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Wings' GM mulling moves vs. patience

Friday, 03.29.2013 / 3:43 PM ET / News
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Wings\' GM mulling moves vs. patience

The Red Wings find themselves in a tricky position as the NHL's April 3 trade deadline approaches.

After dropping the last game of a previously perfect road trip on Thursday night in San Jose, the Red Wings are sixth in the Western Conference with 39 points. They're just five points ahead of the ninth-place Nashville Predators, but also just three points behind the Minnesota Wild for fourth -- which is the highest spot Detroit can realistically reach.

After the retirements of several stars recently -- including former captain and legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom last June -- the Red Wings are now trying to "rebuild on the fly," as general manager Ken Holland puts it.

That means any trade options this season will be weighed even more carefully than usual. Detroit isn't exactly a seller, but also isn't a lock-sure buyer.

"We're going to work the phones and explore if there's a move that can make us better," Holland told NHL.com this week. "I'm not going to make a move for the sake of making a move. We're a work in progress. We're trying to have patience, and the more we've been able to hang in the race … it maybe gives me more patience."

Much of that progress, however, was created by a spate of injuries -- including forwards Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson, whom Holland signed last summer in free agency. Helm and Bertuzzi have missed nearly the entire season with lingering back ailments and have undetermined timetables for returning, while Samuelsson should get back into the lineup next week after an extended absence with a non-displaced fracture in his index finger.

That's not to mention the shoulder injury that's kept another veteran free-agent acquisition, Carlo Colaiacovo, sidelined most of the season or defenseman Kyle Quincey's recently-fractured cheekbone. Power forward Johan Franzen also left the loss Thursday night in San Jose after the second period with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

So the injuries keep stacking up -- especially at forward -- and Holland is faced with a bit of a dilemma: Keep the status quo and find out if all the young guys who've helped get them to this point can keep it going, or see if there are moves that can be made for even more veteran help.

"I'm going to explore the market up front to see if there's a fit," Holland said. "I'm going to work the phones a little bit. I've talked to some people. All in all, we go back to last June when Lidstrom retired and we traded the signing rights to Brad Stuart. We thought when we signed Mikael Samuelsson and Damien Brunner and Jordin Tootoo … we hoped we would have more depth up front. We wake up today and we've been sitting out three, four or five forwards in a lot of games … and yet we're hanging in there."

They've also gotten good news about Quincey's facial fracture, which happened March 15 in Edmonton when he was hit in the face by the puck. It won't require surgery to correct and Quincey -- whom Holland acquired near the trade deadline last season for Detroit's first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft -- could be back in two weeks rather than missing the rest of the regular season. Holland mentioned that several times during a phone call on Thursday afternoon.

"I think we're at about 180 man-games lost to injuries and we're averaging six regulars out every night," Holland said. "They're starting to come back, but at the same time our kids have been given an opportunity and have done a tremendous job."

That leads right into the other part of the Red Wings' puzzle: At what cost would trading for another veteran be worthwhile?

The Red Wings, long known for making sure prospects are well-seasoned in the minors, have been forced to live outside their comfort zone because of the injury situation. They've put a number of young players into regular roles and gotten decent or better results from almost all of them.

Jakub Kindl, who just turned 26 in February, leads the team with a plus-17 rating, while fellow defensemen Brian Lashoff (22 years old) and Brendan Smith (24) have been solid as Detroit's second pairing -- notwithstanding a terrible turnover deep in their own end on Thursday night that led directly to the Sharks' critical second goal.

Up front, the Red Wings have gotten contributions from 24-year-old center Joakim Andersson -- filling in impressively for Helm on the third line -- along with 24-year-old Cory Emmerton, 23-year-old Gustav Nyquist and 22-year-old Tomas Tatar. They also got a sneak peek at exciting 21-year-old rookie goalie Petr Mrazek, who in two starts went 1-1-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

Those guys, plus a number of other Red Wings prospects and/or picks, are in Holland's stockpile of trade arsenal and are certain to come up in almost any talks he has with opposing GMs. Versatile forward Valtteri Filppula, who's 29, is also potential trade bait because he will become an unrestricted free agent this summer if not signed to a contract extension.

Detroit has been linked in trade speculation to veteran Calgary Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Holland and his front office staff then must decide whether acquiring him would be worth it if the price were to include one of his young goaltenders -- Mrazek or 19-year old prospect Jake Paterson -- who dazzled for the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit this season despite a rough showing in the playoffs.

"We've got a younger team and we're trying to rebuild it," Holland said. "We have to decide if now's the time … are we a playoff team, and not only that but is now the time to do something or should we continue letting the kids go? We've probably got better depth than we thought we did when the season started, and the [young players] are going to get better. So we're going to continue to evaluate."

If the right deal materializes, look for Holland to pull the trigger. If not, he can be content standing pat.

"Trades, to me, can't be forced," Holland said. "Trades happen because two sides each get something they want. Even if you think you have a need and want to do it, there has to be a fit. Somebody else has to have a need. It's a responsibility to work the phone and see what's available, but part of our deadline moves will be internal. We hope to get some of our injured people back."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80