At the beginning of the offseason, it seemed as if Alex DeBrincat might be on his way out of the Ottawa Senators after just one season with the team. The Detroit Red Wings looked like the likeliest team to land him, but seemed to have fallen out of favor to the New York Islanders.
But when the Red Wings terminated Filip Zadina’s contract, along with the fact that the Senators were reportedly not impressed with the Islanders’ trade offer of a package that included Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom, it seemed the writing was on the wall for DeBrincat to come to Detroit, and it happened.
They landed him for forward Dominik Kubalík, defensive prospect Donovan Sebrango, and two 2024 picks, one being a conditional first round pick and the other being a fourth round pick, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Detroit subsequently signed DeBrincat to a four-year, $31.5 million deal that carries a $7.875 million AAV, per David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period.
As first reported by PuckPedia, the condition on the first round pick is that Detroit can choose to send their own or the Boston Bruins’ 2024 first round pick, previously acquired from the Red Wings sending Tyler Bertuzzi to Boston. If the Bruins’ 2024 first round pick is a top 10 pick, Boston can retain the pick and transfer their 2025 first round pick instead. Then, Detroit will have the option of sending the Bruins’ 2025 unprotected first or their own 2024 first to Ottawa.
A Homecoming for DeBrincat
That DeBrincat got a four-year deal that carries just a tad less than $8 million a year is great value. The contract will have him second among Red Wings players, behind the eight-year, $69.6 million extension given to Dylan Larkin last season. This effectively gets him out of restricted free agency, and he will be an unrestricted free agent at 29 years old.
He wasn’t at his best last season, and there is a sort of sense that he needed to prove himself. He’s also just 25 years old, and he will likely get another big contract if he does prove himself.
DeBrincat is from Farmington Hills, a northwestern suburb of Detroit. Growing up, he idolized his hometown Red Wings, and watched them win a Stanley Cup in 2008. His favorite player growing up was Pavel Datsyuk, nicknamed “The Magic Man.” His fandom also included the late stages of Steve Yzerman’s playing career, which makes this moment special for him when the trade talks were completed now that Yzerman is the general manager of the team.
Now he joins them when they’re on the peak of a rebuild. He can now play a huge part in bringing the Red Wings back to glory.
Red Wings Boost Their Offense
In landing him, the Red Wings are addressing their offense, which has been an issue for them in the last few seasons. DeBrincat is a two-time 40-goal scorer, both times when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks, most recently in 2021-22, where he had 41 goals and 37 assists in a full 82 games. Last season with the Senators, he had 27 goals and 39 assists, also in a full 82 games.
The interesting part is that he saw most of his success playing against his new team, putting up 11 goals and 30 assists in 23 games against the Red Wings in his career.
When DeBrincat is at his best, he is a creative goal-scorer and playmaker who can drive the offense, generate quality chances, and finish shots. He is exactly who the Red Wings need, as they have brought in the right depth for their rebuild, though they lacked the clutch scoring that comes with the high-end talent, and DeBrincat provides exactly that.
Red Wings Looking for a Playoff Push
So far, Yzerman has had himself a busy offseason. He signed nine free agents ahead of the deal, hauling in forwards J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, Klim Kostin and Christian Fischer, defensemen Justin Holl, Shayne Gostisbehere and Brogan Rafferty, and goaltenders James Reimer and Alex Lyon.
While the nine free agents Yzerman hauled in are good depth, getting DeBrincat puts Detroit’s 2023 free agency class over the top. Throughout DeBrincat’s NHL career, he has scored less than 25 goals in a season just once. He currently averages 31 goals per season.
DeBrincat could play on a line with team captain Larkin, who is from Waterford Township just a drive away from Detroit, though nothing has been discussed. Though Larkin is the team’s best centremen, DeBrincat is the most proven scorer on the team, an element Detroit needed desperately this offseason.
While there was criticism surrounding the “Yzerplan” and people were getting impatient with Yzerman, this trade is a home run for them.
Senators Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
It’s hard to imagine that the Senators got a positive return from this trade. Kubalík showed offensive skill in his career, but he struggled down the stretch for Detroit, and has yet to come close to the 30-goal season he had his rookie year with the Blackhawks. He did finish with 20 goals and 25 assists in 80 games in 2022-23 with the Red Wings, which should fit well with Ottawa’s middle six. He is under contract for one more year at a $2.5 million cap hit, which should also fit nicely given the situation Ottawa is in. While he isn’t a replacement for DeBrincat, this was always going to be an out-of-reach expectation.
Sebrango is a former 63rd overall pick with Detroit in 2020, and he split time between the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. However, it’s not likely he will get a top four role in the NHL level, though a spot on the second pairing could be a possibility.
While they did get a first round pick and a fourth round pick, they were one pick short from recouping the draft capital they traded away to acquire DeBrincat. They traded away their first round pick, their second round pick, and a 2024 third round pick to acquire him from Chicago last year. The first round pick would be the 7th overall pick, which the Blackhawks used to select defenseman Kevin Korchinski. Given the condition of the first round pick headed to Ottawa in this trade, and with where Detroit and Boston are at, don’t expect this pick to be anywhere close to 7th overall no matter which condition is met.
This return is underwhelming, but Pierre Dorion and co. had no leverage with the position they were in. The only two options were to either get whatever they can in a DeBrincat trade, or keep him at a nearly $9 million salary knowing that he would be gone anyway. Here, Dorion took what he can get.
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