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Should the Red Wings trade Valtteri Filppula?

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Valtteri Filppula was a breakout player for the Detroit Red Wings last season, scoring 23 goals and 43 assists. The 66 points were a career high for the Finnish center.

Filppula would be a second-line center on nearly every NHL team. He has become a much better shooter in recent years, which has created a valuable offensive contributor when combined with his excellent passing. Not to mention, he was a key player on the Red Wings’ powerplay last season and also showed an ability to kill penalties. However, while he is only 28, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the next NHL season.

Which leads to the question: should he be traded elsewhere to fetch a defenseman or is he more valuable to the Red Wings?

NHL trade rumors regarding Filppula in recent weeks have been relatively split among pundits. For example, Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James argues the team should keep him, while Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy says he would make a valuable asset if the team were to  trade him to the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Keith Yandle.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the Red Wings sending Filppula to the Anaheim Ducks as part of a package including Tomas Tatar and Joey MacDonald for Bobby Ryan. Since then, there hasn’t been word coming out of the Ducks’ camp in terms of the offers they have received for the offensively-gifted winger. While getting another goal scorer is crucial, the more glaring need for the Red Wings is obviously on the blueline, as has been reiterated time and time again.

The downside with trading away Filppula is that the Red Wings may be forced to rely on him as a top-line center within the next few seasons. Our current #1 centreman is the 34-year-old Pavel Datsyuk, and his contract expires in 2014. While general manager Ken Holland will most likely make it a priority to lock him up on a new deal, it remains unclear if Datsyuk will want to stay put or return to Russia.  Not to mention, at Datsyuk’s age, it is questionable how long he can continue to contribute consistently while playing top line minutes.

If Filppula does get traded, the Red Wings would have one of two options:

  • Move Henrik Zetterberg down to the second line center position, essentially separating him from Datsyuk
  • Move Darren Helm or Gustav Nyquist up to the second line

While Filppula is nowhere close to Datsyuk’s talent level (then again, very few are), he has proven himself to be a bona-fide second liner after last season, while Nyquist is still unproven and Helm has been lacking in offense.

If he continues his pace, he stands to be rewarded with a bigger and better contract.

So the question is, could Helm or Nyquist step it up and fill the second line center role if the Red Wings choose to move Filpulla?

 

 

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