By: Will Burchfield
A lot can change for the Red Wings’ leading up to the March 1 trade deadline, but here’s one thing Ken Holland knows for sure:
“We’re not going to be a buyer. We’re not going to trade future assets to try to bring in somebody to make us a little better. We’re either going to stand pat or we’re going to see if teams have interest in some of our players. That’s what I’ll work the phone to do here over the next three to four weeks,” Holland told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket on Thursday.
Holland described standing pat as, “You’re sort of in it but you’re not going to waive the white flag and you’re not prepared to play future assets.”
The Red Wings, currently in last place in the East and seven points out of a playoff spot, have 11 games remaining before the trade deadline. If things don’t improve, they’ll likely try to unload some veterans — but it’s not as simple as it may sound.
“First off, if you make a decision that you’re going to be a seller, somebody’s gotta want what you’re looking to sell,” Holland explained. “It’s gotta be a fit because it’s a salary cap world and there’s cap implications and then there’s assets, do they want to pay assets? Do they think the player that you might have available is what they’re looking for?”
The Red Wings best trade chip, for example, could be Thomas Vanek, and even his value doesn’t appear to be all that high. Another player who could draw interest from contending teams is defenseman Mike Green.
Holland said the Wings will listen to any and all trade proposals, but will only consider those that aid the team in its youth movement.
“We’re in a position where you’ve gotta listen to any offer at any point in time. I think if you’re going to trade some of the young people in our organization that you think are a big part of the future, you’re doing it for another young player. You’re not trading young for old, it’s young for young. I don’t think that anybody’s untouchable, but the reality is those kind of deals either aren’t there or they’re really hard for teams to make,” said Holland.
“I think that we’ve got some players who we think are going to be here for a while, but if all of a sudden a player becomes available that you didn’t think was going to become available and you’ve gotta part with some assets you don’t really want to part with, then you’ll think about it.”
The Wings’ biggest area of need is on the blue line. Holland has tried hard in recent years to land a top-pair defenseman, someone who could replace the aging Niklas Kronwall, but the market hasn’t made it possible.
“Those teams that have those defensemen that are going to make this team dramatically better, they’re not available,” Holland said. “I think there’s lots of defensemen you can say could come in and play on our team, but they’re not going to upgrade us. It’s just going to be another defensemen. We’ve got lots of NHL defensemen, what we’re looking for is a star,” Holland said.
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The GM pointed to his various acquisitions for defensemen in the past as evidence that he values a strong blue line. From the signings of Uwe Krupp, Brian Rafalski and Mike Green to the trades for Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schneider and Brad Stuart, Holland feels he has made one thing clear: “I’m all about defense.”
“If there’s an opportunity to swing a deal to bring in a defensemen that makes us better, my history has been I’ll pull the trigger, I’ll trade future assets. But at the end of the day, I haven’t pulled the trigger because that opportunity has not presented itself,” he said.
“Would you like to upgrade your defense? Absolutely, you’re always looking to upgrade. But I think the reality is you’ve gotta draft it, you’ve gotta develop it and you’ve gotta wait,” said Holland.
The Wings selected four defensemen in last year’s draft, including two in the first two rounds: Dennis Cholowski (20th overall) and Filip Hronek (53rd overall). They also chose Vili Saarijarvi in the third round (73rd overall) the year before that.
“Now, the reality is, those people aren’t showing up here for five years, even if we hit,” Holland said.
With 32 games remaining and the Red Wings facing an uphill climb in the standings, things look grim for their 25-year playoff steak. But Holland isn’t throwing in the towel just yet.
“You’re always holding out hope,” he said. “Right now it doesn’t look very optimistic, (but) you’ve gotta win five in a row or five out of six to climb back into the mix. We haven’t been able to put a run like that together so I can see people saying I don’t know if you can…But our players are trying to win, our coaches are trying to win. In the meantime, I’ll work the phones and I’ll see what teams out there are thinking.”