Detroit — The first domino has fallen for the Red Wings.
With the Monday trade deadline approaching, the Wings began their dealing Friday, sending defenseman Nick Jensen and a 2019 fifth-round draft pick (acquired from an earlier trade with Buffalo) to the Washington Capitals.
In return, the Wings received defenseman Madison Bowey and a 2020 second-round pick.
Washington quickly extended Jensen, signing the potential unrestricted free agent to a four-year contract worth $10 million.
For general manager Ken Holland, the ability to acquire another draft pick, especially a second-rounder, as well as add a young defenseman to the organization, was what made the trade possible.
“He’s a young player we liked his draft year,” general manager Ken Holland said of Bowey, 23. “Good size (6-2, 198), good skater. Things haven’t worked out for him in Washington, trying to grab a role there, but we felt it was an opportunity to grab a young defenseman and see if we can turn him into a regular NHL defenseman.
“I’m happy for Nick Jensen, this is a great day for him and his family. (And) we’re excited we got a young defenseman and a second-round pick in 2020 given the direction we’re trying to go.”
At first glance it’s a fair haul for the Wings, who now have two second-round picks in the next two drafts.
They also acquire Bowey, an offensive defenseman who wasn’t able to crack Washington’s Stanley Cup-winning roster but is still considered an NHL prospect.
The Wings were hoping to re-sign Jensen, 28, but negotiations didn’t progress and contending teams began to show significant interest in the puck-moving, stable defenseman.
Holland said there was a significant interest in Jensen, and it increased over the last week, with Washington pursuing him the hardest.
Brian MacLellan, the Capitals’ general manager, was pleased to add Jensen to their roster.
“Nick is a reliable modern-day defenseman who we feel can defend well and log valuable minutes for our club,” MacLellan said. “At 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”
Jensen somewhat foreshadowed his immediate future after Thursday’s practice, talking about the possibility of going to a playoff contender.
“Playing in the playoffs is obviously the main goal for everybody,” Jensen said. “That’s something you always want to do. It’s tough not being in the playoffs. The potential to be in the playoffs, yes, that’s exciting, but it’s not the only factor that goes into this.”
Holland said the depth of young defensemen in the organization — with Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski, Jared MacIssac and Gustav Lindstrom all in the organization’s depth chart — made Jensen expendable.
With Jensen gone, there are other Wings’ potential unrestricted free agents available to be traded if other teams are interested.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, and forwards Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek, are other players who could be dealt before the 3 p.m. Monday deadline.
There has been no interest in Vanek, but Nyquist and Howard could still be in play.
Holland said he has received phone calls for the two, but will not know the exact level of interest in the veterans until Monday afternoon.
With the goaltending market almost non-existent among the playoff contenders, it’s likely Howard and the Wings will work toward a new contract.
Nyquist is the Wing most likely to be dealt, given he’s having a fine offensive season (33 assists, 48 points) and many contenders are looking to add scoring depth.
Jensen was a healthy scratch on Opening Night but was reinserted into the lineup the next game and hasn’t looked back.
While playing a career-high of almost 21 minutes per game (20:48), Jensen had 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) while seeing ample time on the penalty kill.
In return, the Wings get a young defenseman in Bowey, who was a 2013 second-round pick.
Bowey has played in 33 games with Washington this season, with one goal and five assists.
Bowey has another year on his contract, with a $1 million salary cap hit, before he can become a restricted free agent in 2020.
In 84 games with Washington over the last two seasons, Bowey had one goal and 17 assists, with 62 penalty minutes.
Scouts have mixed feelings on Bowey, a Winnipeg native, who was never able to secure a regular spot in Washington’s lineup.
Bowey is a fine skater and passer. He has scored 60 points in consecutive junior seasons, including a season in which he had 21 goals.
But at the pro level, Bowey’s defensive inconsistency has been exposed. Bowey has a tendency to look for the “big” play, rather than simply make the safe, small play.
He also has had a knack to take bad penalties.
For Washington, getting an improving, competitive defenseman such as Jensen for a future draft pick and prospect who couldn’t make their lineup, has to be considered a fine trade.
The Capitals don’t have much wiggle room in their salary cap this summer but should have enough to make an adequate offer to keep Jensen.