Ever since Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland took over the Red Wings' front office duties in 1997, he's had a clear-cut plan for approaching the trade deadline: find that added piece for a Stanley Cup contender that will improve the team. However, this trade deadline comes with an added obstacle, as realignment is set to take place next season.
First, due to the lockout-shortened season, the Red Wings are in the middle of the playoff race in the Western Conference. Though unlike other years, they haven't separated themselves from the playoff pretenders.
This puts Holland and the Red Wings in a predicament, since they could make a trade and then not even qualify for the playoffs. If that happened, it could potentially set the franchise back several years.
Holland addressed his thought process regarding the upcoming trade deadline on March 22 with the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James:
From our perspective, how it affects the Detroit Red Wings - we need to win some games. I look at the trade deadline, and there are buyers and sellers, and those that stand pat. And those that stand pat are teams that are on the bubble. You don't want to throw a lot of assets at something that you're not sure if you're going to miss the playoffs. I'm talking about young players and draft picks.
So, we need to win some games. We've got six games before the deadline. First off, we want to win some games because we want to make the playoffs. But the more games you can win of the six, it lets you think that you've got a chance to be a playoff team, and then you can maybe try to add something. Let's see.
Holland has made some great trades around the trade deadline in the past, but as I have previously written, he should hold steady. This article was written before realignment was confirmed for next season.
While realignment will benefit the Red Wings greatly next season, making a trade this season will be a lot more costly.
Let me explain.
Generally, teams don't like to make trades within their own division or conference, especially if it will give an opponent a significant advantage and weaken them in the process.
If a team does make a trade, generally, the price is higher than it would be when dealing with a team in another conference.
This is where it gets tricky for the Red Wings. I strongly believe that the Red Wings won't want to acquire a short-term rental, but rather a player that can help them into the future as well.
As of March 21, no Western Conference team is more than six points out of a playoff spot. So each team will not be willing to help any of the other teams in the West strengthen their position to make the playoffs.
That leaves only Eastern Conference teams as potential trade partners, since a team from the West doesn't run the risk of playing a team from the East until the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, with the Red Wings entering the Eastern Conference, teams in the East will be wary of helping the Red Wings out long term. The teams in the East realize that they are going to have to contend with the Red Wings for a playoff spot in the future.
That is why realignment will make the price at the deadline a lot higher and in effect, may make Ken Holland's decision a lot easier by standing still.