Lidstrom's cloudy future - and $6.2 million cap hit - are central in Detroit's plan
The Joe hasn't hosted a loss in three months.
Pavel Datsyuk is the best player in the world.
Jiri Hudler is earning his salary.
Detroit is 32-15-1 and clearly the hottest team in the league.
Unfortunately, the Red Wings share a division with two of the league's other Cup favorites. With 65 points, Detroit is first in the tight Central Divsion followed by St. Louis and Chicago with 64 points. Astoundingly, at fourth in the division, the streaky Nashville Predators have racked up 60 points and stand sixth in the conference.
With teams so close in the standings, each game is magnified. Players earn their salary in the spring, when consecutive loses can leave a team out of the playoffs. Every player will be called upon to chip in and contribute. How far the Wings go in the postseason depends on how well each player fulfills his role.
Operations are running smoothly in Hockeytown. Management doesn't have to waste their time filling holes. With scouts and executives meeting in Las Vegas, time is well spent developing counter-measures for potential obstacles. There are a myriad of reasons Detroit could fall short of winning the Cup. It is up to management to put the right players in place. It is up to these players to execute.
Here's a look at prospective weaknesses and trades necessary for a Stanley Cup run.
Is Conklin good enough for a backup role?
Hey, we can't all be Jimmy Howard. The Vezina candidate sure does make the backup role boring for a goalie, but that's no excuse for Ty's dismal play. In the year of the goalie, Conk sits with a save percentage of 89.2 and GAA of 3.09.
Boil that down, and essentially any game Ty Conklin is in net, the Wings have to score four goals to win. That's a big task and a huge burden to put on a team.
So should the Wing's deal for a backup?
4/5: A deal for a backup goalie is by no means a blockbuster acquisition. The Wings can add an effective backup without a serious cap hit. This should leave enough room to address other roster spots.
Jimmy Howard won't start every game, and in the postseason each game matters.Ty Conklin has shown before he is a quality goaltender, but he isn't playing to his potential. He's had half the season to get comfortable in his role and hasn't.
1. Evgeni Nabokov (Islanders): The Red Wings actually tried to sign Nabokov last year. He's a quality netminder with postseason experience. Only three years ago he was making $6 million—now he's going for $500,000.
The Islanders don't appear to have any long-term plans for Nabokov, but he remains a valuable asset.
The Wings would have to give the Islanders at least a second-or-third-round pick, and possibly Ty Conklin, Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton or Jakub Kindl.
2. Chris Mason (Jets): Ondrej Pavelec is playing well in net this season for the Winnepig Jets. The Jets are a team that lacks offensive and defensive depth. Mason is a goalie that has posted good, sometimes great, numbers as a starter. No question he is a solid backup with experience.
Give the Jets Ty Conklin and a third-or-fourth-round pick.
Parise has yet to play with a center of Datsyuk's caliber
The Wings are one of the most creative offensive teams in the league, with dazzling puck movement and possession. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are two world-class centers who truly power the team. Despite their amazing play, they are no super-humans.
What would happen if Franzen or Datysuk were injured? Would Hudler and Filppulla regress without Zetterberg centering their line?
3/5: The Red Wings are a confident organization who believe in their players. Come playoff time, every team has injuries. Kenny Holland sees potential in minor league call-ups Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith.
Holland may feel Smith, Nyquist and other prospects can step up if called upon, but that doesn't mean he will turn a blind eye to the talent on the market.
Will Hemsky be shipped to Detroit?
The 28-year-old right-wing is attracting attention from several teams, and according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, Detroit is among them
Another club that could come calling on Hemsky is Detroit. The Red Wings have cap space and will be an aggressive team come the trade deadline. They’ll look at all kinds of options, but I believe Hemsky will be among the names on their shopping list.
Hemsky could easily score 20-plus goals in Detroit.
He's also a right shot, a rarity shared only by Mike Commodore and Ian White.
The Wings would have to deal a promising prospect and a second-or-third round pick. Filppula or Hudler could be included.
2. Teemu Selanne: The Finish Flash is in the twilight of his career at 41 years of age. Still, Selanne is one of the best pure scorers in the league. The Detroit Red Wings have been a team that has found success without a perennial 30-to-40 goal scorer.
At a cap hit of $4 million, Selanne would give them flexibility down the wing, adding a new dimension to an already potent attack.
The Wings would have to give Anaheim at least a second or third round pick and either a replacement winger or promising prospect.
3. Zack Parise: New Jersey is a great organization with a rich history, but recent managerial decisions have poorly positioned the future of the team.
Bloated contracts (Ilya Kovalchuk) and aging stars (Martin Brodeur) leave the Devils with a lot to consider this offseason. Many speculate that 27-year-old Parise will be the odd man out.
New Jersey pays their star left-winger $6 million dollars this season. He is entering the prime of his career and would yield the most assets in return.
According to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, Zach Parise has the speed and creativity to flourish in Detroit:
As much as the Detroit Red Wings covet Ryan Suter as an unrestricted free agent to help their defence, the guy they absolutely would love to sign this summer is the New Jersey Devils’ unrestricted free agent captain Zach Parise. Can you imagine Parise and Pavel Datsyuk on the same line? That shouldn’t be too tough a sell job for GM Ken Holland, who can probably offer five years at an average of $8.25 million.
