Detroit Red Wings' 5 Biggest Needs Ahead of the Trade Deadline

Daniel WilliamsContributor IIIFebruary 25, 2014

Detroit Red Wings' 5 Biggest Needs Ahead of the Trade Deadline

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    NHL play returned Tuesday night following the Olympic break, and the Detroit Red Wings are in a unique predicament.

    Henrik Zetterberg will likely miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. He will be reevaluated in approximately eight weeks.

    The good news for Detroit is the impending return of both Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen from injuries. Weiss is on the mend from sports hernia surgery, while Franzen is recovering from concussion symptoms.

    Zetterberg’s injury will also give Detroit another much-needed reprieve from the salary cap. It’s probable he’ll be placed on long-term injured reserve when Weiss is activated.

    With the March 5 trade deadline looming, it’s not likely Detroit will make any significant moves to improve its club. However, that doesn’t mean this team doesn't have glaring needs.

    Whether it is cap room, roster space or a player to improve their lineup, the Wings will certainly be making and fielding phone calls leading up to the 3 p.m. EST cutoff.

    There aren’t a significant number of players available that Detroit can afford or that will drastically progress its lineup.

    Whatever general manager Ken Holland does before March 5 likely won’t be reminiscent of trade deadlines past.

    With that in mind, here are Detroit’s five biggest needs ahead of the trade deadline.

Salary-Cap Space

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    Swapping Stephen Weiss and Henrik Zetterberg on long-term injured reserve will grant Detroit a little extra wiggle room under the cap.

    Detroit has been bumping its head on the payroll ceiling for the majority of the season, and it needs to move some money.

    The Red Wings have four players out of the regular lineup counting between $1-3 million against the cap.

    Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary have been regular scratches of late, while Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo have recently spent time with Grand Rapids of the AHL. All have expiring contracts at the end of this season.

    If Zetterberg heals according to schedule, he could be available to return for the start of the playoffs—if Detroit qualifies. The club will need the extra space under the cap to activate him.

    Samuelsson would be the biggest relief—if the Wings can move him. He counts $3 million against the cap and has a no-trade clause. Bertuzzi makes just over $2 million and could provide lesser relief as well, but he also possesses the dreaded no-trade clause.

    Another option would be to trade defenseman Kyle Quincey, who makes $3.77 million against the cap and hasn’t performed well this season. Quincey has three goals, nine points and is a minus-eight in 58 games.

    It would be tough for Detroit to move any of its current roster players since the team is still in the thick of the playoff race. Guys like Cleary, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson and Tootoo are expendable, but they are not the most eye-catching commodities.

    It will take some magic, but there is no doubt that something needs to give by the deadline for Detroit’s long-term benefit.

Roster Flexibility and Consistency

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    As briefly stated in the previous slide, Detroit will need to make room to accommodate Henrik Zetterberg come playoff time.

    It won’t be as difficult when the 23-man roster limit is lifted after the trade deadline. Until then, Detroit will need to make room for the return of Johan Franzen as well as Stephen Weiss.

    Zetterberg will eventually shift to the long-term injured reserve, making room for Weiss coming off. Weiss will go on a conditioning stint before returning to Detroit’s lineup.

    While we know Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have secured their spots, it comes down to Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening.

    All three youngsters have been terrific in their stints this season, so it will to be tough to demote one back to the AHL.

    On a positive note, they’ll receive plenty of playing time in the AHL and remain available for a promotion should injuries continue to riddle Detroit’s lineup.

    Detroit won’t necessarily need a center with Weiss stepping in for Zetterberg and Franzen’s ability to play the position. If Pavel Datsyuk isn’t 100 percent, he’ll be forced to play the wing.

    On defense, Jakub Kindl has been nursing an MCL sprain he suffered on February 3 against Vancouver. While he did practice during the break, he’s questionable for the upcoming games on Wednesday and Thursday.

    With Kindl out, Brian Lashoff will remain in the lineup, and prospect Ryan Sproul has been called up as the team’s seventh defenseman.

    Only two players have played in every game for Detroit this season: Kyle Quincey and Drew Miller. It has been hard for the Wings to put forth their best effort when their roster seems to have a new face game in and game out.

Top-4 Defenseman

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    Detroit needs help on the blue line, but unfortunately, a deal for a top-four defenseman is an unlikely consequence.

    While a few big-name players are headed for free agency this offseason, the majority of the candidates play for teams that remain in the playoff hunt.

    Teams that are out of contention are going to want an ample return in the form of draft picks and prospects. Right now, Detroit’s most valuable prospects are those that have been making waves on its roster.

    According to the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis, New York Islanders young defenseman Andrew MacDonald (pictured above) was put on trading block after rejecting a long-term contract from the Isles, but with the current shape of their organization, they’re going to demand a king’s ransom for his services.

    The New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi has been part of the rumor mill, per CBS Sports' Brian Stubits. However, there appears to be more progress toward a contract extension.

    Most of the available defensemen at this deadline are well out of Detroit’s price range in terms of cap space. A lot of teams are looking to unload unattractive contracts, and with Detroit’s financial conundrum, it isn’t a likely destination.

    Heading into the offseason, Detroit is looking at $21-plus million to work with—before re-signing its own free agents. That is most likely when it will make its necessary changes.

    While the trade deadline could wield many possible surprises, the chances of a big move in Hockeytown are slim to none.

An Additional Scoring Threat

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    It is exciting to see how players like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have rounded into solid contributors, but another top-six scorer is still needed.

    Losing such a key offensive player like Henrik Zetterberg is devastating for Detroit, which ranks 20th in the league in goals for.

    There aren’t many players that are affordable for Detroit, assuming it can clear any space to take on another contract. Detroit wouldn't have to go into complete buyer’s mode to acquire a rental player, but GM Ken Holland has stated he won't do so.

    Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres (pictured above) is a player who's generated quite a bit of interest among teams looking to make a trade, per SportsBusiness Daily's Chris Botta. He has not been connected to Detroit, but Moulson makes a smidge more than Mikael Samuelsson.

    Detroit would need to be careful in regard to its cap situation, as a deal would be with the intent to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

    When Zetterberg is put on long-term injured reserve, the team will be temporarily relieved of his salary. Should he return for the playoffs, they Wings will still need the necessary room to activate his $6-plus million contract.

    It would take excessive maneuvering and likely cost a high-profile prospect for Detroit to land a quality scorer. Looking at the team's current standing and financial predicament, it is very unlikely a noteworthy move is made.

A Versatile Enforcer

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    This could actually be the most intriguing and likely of acquisition scenarios for the Red Wings.

    Yes, they have Jordin Tootoo, but he doesn’t provide much for the team outside of a big hit and a routine altercation. His small frame leaves a lot to be desired as well.

    One player that would be a decent fit is Buffalo Sabres center Steve Ott. He’s the kind of player fans love on their team and opposing teams hate to play against.

    Ott makes $2.95 million while adding a staunch ability to win faceoffs and contribute on the penalty kill. The 6'0" center plays with a chip on his shoulder and could provide Detroit with an extra bit of tenacity.

    Detroit’s offense relies on an abundance of players, but it only has a handful of players that stand taller than six feet.

    Ott plays the agitator well and because he can play the penalty kill, he provides a little extra bang for the buck.

    Detroit’s grit comes in the form of its blue-collar, bottom-six forwards, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to toughness. At his price, Ott could provide good depth and strength in Detroit’s lineup.

    As mentioned in previous slides, Detroit will likely pass on a rental player at the deadline and reevaluate its roster through free agency.