Dear Red Wings: Welcome, Nick Leddy; awaiting expansion protection list, busy week ahead

Red Wings trade for 30-year-old defenseman ahead of Seattle expansion draft, then the actual draft all in one week

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 2-1. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) (Emilee Chinn, 2021 Getty Images)

Defenseman Nick Leddy is joining the Red Wings thanks to a trade announced Friday night with the New York Islanders. I think he could end up being the perfect kind of mentor for a certain prospect we’re all dying to see.

And NHL teams must submit Seattle Kraken expansion draft protection lists today (Saturday). I’m taking a final guess at what Detroit’s might look like.

Nick Leddy acquired through trade

Detroit will send forward Richard Panik and a 2nd-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to the Islanders in exchange for Leddy, who has one year left on a 7-year contract.

Leddy, 30, costs $5.5 million against the cap with a base salary of $7 million this coming season. The 2nd-round pick is one of three the Red Wings have, or had, in this upcoming draft (starts Friday). It was originally acquired from the Oilers in the Andreas Athanasiou/Sam Gagner deal.

Panik, also 30, first joined Detroit in April through the Anthony Mantha trade with the Washington Capitals. Panik has two seasons left on his contract at $2.75 against the cap each season. Jakub Vrana also was part of that trade, along with a 2nd-round draft pick in 2022 for Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings.

Leddy joins Danny DeKeyser as the two highest-paid Red Wings defenseman, both at $5.5 million against the cap this coming season, and both will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2021-22 season.

What to like about the Leddy trade

Panik was taking up a forward spot that I’d rather see kept open for some of Detroit’s up-and-comers. The organization is a bit deeper at forward than it is at defense right now in terms of players who will be fighting for a spot on the roster. Panik also had two years left on his contract, while Leddy has just the one.

Leddy immediately adds tangible depth to the Red Wings defensive group, which at the time of this writing technically only has three NHL defenseman under contract and on the roster: Leddy, DeKeyser and Troy Strecher. All three are UFAs at the end of this upcoming season.

Leddy also adds a bit of grit and size (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) to the team’s back end, and he has shown he can be productive offensively. He had 31 points in 56 games played with the Islanders this past season. He had another 6 points in 19 playoff games as he helped the Islanders make another deep playoff run. He averaged 21:35 minutes of ice time this past season, which is slightly above his career average of 20:33.

As for special teams, Leddy is no stranger to the power play. He had 11 power play points this past season -- a goal and 10 assists. He has 116 power play points through 776 career NHL games. We all know the Red Wings need help in this department. This gives newcomer assistant coach Alex Tanguay a bit more to work with.

I can see Leddy helping foster a younger Red Wings defenseman, perhaps a young man named Mortiz Seider? If Seider really is going to be up with the NHL club this season then he will need a mentor/partner. Seider shoots right while Leddy shoots left. Sounds like a plan. This should be a good fit.

Anyway, all of that aside, who really needs three 2nd-round draft picks? Yzerman might as well start to use those assets he always talks about.

Leddy was drafted 16th overall by the Minnesota Wild back in 2009 but the Wild ended up trading his rights to the Chicago Blackhawks while Leddy was still playing college hockey for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He ended up winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013. He was traded to the Islanders in 2014.

Boston Bruins' Sean Kuraly is hit up high by New York Islanders' Nick Leddy in the first period of Game 2 during an NHL hockey second-round playoff series, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Red Wings expansion protection list -- a final guess

Teams will have to finalize their protection list by Saturday, then they are expected to announce these lists on Sunday, days before the expansion draft on Wednesday.

This all happens right before the draft on Friday and then free agency on July 28. Things are about to get very busy in the hockey world.

COLUMBUS, OH - MAY 07: Thomas Greiss #29 of the Detroit Red Wings is congratulated by his teammates after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on May 7, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. Detroit defeated Columbus 5-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) (2021 Getty Images)

Here’s a quick review of what we might expect from the Red Wings. Reminder: Current NHL teams have two player protection options:

  • Option 1: Protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or
  • Option 2: Protect eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie

A few weeks ago I wrote all about the rules for this expansion draft in my expansion draft primer -- read back here.

Assuming the Red Wings go with Option 1 (7 forwards, 3 defenseman, 1 goalie), here’s a guess at who they decide to protect in this expansion draft:

I had Gustav Lindström on there until the Leddy trade, but who knows what Yzerman decides to do, honestly -- more on that below. And remember: Filip Zadina is exempt, as explained previously.

Again, we should expect to learn what Detroit’s actual protection list is come Sunday. The Kraken will reveal their picks on Wednesday, July 21, then the entry draft starts Friday, July 23 and free agency opens July 28.

So buckle up. It’s going to be a week packed with NHL news, and it will move quickly.

Read more: ‘Fast and furious’ NHL offseason to unfold over three weeks

The actual draft

Once we get through this expansion draft we move right into the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

The Red Wings have the following 11 picks:

Here’s the overall NHL first-round 2021 draft order:

  1. Buffalo
  2. Seattle
  3. Anaheim
  4. New Jersey
  5. Columbus
  6. Detroit
  7. San Jose
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Vancouver
  10. Ottawa

View the rest of the picks here.

Red Wings expected to be very active

The trade for Leddy is a bit surprising, sure, but Yzerman and crew are expected to be very active this offseason. That is according to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman who spoke about the team on his “31 Thoughts” podcast this week, but don’t expect any leaks:

“I think one of the problems with Detroit is that if anything gets out of there that Yzerman doesn’t want, I think all of the employees are worried that he’s going to stuff them into a freezer until one of them admits they were the source,” Friedman said.

Well put.

Friedman also believes the Red Wings are definitely interested in Zach Hyman, who the Toronto Maple Leafs may be looking to deal away. Detroit is among a long list of teams interested in the pending unrestricted free agent.

Overall, the Red Wings have a lot of cap space, perhaps even more by the end of this week, and literally anything is possible. At the very least, Detroit could be playing the role of trade facilitator.

“They have a lot of cap room. They have a lot of flexibility, and they’re unafraid to use it. And I think some teams who can’t deal with Seattle, because Seattle’s not going to deal with everybody, Seattle wants to maintain financial flexibility and they’re not taking six guys with big long term deals that teams want to get rid of, so I think Detroit is another team that’s going to be in and around that, and I do expect the Red Wings are going to try to take advantage,” said Friedman.

There could be trades leading up to the draft, trades with Seattle, trades during the draft, trades after, and free agent signings when free agency opens July 28.

More headlines:

📅 Coming up:

  • Wednesday, July 21 -- NHL Expansion Draft
  • July 23-24 -- NHL Entry Draft
  • July 28 -- Free agency begins

❓Quiz time❓

ICYMI: So you think you know former Detroit Red Wings GM Kenneth Mark Holland?

This week’s quiz: Ken Holland ⬅️


About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.