The Detroit Red Wings have practically been in need of a top pairing defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom retired after the 2011-12 season. There were hopes within the organization that Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, or even Jonathan Ericsson would be the one to take on that role, but none of those players materialized to that degree.
The team has missed the playoffs each of the last two years, but hasn’t finished low enough in the standings to have great chances at a top five pick. In the 2016-17 season, they were awarded the ninth overall pick, with which they selected center Michael Rasmussen from the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. Rasmussen is a natural scorer who has a good chance of making next year’s team, but he is not the perennial force from the back-end that the team desperately needs.
This year, the team has the sixth pick in the draft. While generational defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the surefire number one overall pick, Detroit will have an opportunity to select a player with a bright future, and will likely be a piece that the team can continue to build around. There are two main questions regarding the player that they will select: will he be able to contribute immediately, and will there be a good core of veterans for him to learn from?
Current captain Henrik Zetterberg and likely future captain Dylan Larkin are tremendous leaders. Alternate captains Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall also fit the bill as decent leaders, but Kronwall (and Zetterberg for that matter) probably don’t have many years left in the tank.
The prevailing thought for the last few months is that the team needs to target the blue line and build it for the future. But, since it is unknown if such a player at the six spot will be available, the option of trading for a high-end established defenseman is out there.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes could be a legitimate option should Detroit consider improving the team through trade. The Coyotes are not going to be in contention for the Stanley Cup anytime soon, and likely are more than a few players away from even contending for a playoff spot. Ekman-Larsson will enter the final year of his current contract next season, which comes with a $5.5 million cap hit. One would likely think that it is unlikely that he would be interested in signing long-term with the Coyotes because of this. He has scored at least 12 goals and 39 points in each of the five full seasons he has played with the Coyotes, and has a reputation across the league as a lock-down defender.
With Mike Green unlikely to resign with Detroit, there will be a massive hole in both the team’s offense and power play. Any trade that would involve Ekman-Larsson would likely involve at least the team’s sixth overall pick in the upcoming draft, a prospect, and a contract that would ensure the team would get to the salary cap floor.
Proposal: If not for a trade, the Red Wings will likely use their first pick to select a future top pairing defenseman. Considering the fact that the team is likely tiring of Gustav Nyquist‘s yearly disappearing act, and the fact that he is still young, his contract could be had in the right trade. My proposal is that the Red Wings offer the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft, Nyquist, and prospect defenseman Dennis Cholowski for the services of Ekman-Larsson.
What are your thoughts, Nation? Should the Red Wings consider moving the sixth overall pick for a defenseman who is already established in the NHL?