Wings’ Vanek could be trade bait at deadline

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Thomas Vanek's 29 points rank second on the Red Wings to Henrik Zetterberg’s 31.

Detroit — The Red Wings are going to face an interesting choice concerning Thomas Vanek.

If the team steadily drops out of playoff contention, or the gap widens just enough where the playoffs become a longshot, does general manager Ken Holland turn to seller and dangle Vanek, a prospective unrestricted free agent, for the March 1 trade deadline?

Surely, in what could be a weak trade market in terms of impact players, Vanek could be considered a prize for a playoff contender.

Vanek has been everything the Red Wings could have expected and wished for, when they signed him to a 1-year contract on July 1.

His 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) rank second on the team to Henrik Zetterberg (31 points). But Vanek has done it only 32 games, having missed time with a hip injury.

How consistent has Vanek been? He’s not registered a point in only 10 his 32 games

Vanek has been particularly hot lately, with four goals and four assists (eight points) in his last five games.

Considered a gamble by many analysts because of his perceived poor work ethic and defense, Vanek has been a model player with the Red Wings.

“I always liked the way he plays,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who felt right away the signing was a great move. “He’s a creative player and he wants to create stuff all the time, and that’s something we need on this team.

“You have to have guys who want to go outside the box a little bit and are allowed to go outside the box a little bit. The way we play, with our structure, you need guys to find those plays and he’s really good at it.”

Coach Jeff Blashill received positive reviews on Vanek from college coach Bob Motzko — who incidentally coached both Blashill and Vanek — as well as current Red Wings assistant coaches John Torchetti and Doug Houda, both of whom coached Vanek previously (Torchetti last season with the Minnesota Wild, Houda in the minor leagues).

“His battle level is real high,” said Blashill, squashing one label that Vanek wasn’t consistently competitive. “This is the only year I’ve ever had him, I can’t speak to any other year, but he’s a great person who wants to win and wants to do great things.

“I bring him in and show him things all the time and he’s receptive and tells me when he disagrees, he’s receptive to coaching and getting better.

“He wants to be the very best he can be. The skill set, with his compete level, has made him a real good player for us.”

Zetterberg milestone

Sunday was the fourth anniversary of Henrik Zetterberg being named captain of the Red Wings.

The announcement coincided with the NHL just ending its lockout of the players, with Zetterberg replacing Nicklas Lidstrom.

“He’s learned from a few great ones in Nick and Steve (Yzerman) and he’s carried on the tradition,” Blashill said. “The strength in our room is the character of the group and that’s led by him.”

“He knows how to stay calm, he stays in front and answers questions every single night as you guys (media) know, and he stays calm. He never gets too high or low.

“He carries other people accountable by the way he carries himself and by the work ethic.”

Price is right

Goalie Jared Coreau hasn’t been told, and Blashill wouldn’t confirm his lineup for Monday’s game against Montreal, but Coreau did practice Sunday in the starter’s net.

It would be a thrill for Coreau, possibly playing against Montreal’s Carey Price, arguably the best goalie in the NHL.

Coreau has always appreciated the calmness in Price’s game.

“It’s rare you see that in a goalie, to be that calm,” Coreau said. “There are some shots where in high pressure situations, a lot of goalies would scramble or have to make it look harder, where he can make it look real easy.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

Canadiens at Red Wings

Faceoff: 3 p.m. Monday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Outlook: Montreal (27-11-6, 60 points) jumped to the divison lead early and hasn’t lost hold of it…The Canadiens are 6-2-2 over their last 10 games...G Carey Price (2.34 GAA, .921 SVS, 21-7-4) is having another outstanding season.