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Actually substantiated Red Wings trade talk

I can’t quote too much of this article because it’s one of those ESPN “Insider” specials, but Craig Custance did a fantastic job of discussing the Red Wings’ trade deadline plans, and with the inordinate amount of fluffernutter out there, it’s an incredible relief to read somebody of Custance’s surgical stainless steel-caliber credentials actually speak to Holland about his desire to spend some of the Wings’ Capgeek-listed $5.3 million in salary cap space shoring up the bottom half of his roster:

“There’s a little more chatter the last few days than there has been because the deadline is coming,” Holland said when we chatted on Tuesday afternoon. “Will we do something? We’re going to explore. We have cap space; we structured it at the beginning of the year that way. We’d like to give our team a bit of a boost.”
[T]here aren’t a lot of needs on the Red Wings right now. But we know Holland likes his veterans, especially those who know their way around a playoff series. He’ll be on the prowl to find the right one.

“We have kids and we think they’re OK,” Holland said. “You’re always looking for veterans who have that experience. I think that’s the hot commodity right now.”

To attempt to summarize without giving away the whole shebang, you don’t need to spend $40 for an Insider subscription to know the obvious: Even if I indulge in my Highland Appliance commercial-watching-as-a-youngster’s desire to say the asking prices for top-notch talent are inssaaaaaanne (much more than fifty watts per channel, babycakes), the Red Wings’ coaches and management are obviously more than happy watching their patience in Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Drew Miller, Darren Helm, Jimmy Howard and even both part-timers like Cory Emmerton and Jakub Kindl and, yes—gasp—Jonathan Ericsson(!) pay off in ways which overpaying over the summer couldn’t deliver in terms of bang for their salary-capped buck, and given Holland’s desire to not subtract from his roster, skim the top of the prospect pool or surrender high-round picks unless absolutely necessary, we’re not talking about the Red Wings making those kinds of major, earth-shaking, Rick Nash-acquiring deal some of you have been dreaming up.

The fact that Joey MacDonald’s more than proven himself as able to assist the Wings’ cause, should Jimmy Howard have any issues in terms of playing with a taped-up and healing index finger, or should the team give Ty Conklin a few more starts in which he struggles instead of displays the more solid goaltending he did during January (I’m not sold in the, “Send Conklin up the river/up I-96 to Grand Rapids” theory), affords the Wings the luxury of continuing to search for depth players up front and on defense instead of worrying about their goaltending. Acquiring an affordable back-up at this time of year (see: Chicago saying, “ZOMG, how many Toblerones do we have to bribe Marty Turco with to come back from Swizerland [and yes, they’re even better when they haven’t spent six to eight weeks getting shipped to the States]) is entirely possible as long as you throw the “affordable” part out of the window and replace it with the names the Wings’ brass are clearly hearing right now when they ask the compensation other teams wish for in exchange for borderline #10 defensemen playing in the Italian Serie A league—Brendan Smith, Petr Mrazek, Teemu Pulkkinen, Calle Jarnkrok, and a first-round pick, and one of Kindl, Cory Emmerton or Jan Mursak.

That being said, even I know that Holland, Jim Nill and Ryan Martin knock on every door and kick every agent and GM’s tires to determine the availability of and asking prices for every player on the list of targets their pro and amateur scouts, top brass and recent NHL veterans in Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood and, to some extent, Jiri Fischer might have recommended during their organizational meetings in Las Vegas just prior to the All-Star break, and Holland, Nill and Martin will continue those conversations until the trade deadline.

Just as importantly, we know that what happens between now and the deadline in terms of the team’s on-ice performance and any issues that surface on the trainer’s table, and we know that the fact that even the Ducks aren’t “out of it” at this point means that any sort of “domino effect” moves which shift the trade marketplace’s asking prices from low-earth orbit to something more reasonable probably won’t happen until next week at the earliest, and we’re probably shifting back to an era where the 5 major moves, 15-20 depth trades and 35-40 total moves which tend to occur leading up to the deadline all occur in the immediate vicinity of February 27th as opposed to between now and President’s Day.

Holland is just a last-minute shopper in the winter as he is late-July bargain bin shopper during the summer, so there’s not much of a reason to chew one’s fingernails until at least next weekend, but when he does make a move?

