The Detroit Red Wings are currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence at this stage of the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season. That may have many fans excited about the team's prospects in the short term but it sounds like internally the organization may still very much be looking towards their long term future.
Now if you ask me that would be the correct trajectory for general manager Ken Holland to maintain at this stage of the game as it remains clear to me that the Red Wings current roster rebuild is still some way away from really kicking into high gear, this in spite of some strong performances recently from the team's young core. As a result there remains an expectation that Holland will be making some moves this season prior to the NHL's trade deadline and that those moves will likely revolve around trading established veterans for young assets, prospects or draft picks.
On Monday The Athletic's Max Bultman analyzed the players on the Red Wings roster and broke down the likelihood that each player would end up among those traded by Holland this season, and three players in particular stood out in my estimation. What's interesting is that names like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, players who were once regulars in the trade rumor mill surrounding the NHL, no longer seem to be players with a high likelihood of getting dealt, and instead some of the organizations more established players are taking stage on the trading block.
Here are the 3 Red Wings I believe are the most likely to be traded.
#3 Nick Jensen.
Unquestionably the least sexy name on this list, it perhaps also makes him the easiest to trade from Ken Holland's perspective. The reality of the situation is that the Red Wings currently have somewhat of a log jam on the blue line and with players like 21 year old defenseman Filip Hronek and 20 year old defenseman Dennis Cholowski starting to command more playing time the situation is only going to get worse. Not to mention that the Red Wings have some players in Grand Rapids that could be expected to make the jump to the NHL as early as next season and a player like Jensen becomes more and more expendable.
Although not a game changing type of player by any stretch of the imagination at 28 years old Jensen provides solid depth on the blue line and does so for less than $900,000 a year against the salary cap. He is an extremely affordable option on an expiring contract and that alone makes him a prime candidate to be traded.
#2 Jimmy Howard.
Almost certainly the most controversial name on this list in that of goaltender Jimmy Howard. If we were looking at things from a purely sentimental point of view Howard would likely finish his career with the team that drafted him, the Detroit Red Wings, but hockey is a business. The veteran goaltender has fought through some tough injuries and has always bounced back even when it was clear that the team had lost faith in him and had put their eggs in the Petr Mrazek basket. Howard continues to perform at a high level this season and is one of the big reasons that Detroit has had it's recent surge in success as well, but that also makes him a very valuable asset.
One does not need to look very far to find an NHL team that was hoping to be a contender this season that also happens to be struggling in net, and Howard would be a low risk option for several of those teams given the fact that his contract runs out at the end of this season. A strong veteran goaltender who's in top form makes for a very sexy rental option and that alone could force Holland's hand if the offer is good enough.
#1 Gustav Nyquist.
The writing seems to be on the wall for this one with just about every Red Wings insider citing Nyquist as the player most likely to be dealt before the NHL's trade deadline this season. In the final year of a contract that pays him an average annual value of $4.75 million Nyquist is an impact player at the NHL level that comes at a relatively cheap number on an expiring deal. It seems unlikely that he will remain a part of the Red Wings' long term plans given that he will be 30 years old by the start of next season, and there likely won't ever be a better time to make this move than there is right now.