out to the highest bidder.
Mark that project “A.S.A.P.”
Instead, management and Jeff Blashill made clear their intent to march with the two goalies into the playoffs.
“Because once you are in there …”
At this juncture, do not criticize what the Red Wings got in return for trading Mrazek to the Flyers.
Criticize creating the circumstances that made the deal acceptable.
Their decision to prepare for the playoffs instead of rebuilding led to the hope that a sterling performance in net might deliver the goods. The prime goal, in that moment and until this week, should have been achieving the best personnel return for Mrazek or Jimmy Howard.
The rebuilding should have taken precedence well before trade deadline 2018, and even now, it is not clear that it has.
Mrazek had a rough season last year in part because he thought the top job should have been his. Either Howard or Mrazek should have been prepared for market and shipped off before the situation arose, preferably last season.
But the yield Monday in the right-on-the-deadline trade for Tatar is more handsome. The move also is better engineered.
Tatar will be missed. His offensive contribution on one of the most offensively-challenged rosters in the NHL proved important.
But he would not have replaced Henrik Zetterberg, just as he has not replaced Pavel Datsyuk.
And the Red Wings have a group of prospects at forward, including several in Detroit and some in Grand Rapids and playing major junior hockey this season, along with 11 draft picks this summer, including, due to dealing Tatar to the Golden Knights, two in the first round.
Tatar also yielded a second-round pick in 2019 and a third-round pick in the 2021.
And the Red Wings retained no salary.
Holland told me he received no similar offer for Gustav Nyquist, whose career has developed similarly to Tatar’s in Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Tatar had to go. It is the sort of trade the Red Wings must make to rebuild.
They need to cull salary, draft well and develop players.
They did a good job last summer of setting up the Tatar deal, amid some impatience from the player, by securing terms favorable enough for a contender, like Vegas, to find Tatar an appealing addition.
The trade is a strong, positive sign.
But it is also a move made necessary, at this juncture, by mistakes of the past, by not preparing earlier to rebuild the roster, including by disciplining the money and term offered to a group of forwards who might be a fine support cast, but who will not be stars.
On an evening conference call, Holland said he could not properly move Mike Green because of his injury, and the fact that it might reoccur. Also, he said, other defensemen were available.
But the fact of the matter is the Red Wings like Green.
They like that he provides the lion’s share of their offense from the blue line, for a second season, and that he and Trevor Daley help provide preserving-the-culture leadership on a developing roster.
That said, Joe Hicketts should have been on the Wings’ roster from the start of the season, and the young defenseman they should talk about calling up now is Filip Hronek, who is hot offensively in Grand Rapids.
Holland indicated that he did not get the offers he expected for Green. He said that two teams inquired about the defenseman’s health.
The Tatar deal indicates that the Red Wings are ready to move the rebuilding process to a higher priority. It is certainly more important than winning, now.
It has been for a while.
If they hung on to Green for points in the standings, it indicates the opposite.