Custance suggests that the Wings’ dream acquisition is Finnish by way of Anaheim, though nobody’s sure whether the combination of the Ducks’ ascent back into at least the, “We’ve got a chance to make it if we win out and we get a lot of help” realm of playoff possibility and Selanne’s loyalty to Anaheim and his family means that he’s even remotely interested in spending a spring not being the only 41-year-old in the room:

If Selanne decides to stay put, the focus will be on a veteran depth player Babcock can turn to in the playoffs without hesitation. “What’s depth? A veteran player who is probably leaving the team he’s on and is a little on the long side,” Holland said. “Put him on the third pair or on the fourth line and it gives you depth. They’ve got some experience. Could we use some depth? Yeah, I’m exploring.”

At forward, that means a guy like Montreal’s Travis Moen, Columbus’ Sammy Pahlsson or Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad. The one thing Detroit isn’t looking for is a goalie. This is Howard’s team, and Joey MacDonald, the winning goalie in Detroit’s record-breaking performance at home on Tuesday night, has performed admirably in his absence, which should end goalie trade talk. “I hope so,” MacDonald said on Tuesday. “I just wanted to get an opportunity here.” His 4-1-1 record with a 1.72 goals-against average means the Red Wings will make no effort to add insurance in goal.

Could the Red Wings make a bigger splash at forward or on defense than just depth? One NHL source presented this option: “You know what’s going to happen. Chicago makes a trade. St. Louis makes a trade. Vancouver makes a trade, and Detroit feels like it has to keep up.”

The vast majority of pundits as well as “sources” seem to believe that the Red Wings both need to win not only the Central Division, but also the Western Conference to truly earn a “favorable” first-round match-up against one of those teams that’s expending a thousand-footer’s tonnage in terms of energy trying to just earn a chance to play in April…

And those pundits and sources suggest that whichever Central Division team “wins” the trade deadline in terms of addressing their long-term needs (and you can throw the Sharks and Canucks into the discussion if you wish) will probably win out come April and May.

I don’t know whether to believe them, but I do know that KH and the Wings will be more than happy to just listen to the chatter online while watching TSN and Sportsnet, inexplicably legally from American soil at the Joe, instead of making moves on the 27th if there is no “fit” in terms of needs to be filled or asking prices to be met. There’s just no point in selling the barn to buy an extra horse, as they say, nor is there any point in believing that one more forward will somehow fundamentally address the issues plaguing a road power play that stinks on ice.

The Wings will not stray from their organizational blueprint for the simple sake of addressing concerns about fourth-line forwards or bottom-pair defensemen when Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Fabian Brunnstrom, Chris Conner, Brendan Smith, Doug Janik, Garnet Exelby and Brain Lashoff are all readily available via a call to an organization that’s two-and-a-half hours away and sends said players to Detroit for free.

As a very cautious Wings fan, I think that players like Moen, Pahlsson, Gaustad or whatever reasonable facsimiles of Bryan Allen do not command Jim Rutherford’s asking prices are about as high as the Wings could possibly aim given the marketplace, and any one of them would be a bonus. I get the feeling that this is a Cory Cross year as opposed to a Brad Stuart one, but I’m also hoping against hope that Selanne decides to spend a spring in a locale which can be as 70-degree sunny as Anaheim one day and snowed under the next come late April. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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DocF's avatar

George, this is good stuff, indeed.  I too would love to see that older Finn wearing the Winged Wheel.  I suspect that will not happen unless someone filets the Ducks in the next couple of games.

Of the possible bunch, the one who makes me smile a bit is Paul Gaustad.  He is tough, he is clever, he has some skills and he is made of granite.  If he has anything left, I would also like to see Mike Knuble back in Detroit for the finish of his career.

Oh, by the way, I get the impression from the troops down in this part of the world that the Hurricanes are not in for a massive sell-off.  It looks as though they are trying to bring back the guys who can play and get rid of the chaff.  Gleason, who was thought to be the best blue liner who would be available at the deadline has been resigned.  The plan to resign Ruutu to.  My God, even Eric Staal (I keep typing Stall, is that Freudian?) looks like he is worth $2.25 right now.


Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 02/15/12 at 10:26 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Something tells me that trying to make a trade with Jim Rutherford is like—and I’m watching “American Restoration” while I write this—one of those guys on those History Channel shows like American Pickers or Pawn Stars who never realized how much he loves his stuff until he tries to sell it…

And Rutherford’s one of those guys who seems like he’d fall in love with a rusty 84 Ford Escort all over again when somebody offered him $500 for hit. Rutherford would start wanting to restore the damn thing. “Gas is pretty expensive these days…And the rust isn’t too bad…It kills penalties, too…”

If I was Jaroslav Spacek’s agent, I’d be telling Rutherford that I was dangling my client out as trade bait, and that there was lots of interest.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/15/12 at 10:51 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

Holland’s obsession with veterans drives me nuts sometimes.  I agree depth is the thing the Wing’s need most to get out of deadline and a blockbuster should not be in the works.  He is one of the best gm’s in the league.  That doesn’t mean everything he does and every belief he holds is gold.  That’s the veteran stuff.  Experience does wonders, but so does talent and youthful energy.  I don’t care if a veteran can predict the outcome of the game or his opponents move.  If his body can’t carry out what his mind desires it’s all for naught.  Our team has plenty experience.  We have depth at that position.  How about depth in young/prime players.

