Detroit Red Wings should be all in on trading for Tomáš Hertl

The Detroit Red Wings still lack another all-around center to pair with Dylan Larkin; Hertl is a perfect fit
San Jose Sharks center Tomáš Hertl would be a perfect fit in the Detroit Red Wings' pivot poor lineup, forming an excellent one-two punch with captain Dylan Larkin. (Getty Images: Harry How)
San Jose Sharks center Tomáš Hertl would be a perfect fit in the Detroit Red Wings' pivot poor lineup, forming an excellent one-two punch with captain Dylan Larkin. (Getty Images: Harry How) / Harry How/GettyImages

Another recent push has thrust the Detroit Red Wings back into the playoff picture. Behind some improved defensive play and a solid stretch in goal by Alex Lyon, call them the red-hot Red Wings -- 7-1-1 in January.

Entering Tuesday's home game with the Dallas Stars, the Detroit Red Wings were tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, each team with 53 points. So how can the Red Wings distance themselves from a pack of teams -- eight to 10, depending on where your calculations land -- fighting for a wild-card berth? Go get gifted center Tomáš Hertl from the San Jose Sharks.

Recent trade rumors posted suggest the Red Wings are interested in dealing for several players, including Hertl, center Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks, right-wing Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers, and/or defenseman Noah Hanifin of the Calgary Flames. Here's one major vote for Hertl.

Why? Despite general manager Steve Yzerman's signings of centers Andrew Copp and J.T. Compher in the offseason, the Red Wings still lack dominant play in the middle. The NHL is a center-driven league, but after captain Dylan Larkin, Detroit lacks the depth to compete up the middle with top teams. Neither Copp nor Compher offers the combination of speed, physical presence, offense, and checking needed to square off against the NHL's best centermen. As the race for a playoff spot tightens, this hole will become more apparent.

Tomas Hertl would fill a huge void for the Detroit Red Wings.

Zegras, who turns 24 in March, is an interesting case, and he'd be a terrific option. Young, fast, and offensively gifted, he's someone who potentially would be a great center-ice pairing with Larkin. But Zegras is out until March after surgery on a broken ankle. So he'd not be an immediate help to a Red Wings team desperately hoping to make the playoffs.

A major question would be Zegras' experience, especially when matched against the best centers in the Eastern Conference. He's played 200 NHL games over parts of four seasons, but he's never been in a playoff game.

On the other hand, Hertl has been consistently good in 62 playoff games, with 24 goals and 42 points. He's also plus-9 with a faceoff-winning percentage of 57.2%.

At 6-feet-2 and 215 pounds, Hertl, who turned 30 in November, has desirable size, too. He would give the Red Wings a physical presence in the middle that is sorely lacking.

As for contract status, Hertl makes slightly more than $8.1 million and is signed through the 2028-29 season (according to It might be difficult for the Red Wings to fit him into their salary structure.

To make Hertl fit financially, it likely means dealing any combination of Copp, David Perron and rookie Jonatan Berggren. Berggren, 23, might be intriguing to the rebuilding Sharks in a deal for Hertl, but the Red Wings would likely have to sweeten the pot for San Jose. San Jose would unlikely take a veteran player with a long-term contract. But Detroit has a highly regarded pool of young prospects, so Yzerman could conceivably consider moving another one and/or a draft pick for Hertl.

If the Red Wings can't land Hertl, Rangers right wing Kakko is an interesting alternative. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he's got the size the Red Wings could use. The native of Finland, 22, will be a restricted free agent after this season, finishing an annual deal for $2.1 million. Copp had great success in a short stint with the Rangers; could he interest the New York front office, which also is desperate to make the playoffs? The Rangers have an experienced lineup, and their window for success is much smaller than some other contenders.

In a perfect world, Hertl is the Red Wings' guy. But the mix of a tight salary cap and several other contenders looking to win immediately and willing to pay a more exorbitant price likely will put the San Jose center out of the Red Wings' reach.

So, don't expect a Detroit-Hertl union. Either a youngster like Kakko, who is on an expiring contract, or an older player also on an expiring deal, could interest Yzerman, whose Red Wings appear to be a legitimate playoff contender this time around.

Remember last season, in late February, when the Red Wings lost six straight, including two punishing defeats to Ottawa? That dismal showing pretty much knocked them from the postseason, and Yzerman shuffled his roster, including dispatching disappointing defenseman Filip Hronek to the Vancouver Canucks.

This time around, don't be surprised if Steve Yzerman acts aggressively before the March 8th trade deadline. Moves are still needed. And the GM knows it.