We aren’t accustomed to seeing the Detroit Red Wings in a situation like this.
They’ve qualified for the playoffs in every season since 1989–90 but unless they go on a remarkable tear over the next few weeks that streak is going to come to a halt. In fact, if the Carolina Hurricanes win one of the two games in hand they currently have over the Red Wings then Detroit will sit dead last in the Eastern Conference.
This means the Red Wings are looking more and more like sellers with each passing day — and with the team in the midst of its bye week, general manager Ken Holland will be a busy man.
“The last week or so, the phones have been busier, both from me receiving calls and me making calls,” Holland told NHL.com.
The three rental assets Holland most likely to move are forwards Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott, plus defenceman Brendan Smith, yet as Elliotte Friedman points out in his latest 30 Thoughts column, the team could look to re-sign Smith prior to the deadline.
Vanek will be a target of any team looking to add top-six scoring. The Austrian has 15 goals and 38 points through 47 games and his $2.6-million cap hit would be easy for most teams to handle.
“I’ve had a couple brief conversations with the agents for [the unrestricted free agents] to kind of gauge what they’re thinking,” Holland explained. “We’re going to make some decisions between now and [March 1].”
Friedman also mentioned some teams have inquired about the availability of Andreas Athanasiou, although unless Holland is offered a top-pair blueliner in his early 20s it’s unlikely the Red Wings would even consider moving Athanasiou.
Have the Maple Leafs played themselves into the rental market?
“We can’t do something just for the sake of doing it.” That’s what Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello told Tim and Sid Wednesday evening.
However, with the team currently occupying a playoff spot and recently freeing up $15 million in cap space the Leafs are looking more like buyers than sellers at this point.
It’s no secret they could use an upgrade on the back end but rather than going after someone like Kevin Shattenkirk, a more realistic option would be a rental at a lower cost.
Someone like Smith perhaps?
Doug MacLean suggested on Hockey Central the other day it might be in the best interest of the Maple Leafs to consider adding a rental defenceman like Smith, who has a $2.75-million cap hit and experience playing under Mike Babcock.
If the Red Wings can’t re-sign Smith before next Wednesday there’s a strong chance he gets moved.
“I only know Red Wings hockey, and I like it,” Smith told reporters Tuesday. “That’s all I can say. I’ve loved every moment here, good and bad. They have made me a better player. I would like to continue to stay on the Wing path, but there is a business, and you never know what happens.”
Penguins looking to add defensive depth
Pittsburgh is currently without Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley. A thin blue line heading into the playoffs is the last thing a team wants so Jim Rutherford could add some depth in that area.
Ron Hainsey would fit the bill and his name has been linked to the Penguins of late. Hainsey, who has a modified no-trade clause where he can submit a list of 15 teams, has averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time per game this year and has 92 blocked shots in 56 appearances. Rutherford is familiar with Hainsey.
Hainsey was one of six defencemen (not named Shattenkirk) that ESPN listed as ideal rental players. The others were Smith, Michael Del Zotto, Kyle Quincey, Dmitry Kulikov and Mark Streit.
Canadiens are clear buyers
Montreal is open for business. It was revealed Tuesday that GM Marc Bergevin had sent a league-wide memo stating Greg Pateryn is available for a trade, but in general, the Habs are buyers.
MacLean also suggested in that Hockey Central video that the Canadiens should make a pitch for centre Martin Hanzal if the price isn’t too steep and look at Johnny Oduya on defence. Montreal has been linked to Hanzal, one of the top rental options for contending teams, as well as Matt Duchene. Oduya, who has 102 playoff games and two Stanley Cups on his resume, has been out since Jan. 17 dealing with an ankle injury but is expected to return to action soon.
Bowman doesn’t think Blackhawks will be busy
This isn’t what NHL teams want to hear at the moment, but the Chicago Blackhawks are hitting their stride. The team has won seven of eight games in February and for that reason it looks as though they’ll be quiet if not completely silent on the trade front.
“If we add a player it might be more of a depth-type move but I really don’t see us making a big splash and adding one of these names that you’re reading about in the papers,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. “It’s just not in our plans right now. You have to have room for improvement from within. It’s really hard to improve your team if you’re going to go out and look to acquire players or sign free agents. It’s just difficult to do that. I don’t want to trade these young players.”