For a number of fans, the lack of any activity by the Wings could be the worst possible outcome of today. Many wanted the Wings to make a move that improved the team and bolstered their chances of contending for a Stanley Cup in a wide-open Eastern Conference that only has one elite team. Many others hoped to see the Wings trade some of their impending UFAs and get some draft picks.
Ken Holland warned everyone that he was unlikely to make a move unless it made sense from a hockey perspective and/or was a significant upgrade over what the Wings already had on their roster. After making an attempt to go for it last year by bringing in Erik Cole and Marek Zidlicky while sending away draft picks and prospects, the Wings elected to hold on to who they have and roll with a younger lineup in their push for the playoffs. The only move that was made was to send Jakub Kindl and his albatross of a contract to Florida for a draft pick.
At the end of the day, the Wings were stuck. The salary cap issue from earlier this year didn't allow the Wings to add anyone without sending salary back to another team. The team is pretty good on their best days and a playoff bubble team on their worst days. The only deal that made sense for the Wings to make was a hockey trade, which are not the type of moves that are made on deadline day.
The Wings could have looked at acquiring a rental, but there wasn't a single player available that would have represented an upgrade over what Detroit already has. They could have sold off players like Darren Helm or Kyle Quincey, but that wouldn't make the team better in the short run. Based on the trades that were made today, Quincey is too one-dimensional to be attractive to another team and Helm would have had pretty much zero trade value, so anything you would have gotten for them wouldn't be enough to warrant potentially missing out on the playoffs this season. If I did have a preference, I would have liked to see the Wings move some of those players out, but I can at least understand why they didn't do it.
When you ultimately look at the trades that were made today, the best possible outcome for the Red Wings was to not do anything and wait for the draft. I'm sure that's not the popular sentiment among Wing fans, but the offseason is a better place to properly evaluate the state of the team and try to move players like Helm, Quincey and Jimmy Howard.
There will be a lot of teeth-gnashing among the fanbase, and I'm in no means grading management's performance on a broader scale, as there are still glaring holes in this lineup that need to be addressed if the team is going to seriously compete for a Stanley Cup. But after the mistakes that were made last year and the assets it cost them, trying to do the same thing would only be throwing good money after bad.
I believe that, between today's inactivity and Ken Holland's comments over the last week, the Red Wings are about to embark on an even bigger youth movement than we saw this year. I can't help but wonder if the Wings have realized that relying on Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as your two main players does nothing to further the development of this franchise and keep them staying at or near the top of the league. I also wonder if the unexpected emergence of Dylan Larkin and how good he has been has accelerated the notion that it's time to turn the team over to the new generation of players. Not by slowly bringing up one or two young guys and playing them in limited minutes, but by integrating them into the lineup more and more. We've seen the start of that with players like Larkin, Alexey Marchenko and Andreas Athanasiou getting roster spots and playing time while others like Landon Ferraro, Jakub Kindl, and Joakim Andersson have been waived and/or traded.
At the end of the day, the Wings are no better or worse than they were yesterday, but with the way the East is and with a hot goaltender like Petr Mrazek, the Wings could lose in the first round like they always do or make a bit of a run. But regardless of how this year plays out, holding on to assets was always the smart choice, even if it was the safest.