“I’m not going to spend any assets to acquire any depth players. We have lots of depth.''
That was Ken Holland to reporters yesterday morning, explaining what the Red Wings were looking to accomplish at the trade deadline, which occurs Wednesday.
By now we're all used to the standard line of "our injured players coming back will be our trade deadline acquisitions". In years past that list included Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, so it made some sense to consider their returns as a new player joining the lineup.
However, this year the injured list includes such star-studded names like Mikael Samuelsson, Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi. While each of them brings a specific set of skills to the lineup, none of them are the missing piece to a long Stanley Cup run for this team. Holland was also able to land Danny DeKeyser, the highly-sought after college free agent who will remain with the Wings for the rest of the season.
Tomorrow represents the last opportunity for GMs to improve their teams by obtaining new players, and Wing fans are naturally curious to see what Holland has in store. This has been a season marked by inconsistency and roster turnover (which I think go hand-in-hand), but as we've talked about so many times before, this was always supposed to be a "transition year".
Which is why I don't believe the Wings need to go all out and do something stupid tomorrow. I wouldn't be upset to see a trade or two made, but not at the expense of the future.
Right now, you see two teams making trades for completely different reasons: the Penguins are loading up for a Cup run, and the Sharks are selling off dead weight.
In the span of a week, Pittsburgh acquired Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jarome Iginla, all without giving up a roster player. This has many etching Ray Shero's name on the GM of the Year Award, but only Iginla could be considered an impact player, and he's still just a complimentary piece to what is a very impressive team already. The Penguins saw a few holes on their roster and sought to plug them for a Cup run.
The Sharks gave up Murray and Michal Handzus for draft picks, but in so doing they trimmed the roster of some players who did not factor into their long-term plans, and they still are in the hunt for a playoff spot.
I'll give you one guess which model Holland should follow.
This is not the trade deadline of 10 years ago where the Wings are a piece or two away from winning a Cup. This isn't even 5 years ago when the Wings were one of a handful of teams that could be considered legitimate contenders.
This team is very likely not good enough to win this year, which is why there should be no desire to sacrifice picks or prospects unless the player coming back is a top-end talent that will be in Detroit for years.
That's why Holland's quote makes me happy. He recognizes that there's more than enough depth on this team and in the system, and he's after big fish. A top-6 forward or top-pairing defenseman who will help the team both now and in the future.
The other issue to remember is that the salary cap is going down next year, and the Wings have several free agents that need to be addressed, specifically Jimmy Howard and Valtteri Filppula. Howard is an absolute must-sign, and his play this season will likely net him a hefty raise to somewhere around the $5M-per-season mark. Detroit typically hasn't overpaid for goalies, but Howard is the exception because of his value to the team and how far away Petr Mrazek is from taking over as the starter.
Filppula is another issue. Reports are that he's looking for around $5M a season, which could make him too expensive for a top-6 forward who doesn't score as often as he should. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are going to make a strong push for a roster spot next year, so Filppula could be dangled as trade bait as a strong two-way player who doesn't have a salary commitment for next season. He is easily the best trading chip the Wings have, and it's likely Holland may explore what the market is for Flip.
The other player who could be moved is Ian White. He's a defenseman, so immediately his value could be set at 3 strands of unicorn hair, but his offensive abilities and PP skills could make him a good fit for a bubble team in need of a spark in offense (think Carolina). Like Filppula, his contract is also up after the season is over, so he would be a rental who could fit in with a team short-term and earn a new contract based on his play. He has been a healthy scratch several times this year, and the only reason he's in the lineup now is because of an injury to Kyle Quincey.
Really, that's it in terms of roster players. There's not another player in the lineup right now who has as much trade value as Filppula or White (and stop saying Franzen, because it's not happening so just get over it). Had he been healthy, Samulesson could have been moved for picks (except for that NTC that TPL reminded me about), but other than that, there's no one who is likely to get moved, especially considering the talent Holland is looking to get.
Personally, I'm expecting a quiet trade deadline on the Red Wing front. We might see a couple of minor moves to bolster the Griffins, but unless someone comes available unexpectedly, the team we have seen all season is likely to be the one that plays out the season. Given the prospects in the system and the way the younger players have played for the most part this season, Holland should be careful not to upset the cart. There's no value in making a move just to make a move, and it appears that Holland understands that.