The Detroit Red Wings are tops in the Western Conference—well, for the moment, anyway.
With three more points than Vancouver (Vancouver has a game in hand on Detroit) and a matchup coming up against the Canucks, the Red Wings control their destiny with Thursday night's contest.
Though the Red Wings have dominated the Western Conference in the regular season, they must face facts: They are too small as a team.
That's why Mike Babcock requested a "heavy forward" in his trade needs list from Red Wings general manager Ken Holland last week.
The Red Wings currently have just five forwards who are 200 pounds or over—Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Justin Abdelkader, Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary.
Holmstrom will likely retire this offseason at the completion of his current contract, while Bertuzzi, 37, could follow suit.
So with Detroit's salary cap abundance, who might "Hockeytown" go after to fill Babcock's "heavy" forward desire?
Read on for five heavy forwards that Detroit could pursue at or before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Don't get me wrong, Tuomo Ruutu isn't the biggest guy in the world and he might not be the heaviest either.
But standing six feet tall and weighing 205 pounds, Ruutu is compact enough to protect the puck and take it to the net.
Ruutu is also solid defensively and isn't afraid to get into the frat.
With 99 hits, 21 blocked shots, and 40 penalty minutes, Ruutu could be a nice addition to Detroit's second or third line come playoff time when teams get worn down over the course of a grueling seven-game series.
He is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season, so if he pans out, Detroit could try and re-sign him.
His current cap hit is $3.8 million, but seeing as how Detroit (per CapGeek.com) can currently accept upwards of $15.7 million in salary cap, they have the space and the need for a player like Ruutu.
The Carolina Hurricanes, Ruutu's current team, are dead last in the Eastern Conference, and if they do not make a big playoff surge sometime in the near future, it would be in their best interest to try and get something back for Ruutu instead of letting him walk come July 1.
Travis Moen is another solid option for Holland to consider, and I'm sure he has considered him already.
As another pending UFA, the 6'2'', 215-pound, Moen has only nine goals and 16 points in 46 games played this season.
It may seem like an insignificant number of points for a player that is supposed to come in and make an impact for the Red Wings, but Moen's shooting percentage says differently: 20.5 percent?
I'm going to say that most players would take that shooting percentage every day of the week without thinking twice.
Moen is an excellent defensive forward as well with 39 blocked shots and 73 hits.
For his relatively small cap hit of $1.5 million, Detroit should seriously consider making a move for Moen before the Montreal Canadiens get back into the playoff race. The Habs are 14th in the Eastern Conference.
Call me crazy, but I think Taylor Pyatt can help put the "check" back in Detroit's (currently non-existent) checking line.
Pyatt, in case you're keeping track at home, is 6'4", 228 pounds. That would make him the second-heaviest forward on the Detroit roster, right behind Bertuzzi.
Pyatt won't dazzle you offensively, with just six goals and 13 points in 51 games played.
But he can be effective both down in the corners in the offensive zone and in front of the net, as no one can move him.
Pyatt would be a great pickup for Detroit and allow them to also go after someone else with his $1 million cap hit.
He is a UFA at the end of this season, and with Phoenix a little bit strapped for cash, they might take a pick or a prospect to get something in return if they are out of playoff contention later this month.
Could be worth looking into if your name is Ken Holland.
I can imagine your faces at home, trying to pronounce his name out loud.
Well, ladies and gentleman, if the Red Wings cannot retain the services of Brad Stuart this season, I would like to suggest a replacement.
Rostislav Klesla, defenseman from the Phoenix Coyotes.
Klesla is not about offense at all, with nine points in 44 games played.
But the 6'3'', 223-pound stay-at-home defenseman has 91 shot blocks and 74 hits this season with the Coyotes.
He has a cap hit of $2.975 million per season, but he is signed for the next three years and does not have a no-trade clause.
The big shot-blocking defenseman would not come cheap to the Red Wings, but as I stated on the last slide, the Coyotes are in financial trouble right now.
The time is right to make a move with both Lidstrom and Stuart possibly leaving this summer.
Now what would it take to get Klesla, the fourth overall selection in 2000?
That is up to Mr. Holland.
The Colorado Avalanche have a glaring problem: the number of impending free agents (restricted or otherwise) on their roster.
In fact, the Avalanche (per CapGeek.com) have just three forwards and three defensemen under contract with them for next season.
If that doesn't scare some Avalanche fans, it should.
Shane O'Brien is one of those pending free agents, except he is an unrestricted free agent.
O'Brien's cap hit is just $1.1 million this season.
The 6'3'', 230-pound blue liner does his job fairly well, with 13 points, 44 blocked shots and 83 hits.
O'Brien is also useful in the fact that he is averaging over 19 minutes of ice time per game.
The 28-year-old might not be high on the priorities list of Colorado general manager Greg Sherman.
If Sherman is smart, he will see that he cannot possibly re-sign all of his team, and he might not even want to do so.
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