The Red Wings currently sit 14 points up on the number 9 team in the Eastern Conference with 21 games left to play in their season. Barring some absolute insanity, the Red Wings have a playoff appearance locked up this year. The seeding battle is important for them right now, as they'll look to earn the right for home ice in their first round matchup at least, but they're not close to being in the same situation they were in last season at the trade deadline when it looked like Joakim Andersson was going to have to be the team's #1 center for a stretch while they fought for their playoff lives.
Where They Stand
The Wings are six points behind Montreal for the Atlantic Division/Eastern Conference lead with a game in hand and one point behind Tampa Bay with a game in hand for 2nd in their division. By statistical modeling, Detroit isn't likely to catch Montreal, but the race for the home ice advantage in a series against Tampa is going to come down to the wire. No matter which team gets that home ice, it's going to be disappointing making two of the conference's better competitors go toe-to-toe immediately, but that's the breaks.
Kyle Quincey recently missed time with bone chips in his heel, but he should be back soon. Brendan Smith has gotten a bit beaten up lately, but hasn't missed a game for it. Other than that, Detroit's blue line is healthy and it is deep with nine defensemen who have all played at least 10 games for them this season.
Among the forwards, the Wings are missing Johan Franzen with a long-term concussion (he hasn't played since January 6th and there is no official prognosis for his return this season). Detroit has also been without the services of Henrik Zetterberg for the last week with a don't-call-it-a-concussion injury sustained when Jamie Benn sucker-punched him in Dallas' well-deserved loss to the Red Wings. Most-recently, Darren Helm left Saturday's game in Nashville after playing just three minutes with a mysterious "upper-body" injury.
What Ken Holland is Saying
Late on Friday Night, MLive's Ansar Khan posted the latest update on where the Wings stand with a number of great quotes, to include:
"We're exploring if there's players out there that would make our team better; not looking for a lateral move," Holland said. "If there's only lateral moves or the price is higher than we're prepared to pay, we won't do anything."
Khan also reports that Holland specifically says he's got no problem adding a pure rental player (a change from earlier in the season), but the Wings aren't looking to give up a first-rounder, high-end prospect, or good roster player for such a rental, instead preferring to give up Detroit's 2nd round pick in the upcoming draft.
For what it's worth, Mike Babcock is saying the same thing he was saying before the season started:
"This is where my job's much different than Kenny's job. And it's the same as the last day in training camp. I just want to win tomorrow and he wants to build an organization. So these are hard decisions. We like winning, we like winning now, but we like winning every year. We're kind of greedy that way. Hard decisions."
In the same article above, Khan goes over a number of more talked-about trade targets, saying that guys like Jeff Petry and Zbynek Michalek aren't upgrade enough over Alexey Marchenko to justify their prices while Dion Phaneuf's $7M cap hit is a no-go for a team that has RFAs to re-sign in a flat cap year. In offering alternatives, Khan says Marek Zidlicky could be cheap enough to fit the bill or that Erik Cole, the big forward from Dallas could fill a more-pressing need right now at a good price.
Helene St. James and even Elliotte Friedman have also reported that it seems the Petry-to-Detroit chat has cooled significantly since Edmonton is looking for one of the bigger-name defensive prospects in that trade and the Wings simply aren't convinced he's worth that price.
With the prices we've seen for guys like Antoine Vermette (a first rounder AND a decent prospect), I'm not convinced there's a sane price out there for a real upgrade. T
he X-factor on defense remains Keith Yandle, who I do believe Detroit would spend value assets to get, but I'm not sure about the financials of a deal like that. [edit: Yandle was traded to the Rangers on Sunday] If it comes down to Edmonton standing firm on Petry and demanding similar prices for the similar players who have moved, I don't see Holland pulling the trigger.
I'm intrigued by the idea of picking up a big winger, especially as the latest road trip has the Wings playing against a number of contending teams and the common theme that emerged from this (successful) road trip was that Detroit's forwards were having trouble pushing through the size of the Western contenders. Without Johan Franzen to be the proverbial bull in a china shop, a guy like Erik Cole could help wear some holes in opposition defenses.
As always, price will be the issue. The Sabres are apparently asking for a 2nd rounder plus a good prospect for Chris Stewart. If that's the demand, I'm not sure I can believe Jim Nill is going to give away Erik Cole for a price that Holland is willing to pay.
Stay tuned to WIIM through the deadline as we'll be around to post news and analysis of any moves the Wings make.