Detroit Red Wings' Trade for David Legwand Desperate but Worth It

Matt HutterAnalyst IMarch 5, 2014

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2014 file photo, Nashville Predators center David Legwand warms up to play  against the Minnesota Wild in an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn. The Nashville Predators announced Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 that they have traded away their first draft pick, sending forward David Legwand back to his hometown Detroit. The Predators got Patrick Eaves, a prospect and a third-round draft pick in exchange for Legwand. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

When the clock struck 3 p.m. on Wednesday, it appeared the Detroit Red Wings had remained utterly silent on trade-deadline day—then came the news that one of Detroit’s more familiar foes would now become a much-needed friend.

No one can be sure when Detroit general manager Ken Holland decided it was time to pick up the phone and call his Nashville counterpart David Poile and make the deal to acquire center David Legwand. However, it likely occurred sometime between learning that center Darren Helm was once again on the shelf and mothballing Pavel Datsyuk for most of the rest of the season.

While Holland had previously stated the team would not be looking for rental players at the deadline, acquiring Legwand, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, may turn out to be exactly that.

If that’s the case, then the price paid to land Legwand in the form of winger Patrick Eaves, prospect Calle Jarnkrok and a third-round pick will likely be viewed as entirely too high.

The Red Wings have acquired a player who may or may not make a substantive impact on the team this season and who they could very well lose for nothing and then some over the summer. One might ask, “What was Ken Holland thinking?”

Honestly, Holland had no choice but to make this trade.

While Legwand is no Ryan Kessler (who, after much hoopla, is staying right where he is in Vancouver), he is an able-bodied, two-way center who had emerged as Nashville’s leading scorer this season. Facing life without centers Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm for the foreseeable future, Legwand equates to a blockbuster deadline deal that may very well mean the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

Then again, how immediate of an impact can Legwand really make in Detroit?

There’s reason to hope Legwand can make his presence felt as soon as he clears the Joe Louis Arena boards.

Legwand, a Detroit-area native, has an intimate knowledge of the Red Wings, as his entire NHL career has been spent facing them on a regular basis as a member of the Nashville Predators, a team that resides in the Central Division Detroit occupied until this season.

While he’s now skating on the other side, it’s safe to say Legwand understands the systems and tendencies of his new team in a way not many new players can.

As for what he brings to the team individually, Legwand’s skill set seems particularly well suited to the Red Wings’ game.

While not a dominating physical player, Legwand understands how to execute a solid defensive game and is capable of lining up against top opposing forwards in the faceoff circle.

Though he’s eclipsed the 20-goal mark only twice in his career, Legwand has finished north of 40 assists nine times in his 14-year career. In fact, with 30 helpers so far this season, he’ll walk into Detroit behind only defenseman Niklas Kronwall in assists (32) among active roster players.

While head coach Mike Babcock will need to figure out who will flank him, it stands to reason that both Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen will find a willing distributor in Legwand should they line up next to him.

As Detroit continues to announce a steady stream of players headed off the roster and on to the long-term injured reserve list, the need to find somebody, anybody, to fill in at center has grown exponentially.

Given the dire state of his team’s health and David Legwand’s skill set and familiarity with the team, Ken Holland made what could be a season-saving trade for the Detroit Red Wings.