The Red Wings renter the NHL season after the Olympic break with 24 games remaining. 13 of these games are on the road against tough opponents. For starters the Red Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the regular season who underwent successful back surgery recently. Add in Pavel Datsyuk having knee problems before and after the Olympics makes it tougher for the Red Wings to contend. The team has been forced to go with their younger players since last season due to injuries, and as a result they seem to be accepting the challenge of playing in the NHL very well.
When the season began, the newly-acquired Stephen Weiss was going to be the replacement for second line center Valteri Filppula who signed with Tampa Bay. It seemed Weiss struggled adapting to the Red Wings system at first, and then suffering a groin problem that eventually required surgery. Weiss is expected back in the lineup soon. Johan Franzen has been out of the lineup with off and on concussion type symptoms. He also is expected back. Darren Helm was out a chunk of games and is getting back into game shape. Daniel Alfredsson has been sidelined with back problems, but has played trying to cope with them. We can go on with the injuries, but the above summarizes most of them.
Adding to the problem had been the demotions of Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, and Patrick Eaves to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The demotions are worth a large amount to the team’s Salary Cap. Eaves is currently on the Red Wings roster due to injuries, and had played well even though he has been a healthy scratch a few games. Also Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi have been healthy scratches recently since coach Mike Babcock has chosen to play the younger and faster players instead. Younger players such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Brian Lashoff, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, Cory Emmerton, Joakim Andersson and others have caught the eye of Mike Babcock.
This situation creates an interesting dilemma for General Manger Ken Holland. The trade deadline is March 5, 2014, and what does he do if anything? A lot depends on the Red Wings next 3 games that are on the road (Montreal, Ottawa, & New Jersey). Even if the Red Wings are on the outside looking in playoff wise after these 3 games, it is doubtful the Red Wings will be sellers. They more than likely will be buyers or do nothing. There are different reasons for this possible scenario.
The team needs to determine which of their younger players they want to hold onto going into next season. There are many good young players on the parent team and in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with some of them not being waiver exempt next season. Since this is the situation Ken Holland and Mike Babcock need to figure which ones to keep, and which ones to package in a possible trade deadline deal. With Henrik Zetterberg on LTIR (Long term Injured Reserve), there is now Cap space available for possible trades. It is no secret the Red Wings could use a top 4-defense man to stabilize a young defense corps. The opportunity is available to package some prospects and/or players for one. The Red Wings could also use help at forward, but at what price for a rental? For example Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders may be available, but he will be an UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) this summer. Why should the Red Wings give up players and/or prospects for a rental? If the Red Wings want him they can pursue him next summer. If they trade for Vanek it has to come with he stipulation he resigns with the Red Wings before becoming an UFA.
The Red Wings are very determined to continue their playoff steak, and why not as they proved last year anything can happen during the playoffs. They eliminated the second seed Anaheim Ducks in 7 games, and took eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to 7 games. They also have 7 UFA’s coming off the books at the end of the season, and the Salary Cap is going up. It is expected the Red Wings may resign one or two of the UFA’s, but that will probably be it. Jordin Tootoo who is currently in Grand Rapids will more than likely bought out as the Red Wings can use one more buyout, and he is the likely candidate. This should provide the Red Wings the opportunity to keep some of their younger players on the team, and pursue free agents this summer.
Do the Red Wings continue extending their playoff run this season? Flip a coin for the answer. It will probably be that close.