Back in December, it was reported that the Detroit Red Wings were seeking a first-round pick as part of any return for impending free agent goalie Jimmy Howard. Howard had been enjoying a hot start to the season and looked like the top keeper on the trade market, but a first-rounder still seemed like a chance. Since then, Howard has continued to play well, but the market has changed. Teams continue to drop out of the playoff race earlier than usual, with some contenders also proclaiming a lack of interest in the rental market, creating a strong buyer’s market. The situations surrounding other impending free agent goalies like Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovksy, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Calgary’s Mike Smith, and Edmonton’s Cam Talbot have also continued to deteriorate and Howard no longer seems to be the clear cut top starter on the market. Statistically, he is still the best option to this point in the season, but the lofty goal of a first-round return seems less likely than ever.
Don’t tell that to Red Wings GM Ken Holland. Ansar Khan of MLive.com reiterates that the team is holding out for a first-round pick for Howard and would rather continue negotiating an extension with their longtime netminder than trade him away for anything less. However, Khan now adds that forward Gustav Nyquist is being given the exact same treatment. Despite Detroit’s struggles this season – the team is currently sixth in the Atlantic Division and 13 points out of an Eastern Conference wild card spot – Howard has played very well while backup Jonathan Bernier has faltered and Nyquist has been the team’s second-best forward behind Dylan Larkin by a wide margin over the rest of the team. The Red Wings certainly have plenty of reason to want to retain both players moving forward, hence the high asking price to give up on those aspirations.
However, a first-round pick for Nyquist may not be so outlandish. With 40 points on the year, Nyquist is tied for fifth among impending free agent forwards. Of those around him, San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski is not going anywhere and Columbus Blue Jackets star Artemi Panarin seems unlikely to move as well. Both the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres would prefer to re-sign Mark Stone and Jeff Skinner respectively as well. This means that Nyquist could potentially be one of the top rental forwards available alongside the likes of Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Kevin Hayes, and Micheal Ferland. Such a label could be enough to garner a first-rounder for the Red Wings, if they’re still willing to move him. At this point, it seems more likely that Detroit extends both Nyquist and Howard than trades both, but as long as the team stays open to moving them at the right price, the fluctuating market could always change those plans.