The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/15/12 at 10:05 PM ET
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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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.