By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – Before the NHL trade deadline passed Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings were expected to refrain from disturbing their plentiful pool of promising young players and prospects.
If anything, Detroit anticipated making a deal for a defenseman. More injury news in the last couple of days changed those plans, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told reporters Wednesday.
Holland received a text message during the second intermission of Tuesday’s game against New Jersey saying that center Darren Helm would be held out the rest of the game. Center Stephen Weiss was also injured, and first-line left winger Henrik Zetterberg had already been shut down for the rest of the regular season.
The nail in the coffin of Detroit’s early trade deadline plans, though, was the decision to shut down star center Pavel Datysuk for at least the next three weeks.
The Wings had considered that option earlier, when Datsyuk did not play at all in January after participating in the Winter Classic, but missing practices and games did not seem to help. This time, Datsyuk will be getting more aggressive treatment and be much more limited in his off-ice workouts. Holland and Wings staff felt that Datsyuk going out night after night as a shell of himself would do him and the team more harm than good.
“Pav could play last night, he could play tomorrow night, but we felt that he was going to mentally and emotionally just get beat up,” Holland said. “When you can’t do the things you want to do, all you do for the next two or three weeks is – he doesn’t have the speed, he doesn’t have the quickness to beat people, jump around and do the things that he wants to do.
“I could see it in Montreal, I could see it in Ottawa,” Holland continued. “After getting another doctor’s opinion today, after talking to Pav on Saturday, after talking to Pav on Monday, talking to [trainer Piet Van Zant] and [head coach Mike Babcock], we felt that it’s in the best interests of our hockey team and the best interests of Pav to make this decision today.”
Datsyuk’s injury combined with health issues of the team’s other centers pushed the Wings in a different direction as the trade deadline drew closer. They had not been planning to pursue forwards, feeling they were fairly deep at the position, but they decided with the uncertainty of the injuries that they needed another veteran.
“This time of the year, you’re always looking for experience,” Holland said. “We felt pretty good about our forwards. I was thinking that Pav was going to be day-to-day, maybe a few more days off, so we were really looking at some defensemen because I thought that Pav wasn’t far away, and if we could keep win, we could play our way in to maybe Z coming back, Helmer’s here and Mule’s [Johan Franzen] back and playing good …”
The text message about Helm and the news about Datsyuk shattered that hope.
“From that point on, it’s been negative news, I guess, about our forwards,” Holland said, “so as you start to go from 10 o’clock to 11 o’clock to 12 o’clock today, starting to think about, ‘Is there a centerman on the market that we think can fit what we’re looking for?’ And we think we’ve found a perfect fit.”
Instead of adding another defenseman, the Wings traded away Patrick Eaves, a conditional third-round draft pick and prospect Calle Jarnkrok, who had been playing in Grand Rapids, for veteran center David Legwand of the Nashville Predators. Holland expected Legwand to be playing on the first line for Detroit in Thursday’s game.
Holland is still hopeful for Detroit to make the playoffs, and he seemed optimistic the team could even make a run once it reaches the postseason, provided the rash of injuries finally subsides.
“As we go along here, we’re hoping to get some of these people back,” Holland said. “If we can qualify for the playoffs, we still believe that there’s a chance in the first round of the playoffs Z will be ready to play. He was in the office today a few hours ago, feeling better. Shutting Pav down for three weeks, we’re hoping that some time in late March, we’re going to get news on the Pav front. We’re hoping that we’re going to get good news on Weiss, and we’re hoping that as we go along we’ll get some good news on Darren Helm.
“Once you get in, it’s a brand new season,” Holland added. “As I look at our team, the price that we paid, the prospect is a good player, and a real good prospect, but we felt it was a position of strength. You’ve got to give to get. We want to play our way into the playoffs.”