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 02/15/12 at 10:58 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Jeebus, I’m not even going to get into this because Tick Tock knows his team and this business better than any of us.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 02/15/12 at 11:08 PM ET

Primis's avatar

A Cory Cross kind of year?

Would that also be a Bill Ranford/Wendell Clark kind of year?  Or a Uwe Krupp kind of year?  Cause God help us all then…

Posted by Primis on 02/15/12 at 11:15 PM ET

joedaiceman's avatar

Can’t wait to see how Teemu and Kroner get along

Posted by joedaiceman on 02/15/12 at 11:19 PM ET

christpuncher's avatar

Can we just get Dallas Drake to suit up for one more shot at the Cup!?!? I Don’t really see too many D-Man hunters out there waiting for a shot at glory right now unfortunately.

Posted by christpuncher from Detroit, MI on 02/16/12 at 12:03 AM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

the popcorn’s really tender tonight, honey.

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 02/16/12 at 12:45 AM ET


Nice work George, I agree with your piece, its brilliant. I will only say until I remembered how much Selanne loves Mike Babcock, I poo-pooed the idea of Selanne to Detroit. Selanne has a lot of loyalty to his team, and twice I have had seats in front of his suite in Anaheim (at times when he was injured (2007?, 2009)) and he attends the games, loved fans, interacts, and they adore him. It would be like Zetterberg leaving the Wings. Also Selanne has already has won a cup, and I’d be surprised if a guy that classy and loyal would leave in his last (next to last) year. If he does, I have money on it that its because he does not like Bruce Boudreau.

Brett Hull excluded, I have noticed over the years that when Wyle. E. Ken-oyte Holland goes looking for a trade deadline/FA Veteran for depth and spark, its either a hometown kid (Modano) or -most often- usually a sort of “charity case” player. A guy with great talent who has not had a shot at the Cup yet- Kenny likes that fire/desire combo to add a spark and some extra heart. remind the guys what its like to be hungry. You know, Chelios, Dallas Drake, etc…

Under these assumptions, I bet that before Joey Mac gave us this last week of solid play, Ken had his eye and the checkbook firmly back on Nabby. No we don;t need goal tending, but we did not know that last week. And of course, only reason a goalie would come to Detroit to play back up/injury insurance to Jimmy would be for the chance to win a cup.

Now, I am not sure if I would go after Nabby- he’s really temperamental, and I just don;t see his attitude fitting in with the RWO. Maybe for the right price.

I’m more interested to see if Chicago or Vancouver get Nash, and I think San Jose could be ready for some BIG Moves, AGAIN (Marleau’s head has to be on the block). I think its more dangerous if he goes to Chicago- hopefully they get caught up in the glitz of the Nash opportunity and forget they have real goaltending and/or defense problems.

Thanks again George- nothing like a real fan/writer giving a propaganda-less assessment!

Posted by Juice from LA on 02/16/12 at 01:05 AM ET


There’s really no reason to go after Nabokov, and even if there were I don’t really see him fitting the mold.  When Holland is looking for a veteran presence he’s not looking for a guy who’s going to cheer on his team while watching the entire game from the bench with a baseball hat on, he’s going to want someone who will have some sort of impact on the ice.

Also, anyone remember the way Jimmy got his hackles up when it came out that Holland was talking about Nabokov last year when asked by the media about it?  I’m sure Jimmy has more confidence that he’s not going to lose his starting job this year, but I still wouldn’t want to risk any kind of psychological repercussions on our starting goalie.

Posted by Garth on 02/16/12 at 01:18 AM ET


Wow George, thanks for the blast from the past. I haven’t seen that commercial in YEARS and I laughed my ass off! Also I spent the summer of 84 in Europe and I can confirm that Toblerone is way better there. We absolutely lived on that stuff.
  I.d still like to see the Wings “kick the tires” on a deal for Semin. I know you don’t like him but I think his shot is EXACTLY what the Wings need on the power play…a right handed one-timer. Also I think he gets a bad rap for his effort level and his defensive game. Can’t speak to his attitude because I don’t know him but if the Wings can handle Federov I think they can handle him for one playoff run.

