Newcomer Scott Wilson should improve Red Wings' forecheck

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – You often hear in professional sports about a trade helping both teams.

That appears to be the result of the Detroit Red Wings’ trade of forward Riley Sheahan to Pittsburgh for forward Scott Wilson, with 2018 draft picks headed both ways.

New Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley played for Pittsburgh the last two seasons.

“He’s (Wilson) coming to a good spot and I let Riley know he’s going to a good spot too,” said Daley after Sunday’s morning skate. “Hopefully it works out for both guys.”

The Red Wings made the trade Saturday night largely to create salary-cap space, after adding forward Andreas Athanasiou, who agreed in principle Friday to a one-year contract for $1.35 million.

The Red Wings were up against the salary cap and had to make a move to get under. To do so, and still get a player like Wilson, was a bonus, according to coach Jeff Blashill.

“He’s a hard forechecking type of forward who can score,” Blashill said. “He’s played up and down their lineup in Pittsburgh and we need to be a good forechecking team. When you have depth in scoring, that’s a positive in the end.”

Sheahan became expendable with the Red Wings’ depth at center.

The continued excellence of Henrik Zetterberg, maturation of Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen manning the third line, slid Sheahan back on the fourth line with shrinking ice time.

The Penguins are projecting Sheahan to center their third line.

“He will get the opportunity to play (in Pittsburgh),” Zetterberg said. “With the lineup we had here, he didn’t get that chance. He has all the ability to be a good player and produce more.

“He’s solid defensively, we all know that, and he can play all situations – penalty kill, and he played the power play here.

“So, I’m sad but in a way I’m happy for him.”

Sheahan had 13- and 14-goal seasons before falling to two last season – both scored on the final day of the regular season. He had yet to score in eight games this season.

Blashill believes Sheahan can still be a capable offensive player, and a productive all-around NHL player, given the chance.

“If he’s playing top-three line minutes on a consistent basis, he probably gets that (double-digit goal-scoring) again,” Blashill said. “I don’t think that’s beyond reason. He did it twice. But when we added Nielsen and kept Zetterberg at center, and Larkin’s maturation, it took him (Sheahan) out of his natural position.

“It’s hard to produce if you don’t have a lot of minutes in this league.”

Wilson debuts

Wilson made his Red Wings' debut in the 4-1 loss to Vancouver, playing 9 minutes, 28 seconds on 13 shifts. He was credited with two hits and won the one faceoff he took.

“We have a lot of upside, a lot of skill out there,” Wilson said. “Obviously coach said we can clean up a few areas on the ice and hopefully that’ll make us more successful.

“It’s not the outcome you’d want, but it was nice to get a game under my belt.

“The team plays with a lot of flow, which is nice. I’m looking forward to it.”

Wilson centered the fourth line, with Luke Glendening and Luke Witkowski.

Wilson learned about the trade Saturday before the Penguins’ pregame skate in Tampa Bay. He was pulled off the ice and told by Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan.

“(It was) a little bit expected but at the same time, it’s different when you hear it,” Wilson said.

After battling for ice time in Pittsburgh, Wilson is hopeful of getting an opportunity to show what he’s capable of with the Red Wings.

“When you’re not playing, it’s tough,” Wilson said. “Just being able to play, I’m excited to be here.”

Sproul trade

The Red Wings also traded defenseman Ryan Sproul to the New York Rangers Saturday night in a minor-league deal, acquiring forward Matt Puempel.

Sproul was on the Red Wings’ roster last season, but when it appeared he’d get a quality chance to stay in the lineup after the trade deadline had passed and the Red Wings were going with young players, Sproul suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“To me, it’s a fresh start for Ryan,” Blashill said. “He’s looking for an opportunity and it was real unfortunate last year when we were out of the playoffs. It would have been a good chance for him to really get that opportunity to play a lot and he got hurt right away.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes and you have to have a chance to play to succeed. Maybe he’ll get it there.”

DeKeyser improving

Blashill expects defenseman Danny DeKeyser (ankle) to be available to play at some point in the upcoming three-game road trip.

DeKeyser rolled his ankle Oct. 10 in Dallas and hasn’t played since, though he has done some skating with the team.

“He’s getting closer,” Blashill said. “Buffalo (Tuesday) might be a little bit of a stretch; it might be a little bit later on that trip. He has to feel comfortable he can make all the cuts on the skate and stop and start and do all the things he has to do. He’s getting closer.”