Red Wings deal defenseman Jon Merrill to Montreal for draft pick, prospect Hayden Verbeek
Detroit — Don’t turn your head, stray too far from the screen, or you’re going to miss another Red Wings trade.
It sure seems as if general manager Steve Yzerman is on a steady roll, and he has until Monday at 3 p.m. to conclude any sort of sell-off of his available veterans and accumulate more draft capital.
On Sunday, the Wings traded another of their potential unrestricted free agent defenseman, Jon Merrill, to Montreal for a 2021 fifth-round pick (previously from Ottawa) and forward Hayden Verbeek.
Merrill, a Grand Blanc native who played collegiately at Michigan, signed a one-year deal last summer for $925,000 with his hometown team.
Verbeek, 23, is 5-foot-10, 184 pounds, and is listed as a center. In seven games with Laval, Montreal's minor-league affiliate, he has one goal and two assists. Verbeek signed with Montreal as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
The Wings traded defenseman Patrik Nemeth to Colorado on Friday for a fourth-round draft pick.
On Saturday, the Wings acquired a 2021 fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay, while helping broker a deal between Tampa Bay and Columbus, retaining some of defenseman David Savard’s salary. Savard landed with the Lightning.
So, the Wings have been busy, and might continue to deal right to Monday, with assets available.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier, defenseman Marc Staal, and forwards Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening and Darren Helm all have been linked to possible playoff contenders — if there are deals to be made.
But, first off, seeing Merrill leave Sunday was a tough blow for the Wings.
In 36 games, Merrill had five assists and had a plus-2 rating while providing coach Jeff Blashill tremendous versatility.
Blashill feels Merrill will be a good fit with Montreal, and would have been anywhere.
“Whoever ended up trading for Jon, they’d get a real good addition,” Blashill said. “First off, he’s a good player. He’s kind of a jack of all trades and plays a lot of different (positions), he can play the left and right (side), kill penalties, he can play up and down your lineup a little bit.
“But for me, most importantly, he has confidence and moxie of a guy you’d want in those big, pressure situations in the playoffs. He’s not going to be one bit afraid of the moment, he’ll seize the moment and that’s what I was most impressed with Johnny.
“I have really enjoyed having him. I knew him a long time ago in a different world when he was coming up as a youth player, but to really get to know him, he was an excellent pro and he did a real good job for us.”
Losing Nemeth and Merrill means losing a lot of experience on the Wings’ defense.
“Those are two guys that have been regulars in our lineup all season long, two big guys that have been good players for us,” Blashill said.
Which means there are now opportunities for other defensemen to secure spots in the lineup.
Alex Biega and Dennis Cholowski both were Saturday’s lineup — Merrill was a healthy scratch, as protection leading to a trade — and Gustav Lindstrom is on the taxi squad and available to promote.
“Guys are going to get to play, chances (for players) who haven’t played much,” Blashill said. “Alex and Dennis did (Saturday), Gustav Lindstrom is up, there’s potential for him to play as well. So guys will get opportunities and what they do with that is certainly up to them, and hopefully they jump through that opportunity.”
The Wings announced Saturday that prospect Joe Veleno is returning to North America and is being reassigned to Grand Rapids.
The forward was playing for Malmo in the Swedish Elite League — the Wings loaned Veleno to Malmo — and the team was eliminated from the playoffs this week.
Veleno had 11 goals and nine assists (20 points) in 46 games for Malmo, ranking third in goals and fourth in points.
Blashill has heard good reports regarding Veleno's time in Sweden.
"My understanding is he's played good, and did a real good job over there," Blashill said. "In talking with Shawn Horcoff (Wings' director of player development) a number of times through the season, Shawn was pleased with his progress, so it was a productive year for him (Veleno)."
With only 13 games remaining on the Wings' schedule, there isn't a ton of time for Veleno to get reacclimated and possibly get a first look in the NHL.
But Blashill hasn't discussed that possibility with Yzerman.
"We'll see where everything is at with Joe, but the most important things was during the course of the season he's developed and if there's an opportunity for more development, that's what is critical for him," Blashill said.
Veleno, 21, was a 2018 first-round draft pick of the Wings. Veleno had 11 goals and 12 assists (23 points) in 54 games last season for Grand Rapids.
Carolina forward Jordan Staal will play in his 1,000th career game Monday, and could be playing against his brother Marc, which would be a unique and great milestone.
If, that is, Marc isn't traded Monday before 3 p.m.
Still, if Marc is with the Wings, it'll be a special event.
"It's a big milestone," Blashill said of the 1,000-game mark. "I've had an opportunity to coach a number of guys who've reached that milestone while playing with us. It's a real big milestone. It's something that certainly is earned.
"I mean, 1,000 games in this league is huge. For anybody who has earned that, it's an awesome accomplishment. Jordan has been a real great player in this league for a long time, and he's a bit underrated, to be honest with you, around the league.
"It's cool for him to be in the same game with his brother, and to have that moment together."
Blashill said forward Robby Fabbri (upper body) is unavailable for Monday, and Gagner is to be determined.
The Wings have a variety of players with "bumps and bruises", said Blashill.
"I don't know of anyone who it'll keep out (of the lineup), but I won't know definitely until (Monday)," Blashill said.
.. .Goaltender Thomas Greiss earned his fourth win of the season (4-15-6) Saturday in the 5-4 victory over Carolina, stopping 30 shots and clinching the victory in the shootout.
"He stayed on it," Blashill said. "He stayed with it, and that's what he does well. He plays to win the hockey game and he doesn't worry about stats. So, if there is one or two or three or four goals (allowed), he wants to win the game and I'm glad we got him some run (goals) support."
Red Wings at Hurricanes
► Faceoff: 7 p.m. Monday, PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
►TV/radio: BSD-plus/950 AM
► Outlook: The Red Wings (14-23-6) and Carolina (27-9-4) conclude a two-game series. ... The Wings defeated Carolina, 5-4, Saturday in a shootout, the Wings' third win over Carolina this season (3-3-0).