Toronto — Signing Trevor Daley didn’t generate a ton of headlines.
When the Red Wings signed Daley, then an unrestricted free agent, on July 1, 2017, it was viewed by many analysts as the organization attracting yet another older, diminishing veteran defenseman.
Daley is 35, and now in the second year of a three-year contract worth $9.53 million ($3.178 million salary cap hit), and, no, he isn’t getting any younger.
But Daley has proven to be exactly what the organization wanted, as he prepared Sunday to play in his 1,000th career game, fittingly in his hometown of Toronto.
“At the end of the day, he’s a quality defenseman and he’s a quality person,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
When the Wings signed Daley, they wanted a veteran who they could slide into the top pairing. Now in his second season with the team, Daley has done so, playing big minutes, manning key time on the penalty kill, and enabling younger defensemen to be put in roles where they are comfortable.
Simply watching Daley and the way he goes about business on and off the ice, has been an invaluable tool.
“He’s a calm player, real low-key” Blashill said. “He’s competitive as can be, and there are times you definitely see his competitiveness. But in games, his poise under pressure is excellent.
“He’s calm under pressure, he knows what it takes to win.”
Shawn Horcoff, the Wings’ director of player development, has used Daley — a former teammate in Dallas — as a prime example for younger defensemen in the organization.
“Watching a guy like Trevor Daley, you can learn a lot from a guy like that,” Horcoff said. “A guy that can go back and just break the puck out. It’s such a valuable tool to have a defenseman that can go back, and with speed, turn the corner and with a couple of crossovers, he’s beaten everyone down the ice and then one nice pass and we’re on instant offense.”
Injuries have cut into Daley’s season, having played only 28 games with six points (two goals, four assists), and a plus-2 rating.
As the trade deadline approaches in late February, it’ll be intriguing to see how much interest Daley attracts on the market.
If a playoff-contending team were to acquire Daley this season, they potentially could earn two playoff appearances with him, under a manageable contract that will fit with numerous payrolls.
Looking to stockpiles draft picks or prospects, the Wings likely would get a nice haul for a veteran such as Daley, who won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.
Thomas Vanek on the Red Wings' lack of offense The Detroit News
Sleepless in Detroit
Thomas Vanek said after Saturday’s loss to Florida he’s been so frustrated with his offensive output, he’s had trouble sleeping.
Vanek scored the lone goal in the 2-1 loss to the Panthers, but it was only his fifth goal.
That, from a player who has scored 20 or more goals 11 times in his 13-year career.
“If I could pinpoint it, I would have changed it,” Vanek said of his goal-scoring struggles. “It’s been a frustrating year. Even (Saturday), I felt good and should’ve had two or three (goals), and I walked away with one. It’s frustrating.
“I’m losing sleep over it, but at the same time, I have to stay positive here and keep getting to the net. Hopefully, it’ll turn quick.”
Blashill liked the way Vanek was going Saturday and increased Vanek’s ice time, to the detriment of some other wingers.
Blashill believes increased confidence will help Vanek, as the goals and points begin to accumulate.
“The thing Thomas does well is he can make guys exponentially better with his ability,” Blashill said. “The way the lines were set up, I had to some maneuvering that probably hurt some other guys’ ice time, but that’s the way it goes.
“Confidence is a huge thing in life and he’s been a great player in this league. But when you don’t feel it, sometimes you start to force it a little bit or you don’t think you have quite as much time as you have.
“Thomas has been better overall of late. We just have to build off it.”