With the NHL’s trade deadline rapidly approaching on March 1 the Detroit Red Wings find themselves primed to be sellers, as they currently reside at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Barring a miraculous turnaround in the next few weeks, Detroit’s fabled 25 year playoff streak appears to be slipping out of reach and whether Ken Holland wants to admit it or not, it’s time to rebuild in Hockeytown.
But does Holland have the pieces to be both an active seller and help kickstart Detroit’s rebuild before the aforementioned trade deadline?
Despite stating that “I don't think anyone is untouchable,” to The Detroit News in early February, one has to imagine that Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou are the exceptions to the rule in this case. Larkin, Mantha and Athanasiou are players that the Red Wings will need to build their future around and are also players that would cause loyal Detroit hockey fans to take to the streets with torches and pitchforks if they were indeed traded.
Unfortunately, if the Wings wanted to pull off a big-name/headline making deal before March 1 then #71, #39 or #72 are the players every other GM in the NHL would most certainly ask for first in any possible trade. Thankfully I don’t foresee the Red Wings making any type of deal involving these young players.
So where do the Red Wings stand in this year’s pre-trade deadline seller’s market?
Thomas Vanek is without a doubt Detroit’s most enticing trade chip. There shouldn’t be any lack of interest from one of several contending teams that wouldn’t mind adding a veteran forward like Vanek. The 33-year-old Austrian winger has proven to be the low-risk and high-reward player that the Red Wings hoped he would be when they signed him during the off-season. Vanek and his family would love to stay in Detroit but he could also bring the Wings their best chance at netting their best return.
Interestingly enough, Darren Dreger stated on NBC Sports last night that he believes Holland could flip Vanek as a rental to a contending team only to reacquire him once again during the summer.
Brendan Smith could possibly also draw some interest from a team looking to add a depth defenseman to their roster. Despite a fairly poor showing on national television and in front of a reported 18 NHL scouts in attendance against the Blues on Wednesday night, Smith could be a player that Ken Holland could try and work into some scenario.
Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist could be dark horse candidates in the Red Wings’ bargaining bag if Ken Holland does indeed try to shake things up a bit. It was reported a few weeks ago that the Chicago Blackhawks had inquired about both Tatar and Nyquist. Despite the pair of players both having less than stellar seasons thus far, there very well could be considerable interest in one, if not both.
Personally I don’t see Ken Holland and the Red Wings being major players before the trade deadline. In today’s salary-cap era NHL, trades are not what they once were. Asking prices are high and top-prospects are coveted. Detroit does indeed have a few cards to play at the table but how long they can stay in the game remains to be seen.
Regardless of who is making the calls in the future, I believe that the Red Wings’ best chance at rebuilding resides in drafting. Having a 25 years of continued and constant success is a great and wonderful thing but it doesn’t get you a lot of top draft picks in the long run. Like most things in life, it will just take time and patience.