The Detroit blue line will have a very different look next season. After acquiring Marc Staal from the New York Rangers yesterday, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman spoke with the media, including MLive’s Ansar Khan, and stated that veteran defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley will not return to the team next season. The pair are both unrestricted free agents and will have to test the market if they hope to extend their careers.
Detroit’s decision to cut ties with Ericsson and Daley should not come as a shock; both blue liners saw their roles greatly reduced this season. Ericsson, a career Red Wing, was buried in the AHL for much of the year, skating in just 18 games with Detroit. In those limited appearances, he posted a career-low zero points and 14:15 average time on ice. While Daley spent the whole year in Detroit, he didn’t fare much better than Ericsson. Daley recorded seven points in 43 games, failing to score a goal for the first time in his career, and a career-worst -22 rating and 15:19 average time on ice. The Red Wings had 14 different defensemen suit up this season, nine of whom are under contract or team control next season, and just added Staal and still might not be done. The team had no reason to hold on to either struggling veteran.
The question is whether Ericsson and Daley will be able to continue their NHL careers, if they even desire to do so. The 36-year-old duo each had arguably their worst season in 2019-20 and may simply be out of gas. Given the tight finances facing most NHL clubs, no team is going to commit a meaningful amount to an aging defender who brings little upside. If either one wants to extend their career, they will likely have to settle for a minimum contract. Even at that price point, the market could be limited for the former Red Wings. Daley stands a slightly better chance than Ericsson at finding employment, but there is a strong chance that we have seen the last of both blue liners in the NHL.