Ah, the NHL trade deadline. A night when Red Wings fans go to sleep dreaming of the new defensemen, goaltender, or high scoring forward who will soon be skating for the winged wheel. And who could blame them? Ken Holland has worked his magic on more than one occasion. Last year Holland brought in Brad Stuart to solidify his defense and rode it all the way to the Stanley Cup. However, fans should not expect a move this year.
There is a reason why Ken Holland is known as the best GM in hockey, and should be considered one of the best in all of sports. He has succeeded in the free spending days and in the new hard capped NHL. And it is that cap that will not allow Holland to pull the usual magic Wings fans are so accustomed to seeing.
Simply put, the Wings can’t make a trade because they are so tight up against the cap. We’re talking less than a million under the cap, so anyone Holland does bring in is not likely to be a big name player. Any move to bring in a super star would force Holland to dump salary and more than a few Red Wing players and Holland simply will not do that.
And who can blame him? The Wings are essentially the same team that won the Cup last year, except they have added scoring machine Marian Hossa. They are currently comfortably in second place in the Western Conference behind only the San Jose Sharks. Some would say this is exactly the reason why Holland should make a move, to better compete with the Sharks.
By only looking at the standings it makes sense, however, if you look at the head to head match up between the two teams the Sharks lead 2-1 with the last game coming up on February 25th. One game saw the Wings dismantle the Sharks and the other two games in San Jose saw very tight games.
Other than the Sharks is there really any team that strikes fear into the hearts of Wings fans? I hardly think so. It will likely be a Wings vs. Sharks Western Conference Finals, and I’ll take the experience the Wings possess.
Some fans have said Detroit needs to upgrade their goaltending and should go after Nicolas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild. Backstrom is a top goalie that ranks in the top five of all the major goalie statistics. No doubt he would make a great addition to the Wings. There is only one problem, his hefty 5 million cap hit, room the Wings simply don’t have. In order to fit Backstrom the Wings would have to move goalie Chris Osgood, promising young center Valteri Filpula, and another player in order to make room for Backstrom.
Chris Osgood has led the Wings twice to the Stanley Cup, he knows how to get it down in the playoffs. He has struggled this year but that hasn’t been a problem due to the play of back up Ty Conklin who has six shut outs already. If Ozzie can’t correct his game by April the Wings will turn to Conklin to defend the Cup.
The defense has been a little shaky as well this year. Uncharacteristic turnovers, number of shots on goal, and terrible penalty killing have plagued the team all year long. However, much like the goalie situation these guys have been there before and know what it takes come spring. And the cap issue arises again. Any defenseman worthy of trading for is going to cause the Wings to have to shed salary and that means giving up two, three, or more players, and that is something Holland is not willing to do. The Wings made their acquisition to improve their team and that was signing Hossa this summer.
That’s what makes Holland the best in the business. He knows he has a great team right now. He knows his team will be one of the favorites to win the Cup this year, and as they stand now a team that will be favored to win the Cup for years to come. Holland will not sacrifice long term success for an immediate one. Some teams will sell the farm, much like Pittsburgh did last year to acquire Hossa, only to watch him walk at the end of the year, in order to get a super star. Holland is smart enough to realize he has the team to beat in the playoffs, the Cup resides in Hockeytown, and all others will be trying to make a move to pull even with Detroit.
So sleep tight this trade deadline Red Wings fans, and have vision of another Stanley Cup parade come June. You’re still the team to beat.