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Wings trade Thomas Vanek to Florida Panthers

Team gets defenseman Dylan McIlrath and conditional 2017 third-round draft pick

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

VANCOUVER - For the NHL, it was the first big deal of trade deadline day but for the Red Wings, it meant losing their leading goal scorer.

The Wings sent Thomas Vanek (15 goals, 23 assists) to Atlantic Division rival Florida in exchange for defenseman Dylan McIlrath and a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Vanek spoke with TSN TradeCentre after Wings general manager Ken Holland informed him of the trade.

"It's no fun, that's for sure, especially this year," Vanek told TSN. "It's a place that I really enjoyed playing and Detroit is a good place. I liked it, my family liked it, it's a great culture. Obviously the year hasn't gone the way we wanted it to so I'm excited to join Florida here and make a push for the playoffs because that's what it's all about."

The third-round pick is conditional so if the Panthers make the playoffs, the Wings will receive Arizona's third-rounder.

That gives the Wings 11 picks in the 2017 draft, including four third-round picks.

The last time the Wings had 11 picks was in 2000.

"Usually we go into these drafts with five or six picks, we've traded picks away," Holland told TSN TradeCentre. "We've got four thirds and we've got our first, our second, we'll see where we finish here in the standings, how high. If you miss the playoffs, then obviously you're in the lottery and see what happens."

Holland said the Wings will try to add to some of the young players they have in the system or use the picks as part of trades.

"Anthony Mantha's been a good story for us and (Andreas) Athanasiou," Holland said. "Petr Mrazek, I think the last month or so has really started to play the type of hockey that we know he can play. He's a really relatively young goaltender. We've got some kids in Grand Rapids, (Evgeny) Svechnikov has had a nice rookie year. Tyler Bertuzzi got hurt but he's coming and doing some of the things, so we've got some people on the way. These moves that we make for these draft picks again, will allow us to pick more players and hopefully some of them are going to end up being NHL Red Wings down the road."

For Vanek, this is not the first time he has been traded so he was prepared.

"Yeah, from my couple years of experience, I brought a couple more suits and an extra suitcase," Vanek said.

The Panthers are currently fourth in the wild card standings in the East behind the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders.

But at 68 points, the Panthers tied with the Islanders, just one point behind the Maple Leafs and four points behind the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Vanek feels he can be an impact player for the Panthers.

"Obviously I understand this game is full of speed nowadays but my game was never a speed game," Vanek said. "My game was always, I think the game a step ahead I'd like to say. So yeah, I still think I can play at a high level and again, I'm excited to go to a team that's making a push and hopefully I can help them."

While the Wings aren't mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, Holland understands it would be incredibly difficult to leapfrog all the teams ahead of them.

"My take is if we miss this year, we got to make some moves this summer, we don't want to miss two years in a row," Holland said. "I think that if we can make some tweaks to our team and get back at it in September that we can get back in the hunt next year and compete for a playoff spot. We traded a bunch of players who were unrestricted free agents for a lot of draft picks and as we work our way into June with the expansion draft, we've got some decisions to make. We've got to try to make some tweaks and some changes. It's impossible to make a whole ton of big changes. The changes have to come over time and we've got to slowly make some changes this year to try to keep our team competitive and competing for a playoff spot."

McIlrath, 24, is a 6-foot-5 , 236-pound defenseman who is expected to join the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Wings traded forward Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday for a 2017 third-round pick.

Tuesday morning they sent defenseman Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers for a 2017 third-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick.

Late Tuesday night, the Wings traded forward Steve Ott to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2018 sixth-round pick.

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