There aren’t many trades in early November, but we got one late last night when the Detroit Red Wings acquired Robby Fabbri from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jacob De La Rose. It’s not a major trade, but it is noteworthy.
Fabbri was once a significant prospect with the Blues taking him 21st overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, just a few picks before David Pastrnak was scooped up by Boston. Fabbri had 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games as a rookie in 2015-16 while averaging a modest 13:19 minutes, but injuries have hindered him and at this point his role with St. Louis was minimal. The shift to Detroit gives him a fresh start on a team that’s likely to use him significantly more. Fabbri is still just 23-years-old, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Red Wings just picked up a diamond in the rough to complement their young forward core.
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De La Rose gives the Blues a bit more of a known quantity. He’s not much older than Fabbri at the age of 24, but he doesn’t have Fabbri’s upside. De La Rose is a decent bottom-six forward, who can also help kill penalties. He shouldn’t be counted on to be more than that, but he’s a better fit for the Blues right now than Fabbri. All-in-all, this trade makes sense for both sides, though it certainly seems more helpful to Detroit than St. Louis.
The Red Wings can use any kind of positive news that they can get right now. After a 5-1 loss to the Rangers last night, Detroit is now 4-12-1 this season. They rank dead last in the league in goals for/game (2.06) and are tied for last place in goals allowed/game (4.00). The Red Wings do have some talented young players like Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Dylan Larkin, but even with that they seem like a team destined for a good draft lottery and not a playoff entry.
Detroit didn’t look all that good on paper entering the season so their struggles aren’t shocking. You could easily argue that they’ve underperformed so far, but it’s a case of the bar being low and them finding a way to still manage to fall short of even those low expectations.
One question that naturally has to be asked at this point is if it would make sense to fire Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. Detroit is looking at a fourth straight season without a playoff berth and Blashill has overseen that entire stretch. To be fair to him, he hasn’t been given great teams to work with as the Red Wings have been enduring a painful transition from perennial contender to rebuilding squad. One thing the salary cap era has done is put an even greater emphasis on building your own talent through the draft given that you can’t simply overcome a weak farm system through the UFA market and while Detroit was able to prolong their success with some successful late draft bargain bin hunting at this point they’re paying for their years of poor draft positions.
That’s not an issue that Blashill could have fixed, but you still have to wonder if at this point in the rebuild, a new voice would be beneficial, especially given how bad the Red Wings’ start has been. I won’t go so far as to say that he should be fired, but I would say that if they chose to do it at this point, I’d see some logic in arguing that he’s taken the team as far as he can and now someone else should pick up the torch to help them complete the transition.
Circling back to trading former first round picks that haven’t lived up to expectations, Josh Ho-Sang and Jesse Puljujarvi are still on the market. You would think that something needs to give with the Ho-Sang situation soon. He requested a trade, so Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello told Ho-Sang not to report to AHL Bridgeport while he looks to move him. Lamoriello didn’t want to disrupt the minor league squad, but now Ho-Sang hasn’t been traded or played despite us being about a month into the season.
Either Lamoriello hasn’t found a party interested in Ho-Sang or he hasn’t gotten an offer he likes, but either way, Ho-Sang collecting dust isn’t doing anything to help his trade value. At a certain point, Lamoriello either needs to trade him for what little is being offer or, if nothing is on the table for Ho-Sang at this time, simply tell him to report to the AHL for the time being.
Ho-Sang continues to have offensive potential, but he’s never worked out with the Islanders and maybe the change of scenery would help him. Although there’s a fair chance that if he had simply decided to stick with the Islanders after missing the opening day roster, he would be up in the NHL by now.
Meanwhile, Puljujarvi both requested a trade from Edmonton and refused to play until he got his way. However, unlike Ho-Sang, Puljujarvi was a restricted free agent, so he decided to go to SM-liiga instead. That’s actually bought Edmonton some time because he’s at least getting work in elsewhere, plus he’s showcasing his abilities. So far he’s excelled in the top Finnish league with 11 goals and 20 points in 18 contests. Like Ho-Sang, Puljujarvi has considerable upside and his value should be higher too given that he’s a couple years younger and he’s a safer bet to at least play in the NHL. He’s still not likely to fetch Edmonton much though and you have to wonder if Oilers GM Ken Holland simply maintains the status quo if Puljujarvi eventually decides to cave and sign with Edmonton.
Keep in mind that there is a deadline on when Puljujarvi can sign with an NHL team this season and still participate in the 2019-20 campaign. You may remember this from the William Nylander situation last year, but an RFA that doesn’t sign before December 1 is ineligible to play in the NHL this season, so Puljujarvi needs to either sign with Edmonton before then or be traded and sign elsewhere. If he’s not signed by the deadline, then there wouldn’t be a whole lot of incentive for other teams to bother acquiring him before the summer so if anything is going to happen, it will probably occur before that window closes.