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DeBrincat Traded to Red Wings

July 10, 2023, 10:31 AM ET [252 Comments]
Sens Writer
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Guest Writer: Ken Hawkins (a.k.a. khawk)

There are times when rumour smoke is just smoke, and then times when the most obvious scenario actually comes to fruition. The DeBrincat trade to the Red Wings is most definitely among the latter, as this has been the rumour with the most traction since we learned that DeBrincat would not be returning to Ottawa in the fall. There was always an outside possibility of some kind of arbitration-based 1yr deal, but it’s hard to believe that either side was genuinely interested in such a direction.

The Trade

So who gets what? For Detroit, they get the best player in the deal. DeBrincat is a highly-skilled offensive player with a natural gift for goal scoring. For the Senators, they get a pretty decent return that checks a lot of boxes in terms of team needs. Kubalik should fit in relatively well as a secondary scoring winger, and his $2.5M AAV contract will permit other team improvements to be made. The conditional 1st round pick in 2024 (from BOS most likely) is a nice addition for a team that didn’t draft until the 4th round this year, and this pick could very well come into play down the stretch if the Senators are in playoff contention. Sebrango is a mid-level blue line prospect, who played well at the WJC for Canada, but will need at least a couple of years in the AHL to fully develop. There’s also the requisite 4th round pick in 2024, which no doubt smoothed out all perceived inequity in the deal.

The Contract

It had been widely speculated that DET-OTT had the basis of a deal in place to trade DeBrincat going back to the Entry Draft in June, but that the specific terms of his contract extension were holding up the process. It was also widely reported that DeBrincat had a list of 5 teams he was interested in being traded to, only 1 of which was making a significant effort to acquire him. That may have led DeBrincat to adjust his contract expectations, and accept the $7.875M x 4yr deal that was being offered by the Red Wings. This is an undeniably good contract for DET, as they secure 4 prime years of DeBrincat at an AAV that is well below his RFA qualifying offer.

The Analysis

Traditionally, the team that adds the best player wins the trade, and in this trade there is no dispute who the best player is. However in the era of a NHL salary cap with COVID-crippled growth, assessing trades is not that simple. For the Red Wings, their perspective is that of a team with limited high-end offensive talent, an average PP, and a 7-year playoff drought. So bringing in a player with 40G upside who can step right into a top-line role will certainly help address those issues. Factor in the 4yr term/limited AAV, plus the reality of a UFA market with few high-end options available, and this would seem to be a very nice piece of work by Red Wings’ GM Steve Yzerman.

But does that mean that OTT necessarily lost this trade? Well, if DeBrincat had produced 40G on the Senators’ top line last year the answer would be yes. However, DeBrincat finished 4th on the team last year with 27G, and that was despite a season-long injury to the Senators’ leader in goals from the previous year. There was limited chemistry with his linemates, his size was definitely a limiting factor, and at even-strength he wound up being in the bottom-10 of the entire NHL with a -31 rating. People will sometimes dispute the value of +/- as a statistic, however by comparison no DET forward was worse than -17 last year. There were also just 3 other players in the NHL last year to have 25G+ where their goal total didn't offset their minus rating. That's not the kind of list you want one of your top offensive forwards to be on.

There’s also no world in which even a $7.875M deal for DeBrincat would have worked within the existing salary structure of the Senators. Yzerman may shy away from long-term deals, but Dorion absolutely does not. The high-end of the Senators’ payroll is largely established, with Tkachuk, Stutzle, Chabot, Norris, Batherson, Zub, and Korpisalo signed for the next 4yrs for ~$45.9M AAV, and you can expect Dorion to push for a long-term deal with Sanderson as well. So for the Senators, the cost-effectiveness of Kubalik and the 1st round pick are high-value assets that fit in very well with their team structure. And if the $$$ saved in this deal enables the acquisition of another significant player, it could very reasonably be considered as part of the trade return.

The Verdict

I’ll give this trade to the Red Wings, as I think the roster opportunity they’ll be able to provide to DeBrincat should help ensure that his production gets back over the 30G-40A mark, and the AAV/term Yzerman was able to secure is very good for DET. That said, the Senators really did get what they needed from this deal, which will enable them to improve their rosters in ways that could make them a far more playoff-ready team. It will be very interesting to see where both of these teams are at come Feb/Mar of next season.

What do you think of this trade? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading!
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