Detroit Stays Safe with Marek Zidlicky, Avoids Phaneuf Gamble

Detroit Stays Safe with Marek Zidlicky, Avoids Phaneuf Gamble
Christopher Hair

The Detroit Red Wings finally got their man. After being linked to every right handed defenseman in the league and even some not right handed ones, Detroit nabbed Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils.

The deal for Zidlicky may not seem like much on the surface. He still plays over 20 minutes a night and will help the Red Wings power play, which already ranks 1st in the NHL. He becomes Detroit’s only right handed shot on the blue line and that will help them balance their pairings out a little better. He won’t be an upgrade on their top pair with Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, but he will settle in nicely on the bottom four pairings with either Kyle Quincey once he returns or Brendan Smith. That has value for the Red Wings.

But the biggest value that acquiring Zidlicky brings to Detroit is that it meant they didn’t pay for Dion Phaneuf.

This isn’t a knock on Phaneuf. He’s a better player than Zidlicky, but the price of acquisition was likely to be much higher than what Detroit ultimately pays for Marek. Toronto would have been crazy to start a conversation about Phaneuf with anything lower than asking for Detroit’s 2015 1st rounder and one of Tyler Bertuzzi, Phillipe Hudon, Dylan Larkin or Anthony Mantha.

For Detroit, combining the assets they would send out along with Phaneuf’s contract would be prohibitive to continuing their unreal run of excellence. Dion is a left handed shot, so he wouldn’t help Detroit’s balance and his $7 million cap hit over the next four seasons is an incredible hurdle. Especially when Detroit needs to extend DeKeyser, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan over the next two seasons. At least one, if not two, of those players would have to be gone to fit Phaneuf into the cap.

Plus, it’s not as if Phaneuf is going to be a panacea for any defensive issues the Red Wings have. His advanced numbers are not good. His SAT number of negative 167 is 270th out of 287 NHL defensemen. Toronto isn’t a good team and they have not been a possession team in any way for years, but that number is still terrible. Especially for someone making that kind of money. Zidlicky’s numbers are better, with a negative 55. New Jersey is a better possession team, but still not a good one. And this isn’t a small sample size trend.

Phaneuf has been an extremely negative possession player for three straight seasons. For the previous three years before 2014-15, Zidlicky was a strongly positive player. Zidlicky projects to be just the kind of player that should fit well into Mike Babcock’s system. Dion Phaneuf may not have taken well to the Detroit culture.

Getting Zidlicky doesn’t suddenly make the Red Wings a much better team. Given the trades the New York Rangers have made, this doesn’t even make them favorites in their own conference. But in choosing Zidlicky over Phaneuf, the Red Wings are much better for the next few years and possibly even this season. Sometimes the trades you don’t make are the best ones.

Christopher Hair

Christopher Hair has been an avid hockey fan for 20 years. He grew up on the Hollywood Kings of the late 80’s and early 90’s with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Kelly Hrudey, and Luc Robitaille. Growing up in Glendale, Arizona he is living proof that hockey fans can be made and come from the desert. He is also an editor for Five for Howling.

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