The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/06/13 at 01:16 PM ET
As an adjunct to the off-day Red Wings news post: the Free Press's Helene St. James spent her off-day morning pondering what the Detroit Red Wings might be able to do to bolster their lineup as the trade deadline approaches. St. James duly notes that the NHL's standings are so jam-packed at present--especially in the West--that we're likely to have to wait until much closer to the April 3rd trade deadline to find out which teams are "buyers" and which ones are "sellers"...
But even though Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that he felt that the probable returns of Darren Helm (who DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose reported is skating today, in his hockey equipment, for the first time since suffering his back injury), Valteri Filppula (shoulder), Mikael Samuelsson (broken finger) and possibly Todd Bertuzzi (back) would serve as superb and compensation-free trade deadline acquisitions, Holland also suggested that he'd engage in his customary tire-kicking process (and Holland kicks every tire)...
"The standings dictate how much movement there is, separation or lack thereof," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "You look at the West, from third to 11th this morning, there’s just three points separating those teams."
Detroit is one of those clubs in that cluster. And like so many teams around the league, the slate of games leading up to the April 3 trade deadline will play a major factor on what transpires.
"Ultimately, the next two to three weeks will determine certainly my thinking for the Detroit Red Wings," Holland said.
St. James, like LeBrun, believes that the Red Wings want to add a top-four defenseman to the mix, and when and/or if the standings log-jam ameliorates, she thinks that the Wings may make a move--but only if the price is right (one cannot sell a barn to buy a horse):
If there are teams that opt to sell, prices will be high because two dozen teams could be buyers. Defensemen always are at a premium, and players such as the Oilers' Ryan Whitney or Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester will demand high prices.
Bouwmeester's scary because he's got a $6.68 million cap hit next season, and with the cap going down and the Wings having to decide (per Capgeek's Wings salary chart) whether and/or if they're willing to re-sign unrestricted free agents-to-be Jimmy Howard, Damien Brunner, Valtteri Filppula, Ian White, Danny Cleary and Drew Miller, as well as restricted free agents-to-be Brendan Smith, Joakim Andersson, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist and Tom McCollum, all with the cap going down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, I'm not sure if the Wings would be willing to take on that kind of money unless they could move some salary out--or the Flames would be willing to absorb some of Bouwmeester's salary...
In Calgary, there's also longtime captain Jarome Iginla, who is running out of time to add a Cup to his career. He would have been a perfect fit in Detroit a few years ago. Is he going to win the Cup with this Wings squad? That's murkier. If Iginla would be a perfect fit anywhere, it'd be a place like Chicago or Pittsburgh, where he could blend in more than be expected to stand out. Plus, the Wings don't so much need help up front, especially if they should ever be fully healthy. Right now, tag forward Darren Helm as a potential so-called "trade deadline addition," because if he keeps improving as he has been, he could be ready to return to the Wings on very fresh legs at that time.
Iginla's been strongly linked to Pittsburgh of late...
The other thing that has to be considered is who and what the Wings have to offer. They just cannot mortgage their future and trade away a first-rounder or highly rated prospects such as Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan or Calle Jarnkrok. Their most valuable trade asset, in some ways, is Valtteri Filppula, only he's in a contract year, so teams are going to be wary of a rental. And if the Wings do sign Filppula to an extension, he'll likely demand a limited-movement clause.
The Wings aren't sending Nyquist, Sheahan, Jarnkrok or Teemu Pulkkinen anywhere.
There's also forward Johan Franzen, who has a nice salary cap number, at $3.9 million, even if he does have seven years left on the deal. But here's the thing: Franzen is the Wings' biggest forward, a regular 20-goal scorer, and a guy who had a big role in the back-to-back trips to the finals in 2008 and '09. Get rid of him, and they'd just have to replace him.
The Mule's just too big, can score too regularly and has too much money remaining on his deal to move him--or buy him out--and as the Wings have no real power forwards anything less than 3-5 years away (Andersson's 6'3," but he's a 3rd-liner, and the same could be said of Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco's having a rough pro debut year, Marek Tvrdon's a project-and-a-half, Louis-Marc Aubry has some filling out to do, Trevor Parkes is more of a grinder than a scorer, and he and Andrej Nestrasil are still bouncing back and forth from the ECHL to the AHL, and in all honesty, all of the Wings' top prospects in terms of offense, like Tatar, Jarnkork, Nyquist and Pulkkinen, are still pretty "small" by NHL standards, so until the Wings can truly draft a Franzen replacement, they won't feel any need to do anything other than keep the streaky Mule), and can't really import a player with size for the same cap hit, the Wings wil put up with him for a long time.