New Jersey would want a top six forward like Filppula or Hudler, a promising prospect, and a 1st/2nd round pick.
aka The Shea Weber/Ryan Suter Sweepstake
With just under $6 million in cap space, the Wings have the luxury of making a move for a top pair defensemen.
Lidstrom can't play forever.
The Wings don't want to make any big moves right now. Ken Holland would prefer to wait until the offseason to handle Lidstrom's replacement. But he might not have that luxury.
Philadelphia can win a Cup even with Chris Pronger sidelined for the year. The Flyer's organization is rich with young offensive talent—something that Nashville needs moving forward.
If Nashville feels they can't sign Suter, a deal will be made. If push comes to shove and Nashville makes inclinations their superstar pair is on the market. Detroit will have to react.
Suter and Weber will show no hesitation in donning the Winged Wheel
Management has had their eyes on Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
The Nashville Predators are a resilient team. There isn't much flash or creativity, but there is a lot of effort and hard work. The fact that the Predators are a playoff team that lacks a star forward, is a testament to the play of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne.
In a bold move this summer, Rinne resigned with the Predators for seven years and $49 million.
There is no doubt Rinne is one of the premier goalies in the league, but a $7 million cap hit will also make him the highest paid goalie in the NHL. A combination of salary restrictions and enticing offers may well result in one of the defensive stars leaving town.
Shea Weber is a restricted free agent playing out a one-year $7.5 million deal he signed last August. At 26 years of age, Weber has the work ethic and drive to be a Norris candidate for the next decade.
Come this offseason, he will be looking for a multi-year deal at a steep $8-9 million a year. With just under $6 million in cap space, the Wings would have to deal some cap.
Is he worth an $8 million salary?
At 6'4" and 240 lbs, Weber has the presence of an NHL giant. He broke into the league as a stalwart defensemen, but has blossomed into a patient two-way player.
He shows no hesitation in bringing the puck out of the zone. Let's not forget he's a right shot, which would be great from the point.
Because Weber is an RFA, first and second round picks will be sacrificed. In addition to the picks, the Wings would have to throw in a top-six forward and other potential veteran player.
A five-year, $40 million deal is feasible.
Ryan Suter is an unrestricted free agent.
At the age of 27, Suter is entering his prime, with his best years in front of him. He only made $3.5 million last year, and will be looking for mulit-year deal as well. Most expect his contract to payout between $5-7 million a year.
Suter plays well in each phase. He's a defensemen with great instincts and feel for the game. At 6'1", 195 lbs, Suter is the lighter-footed and more mobile of the pair. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with great positioning and stick work.
As Jeremy Gover of Section303 put it:
Suter is a more complete player without Weber by his. And he proved this recently. After Dallas Stars defenseman Mark Fistric knocked Weber out for four games with this hit on December 23, Suter averaged nearly 30:00 per game, all the while making rookie Roman Josi look like a seasoned veteran as the number two defenseman.
In Nashville, Suter puts up about 40-45 points a year. In Detroit, he could see that number increase tremendously. In other words, a guy currently a Norris darkhorse could become a perennial candidate.
In the last year of his deal, the Predators will want highly valued assets and picks.
Detroit would have to give up a first or second round pick as well as a top-six forward and replacement defenseman.
Suter would expect a four or five-year deal at between $6-7 million a year.
The Red Wings have been one the league's top organizations for the better part of two decades.
Ken Holland and company understand how to not only manage, but also develop players. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are late-draft gems who made their debuts in their 20s.
According to Ansar Khan at mlive.com, Ken Holland could be in the market for a bottom-six forward to round out the team.
There are several talented players in Detroit's system that have great potential.
I do not envision the team bringing in a bottom line forward from outside the organization. One circumstance that could result in the acquisition of a veteran grinder/role-player would be in a pairing him with a higher caliber skater through trade (ie. Zack Parise or Ryan Suter).
If injuries do plague the Wings' forwards, there are a couple skaters who have stood out in Grand Rapids:
1. Gustav Nyquist (LW): At 22 years of age, he has been given a chance to earn his way onto the team.
Unlike most players, the Swedish Winger opted to play college hockey at the University of Maine. During his All-Star tenure at Maine, he produced at over a point-per-game, capping off his career as a Hobey Baker finalist.
With the Wings for the first time this season, Nyquist has shown flashes. In the preseason, he scored two goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He's a kid with a lot of potential and promising future with the Wings. Even though this is his first season in Grand Rapids, Nyquist was named an All-Star, tallying 37 points in 36 games.There's little doubt that he is ready to play up in Detroit, it's just a matter of the players in front of him.
Tomas Tatar (LW) is a left-winger with great speed and offensive awareness. He has shown the ability to score and play-make at junior and minor levels.
This year he has 32 points in 40 games with the Griffins.
His call-up is unlikely, but he did play nine games in Detroit last year. At 21 years old, he has shown the maturity the Wings look for in players. Nyquist will definitely get the nod before Tatar, but if there are serious injuries among the teams scoring forwards, Tatar will likely end up on the roster.
Chis Conner (RW) played his role well during his time up in Detroit this year. He's a native that brings a lot of effort and grit to each shift.
In Grand Rapids, he's showcased an offensive flair, putting up 29 points in 26 games.
At 5'7", size will remain an issue. The AHL is a minor league with smaller players. Connor could potentially be called if the Wings need some hard, speedy play. Unfortunately, his height does provide a mismatch that could result in being overlooked for a call-up.