Throughout the first half of the 2011-12 season much talk has been made surrounding the Red Wings apparent need for a top 6 forward with pure scoring talent. With big names like Jarome Iginla, Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, Alexander Semin, and Zach Parise being thrown about as targeted forwards in what would be a major trade deadline splash.
I’m here to tell you, that splash wont happen.
The biggest reason for the majority of this speculation is none other than Todd Bertuzzi. While it would seem that Bertuzzi’s placement on the top line along side Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen is a bit of a misfit (Bert not being a top 3 forward by any stretch of the imagination), it does appear to be working, which leaves me scratching my head as to why the speculation continues to abound.
Datsyuk (on pace for an 86 point season) and Franzen (poised to score more than 30 goals for just the 2nd time in his career) are both having terrific seasons, and the Red Wings find themselves ranked 6th in the league in goals for with the 3rd best goal differential in the NHL at +36. None of those things are indicative of a team in need of a greater scoring presence, at least, not from an addition.
It’s no secret that the Red Wings would indeed like to see more production from Bertuzzi on the top line (though his production is largely down due to injury), in addition to having Henrik Zetterberg get back on his game, but for now the team is managing just fine.
That’s thanks largely in part to the breakout season of Valtteri Filppula (who is on pace to smash his previous career highs this season) and the returning effectiveness of linemate Jiri Hudler following a dismal year in his return from the KHL.
With 4 out of the top 6 Red Wings’ forwards performing at or above expectations, it would seem to me at least that, rather than mess with current chemistry by shipping out or adding players, it would be more reasonable to wait for those 2 pieces to return to form, especially when one of them is already showing signs of doing so (Zetterberg has 19 points in his last 19 games).
The Red Wings are actually on pace to score more goals than what they did in 2008 when they won the Stanley Cup. Without a clear need for more goal scoring, it makes little sense to pay what would be an enormous price tag for the aforementioned players. How many of the team’s budding prospects and valuable draft picks would have to be given up in order to land names with such star power? Probably more than they’re willing to give.
What the Red Wings need more than anything is to return to the consistent dominance we’ve seen from them in the past. Graham over at Winging It In Motown wrote a very insightful piece entitled “Who are the Red Wings?” pertaining to just this topic early today that’s worth a read if you want to know what I’m talking about.
Perhaps it is the salary cap space the Red Wings find themselves with for the first time in recent years that has sparked such excitement among fans. The prospect of your team making a big move for an even bigger playoff push is certainly an enthralling one to say the least, but the idea that the franchise will use its nearly $6 million in cap space and try to trade for a big name forward at the deadline, I think, is a bit of a ludicrous notion.
While it’s nice to live in a fantasy land where Rick Nash plays on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, it is just that, a fantasy land. If the Red Wings are to make any move as we near the trade deadline it will be for a more consistent backup goaltender (or a more consistently good one anyway), and with not a lot on the market in net, Ken Holland may be holding his money until the offseason.
With 2 key defensive pieces in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart becoming UFA’s at the end of the year, that’s probably not a bad decision. While it’s possible Lidstrom will decide to retire, a search for a replacement would ensue, and Stuart is a piece the Red Wings would like to retain.
Then there’s Tomas Holmstrom, Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Mike Commodore, and Ty Conklin’s contracts to contend with. Who knows how much money will be needed to resign certain pieces of that puzzle.
Before you know it, all that cap space is gone. Adding salary now means giving up players now, and probably giving up more later, something I don’t think the Red Wings are prepared to do.
Is adding a smaller name scorer like Tuomo Ruutu or Ales Hemsky still a possibility? Sure, but I’d much rather see the team pursue the likes of Evgeni Nabokov (whom the team attempted to sign previously) or Antero Niittymaki to replace the struggling Conklin as the playoffs near.