Posted by From The Hockey Wastelands from Cleveland on 02/16/12 at 01:29 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

One NHL source presented this option: “You know what’s going to happen. Chicago makes a trade. St. Louis makes a trade. Vancouver makes a trade, and Detroit feels like it has to keep up.”


That NHL source has no idea what he’s talking about. The Wings have never operated that way under Holland. Inferiority complexes are for the rest of the league.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 02/16/12 at 01:53 AM ET


+50 watts per channel for digging up that classic Highland commercial, good sir.

Posted by mc keeper on 02/16/12 at 02:08 AM ET

Norskirama's avatar

Not sure if he’s around much on the ice, but don’t Chelios and Selanne have a hate-hate relationship?

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 02/16/12 at 02:44 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

A Cory Cross kind of year would be a, “We got some guy…who we think can skate…hey, he’s over six four, and he was cheap!” deal.

Uwe Krupp was a free agent signing, and I don’t see the Wings ever committing the, “Let’s totally load up on guys who played really well against us and a goon whose foot we didn’t know was broken” Chelios/Clark/Ranford/Samuelsson trade again—though that fandango, strangely enough, worked just fine because Chelios exceeded expectations by several Manitoba miles….

And because that was the trade that had Kenny Holland and Jim Nill sitting in a bar after the second round going, “Dude, Stevie, Shanny and Sergei are 30 or over, and after that, it’s Nick and then what? We can’t be trading away first-round draft picks and top prospects at the deadline anymore, or we’ll never get the guys who we’re going to build around five or ten years from now.”

Thanks to that and a little magic from Hakan Andersson, we’ve got Holland and Nill pondering what they’re going to do when Nick, um, stops carpooling with Tomas Holmstrom, and Zetterberg, Kronwall and Datsyuk are five years older (see: if two of Smith, Jarnkrok, Pulkkinen, Tatar, Nyquist, Sheahan, etc. pan out, the Wings will be OK thanks to the whole free agency cycle).

And yes, Selanne and Chelios don’t get along, but who didn’t Chelios piss off during his tenures with Detroit and Chicago? When McCarty was kidding that he still had pieces of Chelios’s Sher-Woods in his neck in 99, he probably wasn’t exaggerating.

I can’t imagine anybody who’s actually waived his no-trade clause to turn down going to Detroit for competitive reasons unless it’s Peter Forsberg, who really did tell either the Flyers or the Wings at different points that he was not interested in being traded to or signed by the team. That and Jeremy Roenick picked going to Philadelphia over Detroit way back in 2001 because his wife’s into horseback riding and they have better stables in Southeastern PA/New Jersey than they do in Detroit, but we all see how those, “Nah, I’ll go somewhere else” moves tend to pan out.

I just don’t see him on the market, period, unless the Ducks were to have continued their pre-Boudreau slide into oblivion. The man seems to want to retire as a Duck and I don’t see him deviating from his plan in that he’s kind of like Nick—after getting his knee finally fixed a few years ago, Selanne can really play for as long as he feels like playing. Maybe the first time the Ducks let him go in, well, 2001, but not now.

I’m really aiming for the whole one of Gaustad/Moen/Pahlsson and/or some equivalent to Bryan Allen scenarios. That’s all I expect. Although there’s certainly oodles of CBA uncertainty, there are so many free agents this summer and “hard to sign” guys whose rights might be available at the draft that Holland simply doesn’t have to overpay, even if there is some sort of domino effect.

Of s***ty note: I’m gonna have to do this blogging thing on a part-time basis until Friday evening as I’ve got a pressing legal matter that has nothing to do with crime, children or lawsuits (nobody knows about the bodies in the cornfield) on Friday morning and it’s stressing me out like nobody’s frickin’ business. I was hoping that I could get back to it tonight but between the sinuses and the legalese, I’m a f***ing mess. Swearing a s***ton, too.

Of curious note: When I’m cranking away I tend to forget that an audience actually wants its blog representative person thingy to occasionally write. Should I force myself to write a, “You have to write something at least once a week to keep yourself sane?” observation/column/lark?

I will also say this before falling over: I don’t count Holland out in terms of doing anything less than continuing to kick every agent and GM’s tire, probably Alex Semin and Ales Hemsky’s included, from now till the middle of the day on the 27th, simply because the man is so unbelievably thorough that that’s what he does by default, but he simply doesn’t make a major move at this time of year unless it makes both short and long-term sense these days.

