Should the Detroit Red Wings be interested in Trevor Zegras?

If Trevor Zegras is really available for trade, should the Detroit Red Wings pursue one?
Winnipeg Jets v Anaheim Ducks
Winnipeg Jets v Anaheim Ducks / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

In the most recent episode of The Ray & Dregs Podcast, the hosts mentioned that they had heard from several teams that Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras was available for trade. Obviously, news of this has set social media ablaze with speculation. Detroit Red Wings fans were not exempt from this.

Ducks General Manager Pat Verbeek seems interested in shaking up the team and doing a rebuild with his guys as the centerpieces. Should the Detroit Red Wings look to benefit from this? After all, the Red Wings are stuck in a very long rebuild. Zegras is a young, proven NHL player who could be on this team for a very long time.

The real question, I guess, is: does Zegras benefit the Red Wings rebuild? Is he a player who would genuinely push the Detroit Red Wings closer to the type of team Yzerman wants? What would the organization expect from Zegras if they were to make a move for him?

In this article, I will be looking at a few different things, the first being analytics. What do they say about Zegras as a player? The second is a much broader context. In other words, a broader look at what may be affecting his analytics and what a trade for him would mean for Detroit. There will also be a broader look at the Detroit Red Wings rebuild and Yzerman's team-building philosophies.

Would Trevor Zegras benefit the Detroit Red Wings rebuild?

Zegras is in his fourth season in the NHL, and it's not been a kind one to him. He's played in only twenty games and has seven points. Four of those points being goals. If you look at analytics, it's not much better. According to Money Puck, his expected goals are 5.3, his goals above expected is -1.3, and if that number were to hold, would be a career low. Even his shooting percentage has been poor compared to the previous two seasons, with it sitting at 8.2%, when last year and in 2021-22, it sat over 12%. So, what does this mean? It means that analytical models show him scoring less than what they would expect this season. (If you need an explainer on expected goals, Money Puck has you covered.)

But analytics are merely numbers; they can't account for context, and there's a lot of context missing. Mainly, he got a later start than most players due to a contract holdout and then being injured half the season. He's been behind everyone else all year due to these circumstances. It shouldn't be a surprise that his analytics and stats have been poor this year. So, let's take a look at last season. His expected goals were 15.2, his goals above expected were 7.8 (a career-high), and his shooting percentage was 12.5%. I think these numbers are much more in line with what someone should expect next season from him.

So, what would this mean for Detroit if they were to trade for him? Well, a lot of things depend on what the Detroit Red Wings need to send in exchange for him. But, I honestly don't think it means quite as much as many people would assume, other than "the offense needs to be better." I don't think our offense is a problem on this team, but there is absolutely still room to improve. Offensively, he would undoubtedly be our second-best center immediately. That brings me to why we might not want him.

Frankly, Trevor Zegras is terrible defensively. After joining the team and the contract dispute ended, the Daily Bulletin reported him as saying this: “It was a big thing with the contract, obviously, also playing the two-way game and figuring out both sides of the puck." That was a big emphasis from [Verbeek’s] point of view, and if you want to play in this league, it’s something you have to commit to."

What have we learned about Yzerman during his time building this team? He loves his two-way centers. All five players Detroit uses at the center position are defensively responsible centers. Even if you look at our top two center prospects, Nate Danielson and Marco Kasper, they're defined by their responsible defensive zone play. Zegras would no doubt boost our offense, but when this team already struggles defensively (and many of our forwards are a part of that problem), would he be that much of a benefit? Would the boost he would provide our offense, when this team already struggles on defense, be enough to forgive his defensive deficiencies? I'm not sure that it is. I think the question on whether he'd be worth going after is if Yzerman and Lalonde think they can make him into a defensively reliable player or not. If the answer is "no," I would be a bit surprised if they even inquire. If the answer is "yes," Yzerman has likely already had at least one conversation with Verbeek about Zegras. It would make a lot of sense to inquire in that case. Zegras would be one of Detroit's better offensive forwards and is still young enough in his career to be a part of our core. But I do think it comes down to whether the organization believes he can become defensively responsible or not.

Returning to the original question: should the Detroit Red Wings be interested in Trevor Zegras? Sure, if they either think his offense more than makes up for poor defense or he can be turned into a defensively responsible player. Otherwise, it's probably not worth it, especially considering what the Detroit Red Wings would be required to give up in a trade to acquire him.