Trade deadline: Wings will finesse deal if price is right

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — When it comes to trades before the Feb. 29 deadline, some numbers matter more than others.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland

General manager Ken Holland said Friday that points in the standings are a bigger factor than the comparatively limited space the Red Wings have under the salary cap.

If he sees a worthwhile deal, Holland said, he probably can finesse the cap issue, despite just $4.3 million in space.

“I think if you want to do something bad enough, you can see around the league there’s a way to get creative — if you’re desperate enough or determined enough or in need enough,” Holland said.

Jumbled playoff races

But the dealing is difficult, for now, because teams do not know if they are in the market.

Six teams, including the Wings, were within three points in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference entering play Friday. In the West, eight teams in playoff contention were within eight points.

When it comes to forwards who might help the Red Wings invigorate an offensive attack that has concerned them much of the season, players like Kyle Okposo of the Islanders, Andrew Ladd of the Jets, and Radim Vrbata of the Canucks are not necessarily available yet. But, with the Maple Leafs poised to sell what they can, P.A. Parenteau might be.

The Wings may well be happier with their defensemen, although in the long run another top four blue-liner is in order.

But among those available and potentially of interest, Keith Yandle of the Rangers looks destined for the playoffs, and Dan Hamhuis of the Canucks, and Kris Russell of the Flames, still have a shot. But Justin Schultz of the Oilers might be available.

And it may take another week-and-a-half for more than half the league to determine whether they will buy, sell or stand pat.

“I haven’t really talked to other teams, to be honest with you,” Holland said after the morning skate before Friday’s game against the Avalanche. “No one is calling me, and I haven’t called anybody.

“I think if you look at the standings that answers why.

“You know, I’ve had the odd conversation, but I don’t sense there’s a whole lot going on around the league.”

The Maple Leafs and Senators put together a nine-player deal that finally rid Toronto of Dion Phaneuf and his large contract, in part, because the Leafs are selling, big time.

And the Predators and Blue Jackets swapped major, young talents Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones on Jan. 6, in a fairly even exchange of talent perceived as advantageous to both teams.

Last-minute decisions

Uncertainty is so pervasive among general managers that even Holland said the status of his club was trending toward some doubts after consecutive losses to the Lightning and Panthers coming out of the All-Star break before the Wings ran the table on the Islanders, Panthers and Senators.

“Prior to this three-game win streak, we came home to an important five-game home stand not knowing where we were going with our year,” he said.

About a week before the deadline, phone calls might heat up, he said.

“I expect the last week, leading up to the trade deadline, there’s going to be lots of conversations,” Holland said. “But, right now, I think most teams are in the same spot we’re in. They’re trying to decide what they’ve got, and where they fit.”

Meanwhile, he said he likes lots of his roster and that makes the decisions more difficult than the issue of cap space.

He said he believes Brad Richards and Mike Green have improved the lineup, and that the development of Dylan Larkin and Alexey Marchenko has accomplished the same.

He pointed out that Teemu Pulkkinen, the defending American Hockey League scoring leader, must wait for a chance to re-enter the lineup.

A forward or defenseman?

Patience is a virtue at this juncture because it delays the judgment on exactly what tweak is needed to better the playoff chances.

What do they need more, a forward or a defenseman?

“You know, everyone talks about our scoring,” Holland said. “But, for the most part, the teams we play against don’t score any more goals than we do — in the games that we play.

“The good news is, if you can play your way into the playoffs, one-goal games? That’s playoff hockey.”

Besides, who knows what the other voice on the phone is going to say when it finally begins ringing.

“Last year, going up to the trade deadline, we thought we wanted a defenseman,” he said. “And the last week we decided a forward was our priority, because we went on a 4-1-1 road trip in California and played pretty good. So we did (Erik) Cole.”

Just before the deadline, the phone rang again.

“At one o’clock, I got a call from Lou Lamoriello and we did a third-round pick for (Marek) Zidlicky,” Holland said.