By default given the age of the guys who the Wings would happily bring back (yes, that includes Bertuzzi, Holmstrom and Lidstrom) and the potential asking prices of the guys who are playing for their jobs (Hudler, Conklin, MacDonald—whose contract goes to a one-way, NHL-only deal next season, Commodore, to some extent Kindl and Emmerton, and the utter unknown that is Brad Stuart), and adding in the whole potential alumni addition which must not be named…

This team will make waves during the summer. Now I don’t see anything happening unless it falls into Holland’s lap.

Hope for Kyle Quincey. There’s my wild, unsubstantiated and crazy suggestion of the year. Quincey.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/16/12 at 03:36 AM ET

RorSchach's avatar

My Big Splash Players: Getzlaf or Nash.

I’ll settle for Gaustad though. Gritty as hell. And HUGE.

Goalie, Not needed. Thanks JMac.

For the summer, I just don’t see the need to bring Homer back. I love the guy. But face it.. the PP has been horrible this year for long stretches.. He has’t helped it THAT much. He’s still the best at what he does though. So it could go either way. As for Bert.. 50/50. I’ll understand it either way. Stuart, I have no friggin clue what he’s gonna do. I do believe he’ll go back to Cali though. After all, family is important.

Just my two cents. And two cents don’t mean diddly doo right now.

Posted by RorSchach from Datsberg on 02/16/12 at 04:46 AM ET

IwoCPO's avatar

Great stuff George. 

Kyle Quincey can suck it.  He’s tainted. 

If we deal, and I think Tick Tock will because of the real possibility that the world ends next year (Lidstrom’s retirement), I think it will be big.  I also believe Brendan Smith is the only untouchable in the system.  Mrazek will be, already is, a huge piece of bait based on his recent success.  And we don’t need him because we have a young goalie who happens to be the fuching best in the league (I’m swearing a lot recently too George).

I do want Selanne, but ____ _____ would be a move that sets us up for the very long haul. Only 27, a franchise player if he puts for the effort.  And effort wouldn’t be a problem in Detroit.  ______, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Fil, Hudler, etc.  Nobody touches that kind of forward depth.

I hated the Cory Cross fiasco. Hated it.  Mainly because we set ourselves up that year. We expected a lot then got stuck with that stale piece of fruit cake.  That sucked.

Repeat: No to Quincey. Suck it Denver.

Posted by IwoCPO from Sunny San Diego, bitches on 02/16/12 at 04:47 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Jeebus, I’m not even going to get into this because Tick Tock knows his team and this business better than any of us.

Posted by SYF from a “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” on 02/15/12 at 08:08 PM ET

This.  And… we have lots of young talent in GR, as George pointed out.  So I agree with the “veteran” strategy because that matters more come playoff time.

Terrific post, George!

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 02/16/12 at 12:08 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I agree with the point of your post, but geez, no Cory Cross, plz, k thx.

There’s no value in a player like that unless someone on the back gets injured (knock on wood).

It’s gotta be at least somewhere between Cross and Stuart to be worth the effort and assets.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 02/16/12 at 12:36 PM ET

All American in MN's avatar

The Wings rank fourth in offense and fifth in defense.  This team is playing similar to the 2008 team defensively speaking.  We do not have that extremely dominate Z-Dats-Holmer line; however we do have far more offensive depth.  Plus, we have a great goaltender.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but Hudler is pretty good.  His ability to execute break out passes under pressure to get the puck out of the zone and still retain puck possession for the Wings are actually pretty good.  That, plus he can score goals…  Obviously his size sucks, but unless there is someone with lots of size and comparable skill—with great reluctance I say—I am satisfied with him on the wing of the second line.  That being said, it would be nice to upgrade the bottom six with another forward with size that could slide up into Hudler’s spot in case Babcock wants to mix up the look.  I definitely do not view Hemsky as an upgrade over Hudler.

I guess that I am curious to see if we can snag a Gaustad and/or Moen.  I am wondering who they are looking at for blueline depth.  I am a little surprised that they are looking for that depth on defense.

Posted by All American in MN on 02/16/12 at 02:51 PM ET


ok—Highland Appliance - but more relevant to the Wings—What about Belvedere Construction?—Holland & Co—“We do good work!  The competition knows us, you should too.”
I do not believe we would deal for Nabakov, considering the Islanders pulled him away from us at the last minute last year.  Don’t think Holland will deal with them.  Plus we can win without him.  Selanne would be nice, and he might like Babcock & Fil, but Detroit has been a bitter foe of his for years, going back to Winnipeg.  Would like to see a 5 or 6 defenseman added, since you can never have too much of that during the playoffs - but if nec go with B Smith as your backup plan

Posted by howie young from up north on 02/16/12 at 04:33 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.