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Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Deadline Targets: Finding familiar faces from the Red Wings

Welcome to Oilersnation’s Deadline Targets series. Over the next few weeks heading into the trade deadline, I’ll be walking through the teams expected to unload at the deadline and the players who could be fits on the Oilers for their playoff push. Today, we have the Detroit Red Wings. 

Nobody is better at losing games than the Detroit Red Wings.

They own a 12-31-3 record, good for 27 points, 12 clear of the next-worst team in the standings. The Red Wings have an objective this year. That’s to get themselves the best odds possible of winning the draft lottery and selecting Alexis Lafreniere with the first-overall pick.

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The Wings’ collapse into mediocrity had been a long time coming. They had an epic streak of making the playoffs that spanned from 1991 all the way to 2016 which featured over a dozen Hall of Fame careers and four Stanley Cup championships. If you’re that good for that long, it’s eventually going to come crashing down.

It’s been nearly a decade since the Wings were a true contender, but the priority of the organization even after Nicklas Lidstrom retired and the team started to slow down was continuing that playoff streak. After the passing of owner Mike Ilitch in 2017, the Wings entered a rebuilding phase for the first time since the 1980s. Ken Holland stockpiled 32 picks over the past three drafts and the Wings added promising names like Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina, and Moritz Seider at the draft.

While those players are a nice start, general manager Steve Yzerman knows the Wings need a franchise player to build around, just like they did in 1983 when he was the fourth-overall pick. There’s no way Yzerman can guarantee the top pick at the draft, but he can continue the trend started by Holland in the post-Ilitch era of stockpiling draft picks and adding young talent to the system.

“My plan isn’t to be passive,” Yzerman said. “Certainly, I’m looking for ways to build for the future and trying to acquire draft picks or prospects or young players that can come into the organization sooner or later.”

Given the fact Yzerman is looking at acquiring draft picks and prospects for his tank-happy squad and Holland knows the roster through and through, the Red Wings and Oilers seem like good trade partners. But are there any players on this 12-win roster who can make the Oilers better?

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The major places of need for the Oilers we’ve discussed when looking at other teams have been up front, as the team covets an upgrade in the top-six and down the middle on the third line. But if Matt Benning’s concussion issues linger, adding a veteran, right-handed defenceman could be worthwhile.

The Wings have a few options in that regard. Mike Green and Trevor Daley are both free agents at the end of the season and could help Edmonton’s blueline in a depth role. Green has always been an excellent producer offensively while Daley has Stanley Cup pedigree. Neither are options that really jump of the page, but both would cheap acquisitions who provide some veteran depth on the right side of the blueline.

Looking at forwards, both Luke Glendening and Darren Helm are former Holland favourites who could give Edmonton some added quality in their bottom-six. Both players have versatility, playing all three forward positions, and would be an upgrade over some of what the team is currently using in their lineup. The caveat here is that both Glendening and Helm are signed for one more year beyond this season, so it wouldn’t be a rental that immediately came off the books.

If Holland is looking at one of his former players as more of a long-term option, Andreas Athanasiou might be that guy. After breaking out with a 30-goal season last year, Athanasiou has had a rough time in 2019-20, posting just five goals and 19 points through 36 games. He also boasts a whopping -35 rating. I know plus/minus is a flawed stat, but that’s not a number you want beside your name.

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Athanasiou is coming off a two-year bridge deal worth $3,000,000 annually and has one more year left of control before he can hit the free-agent market. Given where Detroit is at in their rebuild and how far they are from their contention window, it’s hard to consider him a young guy who will be around when the team starts to get better.

He makes a lot of sense for the Oilers as a reclamation project as he can either slot into the team’s top-six or potentially give them a more offensively-minded third-line centre. But, looking from the other side, would Yzerman sell low on a player having a five-goal season after they put up 30 the year before?

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As much as it makes sense in theory for Holland to look to his former club for solutions for his current roster, the fit just might not be there.