As for defenseman Ian White, he has become the odd man out over the past week. But there's a limit to what he'd bring in return and there's no such thing as too much defensive depth in the playoffs.
The Wings have been searching for a top-four defenseman since last summer. They'll look very hard again over the coming four weeks, but they won't be alone, and they won't find many available.
It's also worth mentioning that most teams aren't going to want to trade within their conference, which means that you need to head over to Capgeek and check out the Eastern Conference's UFA-to-be defensemen-to-be. You end up with options like Lubomir Visnovsky and Mark Streit from the Islanders, Sergei Gonchar if the Senators fall off the map, the middling Ron Hainsey or the slow-footed but steady Robyn Regehr from Buffalo, his teammate, Jordan Leopold, and maybe Joe Corvo if the WIngs are willing to take a chance on an incredibly streaky and high-risk player, but that's about it.
The 2013 trade deadline, if anything, shows the full impact of the 2004-05 lockout: There's parity like never before -- and that's going to make parsing for players precarious.
Speaking of which, 97.1 the Ticket's Jeff Riger spoke to Ken Holland about the Wings' season thus far, possible trade moves and realignment, all after last night's game, and Holland doesn't sound too keen on making a big splash:
Holland on the pairity in the game right now:: “In this NHL every game counts, every 2 points is critical and I think what’s going on now is going to be going on in the last week of the regular season. I have said all along that it is going to be a photo finish to make the playoffs and it’s going to be a photo finish to miss the playoffs. It’s great for hockey fans, you wake up every day, and I think there are 6 teams in the West with 24 points this morning. I think it’s exciting, every 2 points is critical and the second half of the season, it’s like a playoff game every single night.”
Holland on the trade deadline and if the Wings are thinking about being buyers or sellers: “In order to be a buyer you got to be in the playoffs, it’ doesn’t make much sense to be 3, 4, 5 points out of the 8 hole and think you’re going to throw some assets at a team that might not make the playoffs. We got to wins some games; we got to put a run together. Certainly in the next couple of weeks we think we are going to have Valteri Filpula back, we think we will have Darren Helm back, certainly in Helm’s case, that’s a free agent trade.”
Holland on NHL realignment where the Wings are rumored to move to the East: “Going into the Board of Governors meetings in December of 2011 we wanted to be in the East, we made it clear that we wanted to be in the East but there were so many issues for so many teams other than Detroit we ultimately voted for that four conference alignment that had us in the Midwest. Part of that conference was home and away with every team in the National Hockey league and we wanted our fans to see every team in the league in our building, Toronto every year, Boston every year, Montreal every year and we liked the idea that playoffs were going to be within the division so you weren’t going 3 time zones away to play in the playoffs in the first two rounds. Now obviously in the last month there seems to e a lot of talk. I don’t know a whole lot, I’m very familiar with what the media is saying, there obviously seems to be conversations going on between the union and the league. Our first priority going back to prior to December 2011 is to be in the East, that has never changed but we’ll see what happens here over the course of the next month or 6 weeks while they make a decision.
Here's Riger's interview:
Update: ESPN's LeBrun also had an intriguing set of conversations with Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi about the lack of trades thus far, and those conversations are worth mentioning in terms of adding contrast:
"Everyone has played from 20 to 24 games so far; you've got to adjust your thinking to making a quicker assessment," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told ESPN.com. "We’re used to making our assessments over a longer period of time. And this year it’s different. Therefore, for me it’s a little funky right now to know we’re that close to making deals."
What also gums up the works is that the list of UFAs-to-be, aka rental players, might shorten as the month rolls on as teams re-sign those players and take them off the trade market.
"What’s happened the last five or six years is teams realizing that even if they’re a seller, they realize it’s not like the old days where you trade [a UFA to be] for a draft pick and easily replace them [in the offseason]," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told ESPN.com. "Even midrange players, many teams are now deciding to keep them and try to sign them versus giving them away for a second- or third-round pick. That’s something that’s changed in this business since I got in it; very different. Some teams are looking at that No. 4 or No. 5 defenseman and saying, 'I’m not replacing him this summer, I need to keep him and sign him.'"
The other thing, Lombardi figures, is that in today’s parity-filled NHL, teams always feel just a few players away from getting back into it the following season. It’s not like the pre-cap days when many non-playoff teams went into full dress-down/rebuild mode.
"Not many teams are in that stripping-down mode anymore," Lombardi said.
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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.