The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Detroit Red Wings will have some tough decisions to make. This is not the typical Red Wings team that can be considered a favorite for the Stanley Cup.
This means that they are not just one player away from making a run. Of course, as the Los Angeles Kings proved last year, it is not where you are at the beginning of April, but how you finish in June that matters.
The defense entered the season as a big question mark. Many expected that at this point of the season they would have to add a defenseman. With the retirement of Nick Lidstrom, and Brad Stuart heading to San Jose, the unit was going to need to step up. While it is not as good as normal, it does still rank ninth in goals allowed.
Niklas Kronwall, Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey have been playing well. The rookies, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff, have shown that they are NHL ready. Carlo Colaiacovo should return from his injury soon, and Jonathan Ericsson has been OK. Quincey will miss most, if not all of the remainder of the season due to a broken cheekbone.
The team has recently made some moves on defense. Kent Huskins was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. They also added Dan DeKeyser this week. He is the two-time defensive player of the year in the CCHA. While he is expected to be a top-four defensive player, he will need some time.
Calgary Flame defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has been the top defender mentioned as a possibility for Detroit. While playing for the Florida Panthers early in his career, Bouwmeester showed a knack for scoring while maintaining his defensive responsibility. He has not been able to achieve that same success in Calgary. Still, at 29 years old, he is still a top-four defender who would be a great addition.
There are two problems that will likely prevent such a move from happening.
First, his contract will be a cap hit of $6.68 million next season. Considering that the NHL cap will drop next year to $64.3 million, do they really want to tie up that much money into this player? With Smith and Lashoff they have two young defenders on the team. They also have players like Adam Almqvist, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Chad Billins and Nathan Paetsch within their minor league system who they need to look at making room for.
In addition to making room for Bouwmeester's incoming salary, the team also faces an offseason where they will have Valtteri Filppula, Damian Brunner and Jimmy Howard as unrestricted free agents, who they will likely want to retain. Danny Cleary, Ian White and Drew Miller are also free agents but seem unlikely to return.
In addition to them, they will also have Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl as restricted free agents that they team will need to re-sign.
Secondly, after the Flames traded Jarome Iginla last week, they were roundly criticized for basically giving him away. It is highly unlikely that they will risk that kind of wrath again. This means that the asking price for Bouwmeester will likely be much too high now.
If they can move one young player and pawn off a bad contract such as Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi or Mikael Samuelsson, then it would be worth it. But let’s face it: Those deals are more likely to happen in your fantasy hockey league then in the NHL. While adding Bouwmeester would be good, he is not the team's biggest need at the trade deadline.
What they really need is a sniper. A true scoring threat that thinks shot all of the time. The team has dropped to 19th in goals scored this season. Last season they were seventh, and the year before they were second in the league.
With Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Filppula, the team already has several guys who can score, but they are just as likely to pass it off to someone else. They really need someone with a scorer’s mentality.
What should the Red Wings do?
Martin St. Louis is another player who could be available. At 37, though, the team needs to avoid going for another aging player with a big contract—$5.5 million for next season. Especially if it costs young talent.
Bobby Ryan is another option. He had been a regular on the rumor mill in the past, but things seem to be going well in Anaheim now. He is signed for five more years to a reasonable contract of $5.56 per year.
Regardless, if they go for an established player, like the ones mentioned, or go for an up-and-comer, GM Ken Holland will have to be crafty in securing a pure scorer for the team. It will not be easy, but it is by far the team's biggest need as the deadline approaches.
*Contract numbers via CapGeek