Red Wings: What the Mantha Trade Means for the Rebuild Timeline

On the latest 31 Thoughts podcast with Elliotte Freidman and Jeff Marek, Friedman pointed out that the Detroit Red Wings’ trade with Washington reveals a few things for how Steve Yzerman and the braintrust view the rebuild.

Wings fans may view this with mixed emotions.

A longer timeline to the Red Wings Rebuild

Yzerman said it at his press conference and he continues to explain that the rebuild–if done correctly–will take time and patience. The Mantha trade reveals that–dealing a goal scorer, albeit it one who generated a ton of frustration within the front office (Friedman reports that Mantha was in the “doghouse”)–this rebuild still isn’t close to turning the corner.

Could it change if they get some lottery luck and see Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, Lucas Raymond, and Moritz Seider all slide into the lineup and contribute? For sure. But just to take how much longer this thing actually could take, Freidman and Marek discuss whether Captain Dylan Larkin–who has two years remaining on his contract–could be shipped out if the right deal came along.

Would Larkin Really be a Trade Chip?

At the 9:58 mark, Friedman prefaces his conjecturing without any inside information. Friedman wonders aloud if Larkin could also be moved if a team makes Yzerman an offer he can’t refuse. From Friedman:

All of a sudden, Dylan Larkin is just two years away from unrestricted free agency and the Red Wings are more than two years away. If I work for another team, I would look at this move today and I would say ‘The Red Wings weren’t thrilled with Anthony Mantha, but the Capitals had to pay a lot to get him.’ What it says to me is that I have no reason to believe the Red Wings have a problem with Dylan Larkin, but if I make them a really good offer, what will they say?

Friedman reiterates again that it’s his view from outside of the organization. But it does bring up an interesting point: If the rebuild could be expedited and Larkin was one of the trade chips to do so, would the ends justify the means? Marek believes Larkin should hang around, a position I agree with. The veteran leadership will be needed as the rebuild winds down and a transition is

necessary into the next stage of playoff contention before contender status is met.

The right leader needs to be on this team, and Larkin seems to be that fit. But Friedman’s point is a wise one, and one that deserves to be considered.

Will the Red Wings Rebuild really get longer?

Time will tell. If guys like Jakub Vrana plug into the lineup and can contribute in ways the team hoped Mantha would, maybe the Wings don’t slip too far. This should be answered in the final dozen games–with the added caveat that Yzerman has a number of contracts falling off which allows him to bring more of his type of players in. A better indicator of the timeline probably can’t be nailed down until early next season (think around Thanksgiving).

Though this team won’t be challenging for a playoff spot in the next couple years (but the 2022-23 season seems like maybe an outside chance to be a fringe playoff team), Yzerman will continue making the moves that will hasten their long and perilous climb out of the rebuild.