Wings stand pat at deadline;
Howard steals two points in Dallas
By KEITH GAVE
Red Wings General Manager kicked a lot of tires heading into Monday’s trade deadline, but in the end decided to stand pat as his team strives to make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 25th straight season.
He likes his team, he said, and there was no point in squandering top draft picks and prospects for rentals who might improve his roster in the short term. A few hours later, the Wings rewarded management’s decision with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Dallas Stars.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the game winner on a power play, ending Detroit’s 0-20 skid with the extra man. And that big, fast, scoring winger everybody said the Wings needed to add before the deadline? Turns out it just might be Andreas Athanasiou, a 22-year-old rookie who scored the other two Detroit goals.
But it was the goaltender everybody wanted to run out of town in the last month or so who deserves the most credit for the two precious points that lifted the Wings into third place in the Atlantic Division, just three points behind co-leaders Florida and Tampa Bay.
Jimmy Howard started in place of Petr Mrazek, who has a minor leg injury. And for the second straight start, Howard was brilliant. He made 39 saves to earn his first victory in three months. In his last three appearances, Howard has allowed just three goals, stopping 74 of 77 shots for a .961 save percentage.
The only move Holland prior to the deadline was trading spare-part defenseman Jakub Kindl to Florida on Saturday. Detroit’s first-round pick (19th overall) in 2005 fetched a sixth-round pick in 2017. Kindl had cleared waivers earlier this season when he was assigned to Grand Rapids.
So the 3 p.m. deadline came and went, and Holland decided not to part with the draft picks and prospects it would have taken to pry 33-year-old left wing Scott Hartnell from the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the end, it likely came down to money.
While Kindl’s deal subtracted $2.1 million of room under the salary cap headed into next season, Holland will need every penny he can to re-sign restricted free agents Petr Mrazek and defenseman Danny DeKeyser this summer. And the Wings would like to keep defenseman Kyle Quincey, too, but in the open market as an unrestricted free agent he’ll command a decent raise from the $4.25 million he’s been paid the past two years.
Holland approached the deadline feeling especially secure about his team’s goaltending and defense, which is especially deep in talent. He acknowledged they could use some offense up front, especially with Gus Nyquist and Tomas Tatar producing fewer goals than expected of them. The Wings entered the final 20 games of their regular season in the bottom third in the league in goals per game (2.15, 21st overall), and 24th on the power play – and they were among the league leaders a year ago. This year, they have an arguably better lineup.
Meantime, the Wings gave themselves a little breathing room with consecutive road victories in Colorado and Dallas. With 75 points, the Wings are six points ahead of ninth-place Philadelphia.
Tatar (17) and Nyquist (15) each produced goals Saturday against the Avalanche. And if their line, centered by Riley Sheahan, can find a way to produce consistently it will give coach Jeff Blashill the option to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together on a devastating top line with Justin Abdelkader. The Wings are a lot easier to defend when opponents have only one line to worry about.
A third line featuring rookies Dylan Larkin and Athanasiou – who has every bit as much speed as Larkin, and he’s bigger – with veteran Brad Richards in the middle, provides yet another offensive dimension.
Sometimes the best trades are the ones that aren’t made. And as the deadline passed, it’s impossible to second-guess Holland. He is right after all: The Red Wings are an easy team to like these days.
Next up for the Wings: Chicago visits the Joe on Wednesday night. And you can hear all the action right here on Y101, your home for sports talk in Northern Michigan.