Few things get NHL fans as excited as the race to the trade-deadline day.
While nothing beats the excitement of the playoffs, the trade deadline is easily the second-most adrenaline-filled event of the NHL season.
It stands to reason then that many Detroit Red Wings fans are hoping general manager Ken Holland has designs to make a big splash by Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline—and a big splash would be an exciting thing.
However, if by 3:01 p.m., all the big names are spoken for and Detroit’s roster remains unchanged, it might just be evidence that Holland did the best thing he could have for his team at the deadline—nothing.
Sure, it’s fun to imagine Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler on the ice at Joe Louis Arena, donning a freshly stitched No. 17 jersey and shaking Nicklas Lidstrom’s hand as his jersey is raised to the rafters; but how realistic is that scenario and how much would it cost the Wings to make it a reality?
Various pundits, including Ansar Khan at Mlive.com, have weighed in on the Red Wings’ apparent pursuit of Kesler, and as far as trade scenarios go, Kesler to Detroit does make a lot of sense.
His versatile two-way abilities are quintessential to what Detroit has valued in their pivots for decades and his contract, at a reasonable cap hit of $5 million per year, has only two years left on it. At 29 years old, Kesler represents nothing but a good bet as a trade option.
Still, the Red Wings aren’t the only team to appreciate all these as highly valuable qualities, making Kesler one of the hottest targets in this year’s trade market. If the Red Wings, or any other team for that matter, are really interested in landing Kesler, they will need to be prepared to pay a steep price to do so.
Looking at Detroit’s assets, Vancouver could reasonably demand that any one of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan or Danny DeKeyser come back the other way.
Then again, the Canucks may be more interested in established players like Darren Helm or Justin Abdelkader.
Whichever player(s) they demand, they’d also be within their rights to ask for a prospect and a draft pick or two be thrown into the deal.
Let’s say for a moment that any combination of these players and picks is a reasonable price to pay for Kesler—there’s still the matter of his no-trade clause to deal with.
If Kesler is moved, it will be because he will have signed off on the deal, and while the Livonia, Mich. native may find some appeal in playing for his hometown team, looking at Detroit’s spot in the standings may trump whatever nostalgia might pull Kesler to Detroit.
If Kesler leaves Vancouver, the only NHL team he’s ever known, it will likely be for a team that is a bona fide Stanley Cup contender.
Currently, the Detroit Red Wings could not even pretend to be such a team.
Setting Kesler aside, there are defensemen, such as Buffalo’s Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers, that are apparently able to be had for the right price—very likely the same players that would be in play to land Kesler. Adding a top-four defender of either ilk would certainly be a nice addition to Detroit’s blue line.
However, like Kesler, Ehrhoff has a modified no-trade clause that would need to be dealt with, and at a cap hit of $5.5 million per year, Myers would leapfrog Niklas Kronwall as Detroit’s highest-paid defender—not a scenario Holland would be likely to entertain.
Regardless of who Ken Holland might target via trade, the prospect of losing Tatar or Nyquist, both of whom have established themselves as solid pieces of Detroit’s future, or even budding regulars like Sheahan or Jurco should be enough to give him pause.
The Red Wings have a shot at a playoff spot because of what their younger players have done for them, not in spite of it. Derailing what is shaping up to be a successful youth movement in Detroit may not be worth acquiring a big name at this year’s deadline.