Mike Green’s days in Detroit are numbered. They were even before the season began by virtue of Green’s status as a legitimate top-four defenseman who’s in the final year of a three-year, $18-million contract on a team primed to finish in the league’s basement. And given that’s the case, there’s nothing more the Red Wings could have wanted than for Green to drive up his value as the season rolls along, and, boy, has he ever through the first three weeks of the season.
Yes, it’s still early, but through the first three weeks of the campaign, Green has been one of the lone bright spots for a Red Wings club that has dropped each of its past four games and is looking increasingly like the Eastern Conference bottom-feeder many expected them to be this year. Yet, in the outings thus far, Green has scored once and assisted on 10 other tallies, his 11 points are the most among all players in Detroit, he’s tied for the league scoring lead among blueliners and he’s been a big factor on the power play. While there haven’t been many positives to the early season, Red Wings GM Ken Holland likely couldn’t be happier about Green’s play.
Reason being is that at some point this season, Holland will need to make a decision regarding Green. It’s the same decision every GM faces each year with those who are set to become unrestricted free agents, and that’s whether to sell to the highest bidder and recoup assets instead of losing the player for nothing in free agency. When it comes to Green, a trade will almost certainly be the option the Wings choose because it makes the most sense for all involved.
At 32, Green doesn’t have many years left in which to chase and win a Stanley Cup and he likely won’t have much interest in sticking around on a team that is looking to build through the draft. Meanwhile, the Red Wings likely won’t have the money to pay Green even close to the $6 million he’s earned per season over the lifespan of this current deal or really compete to keep him around if he hits the open market. Thus, dealing Green to a playoff contender come the trade deadline seems like the obvious move for Detroit. The only question is what the Red Wings could, and would, get in return. But the answer has almost certainly changed from whatever it was believed to be before this season got underway.
As Green continues to pile up points through the early days of the season, he’s undoubtedly driving up the Wings’ asking price. Look at it this way: offense from the back end can be a godsend in the post-season and Green looks as though he’s found some of his previous Norris Trophy-caliber offensive form this season. So, the more Green scores and the more he looks like a top offensive threat, the higher the price tag for his suitors come the deadline. Consider what the Blues received from the Washington Capitals for Kevin Shattenkirk, who had 42 points in 61 games with St. Louis, at the trade deadline last season — Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a first-round pick and a conditional second-round selection — and you can see why Detroit will be pleased if things continue to go this way for Green.
Green’s not the only player whose early production is promising for trade purposes down the line, though. Here are five others who could be on their way to earning their respective teams a hefty return at some point this season:
Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres
Kane’s departure from Buffalo, or reports of the Sabres’ testing the trade waters with regard to the winger, has been a near-constant topic of conversation for the better part of the past two seasons. However, through a few off-ice issues and disappointing on-ice performances, the Sabres have held on to the winger, but it seems as though they could be set to cash in this season. Through nine games, Kane, 26, is off to arguably the best start of his career, potting six goals and 11 points, and he’s buzzing at all times. Three of his goals have come at even strength, one has come on the power play and Kane has twice lit the lamp on the penalty kill. That is mighty impressive.
Any team looking to add scoring now, in the near future or ahead of the deadline is almost certainly going to reach out to Sabres GM Jason Botterill. Kane looks like he’s about to have a career year and that could mean a big score for Buffalo at some point this season.
Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators
The Senators were one win — one goal, really — short of earning a berth in the Stanley Cup final last spring. That Ottawa would sell at any point this season might strike some as a bizarre suggestion. However, reports have surfaced in the early season that Turris and the Senators could be having difficulty coming to terms on a new deal and Ottawa isn’t in a position to lose the 28-year-old for nothing. So, if there’s no deal in place by the deadline, will the Senators consider moving him along?
There’s still a lot of hockey to be played, to be sure, but Turris has three goals and eight points in eight games and he’d surely have his share of suitors. He’s the perfect second-line center for a team in need of some scoring depth down the middle and another 50-plus point campaign out of Turris could fetch the Senators a ransom.
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
The most obvious trade bait the Islanders possess is John Tavares, but unless Tavares tells GM Garth Snow he has no intention of staying in New York, you’d have to imagine the Islanders are going to try everything to keep their captain in town. New York does have some players to offload if they have another down year, though, and the prime trade candidate given his early performance has to be Bailey.
A 2008 first-round pick, ninth overall, Bailey has really found his game of late and everything is clicking. In eight games, he has three goals and six points, and if this continues, he could be acquired at a cost that’s more palatable for teams that are priced out of the top-end players. That’s not to say Bailey will come cheap, though, especially not if he's producing at what is currently the best rate of his career.
James Neal, Vegas Golden Knights
It’s no secret the Golden Knights want to build from the ground up with picks and prospects. To do so, Vegas is going to need to offload talented players to the highest bidder when they get the chance. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean stripping the team for parts when the first opportunity presents itself, but if someone steps up and draws trade interest, you can rest assured GM George McPhee is going to listen. And that’s exactly what Neal has done to start this year.
Through seven games, Neal has been almost automatic. He has six goals, eight points and is shooting the lights out while skating nearly 18 minutes per night. And none of this is to mention his combination of size and skill will be coveted as the playoffs draw near. Neal’s performance thus far is ensuring that only those with significant trade packages will be able to afford him, though. And if the return is enough to help speed up the building process in Vegas, you can be certain McPhee won’t have any problem sending Neal along.
David Perron, Vegas Golden Knights
But Neal won’t be the only Golden Knight who draws interest. There are a number of free agents-to-be on the roster — nine current roster players are set to become UFAs at season’s end — who could draw interest throughout the league. Of those, though, Perron is certainly one who has driven his price upwards.
In the early part of the campaign, Perron has found himself with a sizeable role in the Vegas offense, skating upwards of 19 minutes per night, and he’s rewarded coach Gerard Gallant by potting two goals and five points in seven games. If Perron were to maintain this rate of scoring throughout the season, it would be the second-best mark of his career and could potentially see him hit the 60-point plateau for the first time. If that’s the case, though, he may not be setting the career mark in Vegas. Rather, the Golden Knights could to look to ship him off at or before the deadline.
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