DETROIT -- What should the Red Wings do in the next four weeks?
The NHL trade deadline is April 3, falling about a month later than usual because of the 48-game season. Is it going to be a big event? Are the Wings going to be players? It depends on whether there's any separation in the standings. In the Western Conference, the Wings are among 12 teams in the 15-team conference seven points apart. The Eastern Conference isn't much more open.
At the moment, it's hard to pinpoint who will be a seller. It can be argued some teams should be realistic about playoff chances, but the beauty of the NHL playoffs is: make it in, anything can happen.
If there are teams that opt to sell, prices will be high because two dozen teams easily could be buyers. Defensemen always are at a premium, and players like the Oilers' Ryan Whitney or Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester will demand high prices.
In Calgary, there's also longtime Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who is running out of time to add a Cup to his career. He would have been the perfect fit in Detroit a few years ago. Is he going to win the Cup with this Wings squad? That's murkier. If Iginla would be a perfect fit anywhere, it would in Chicago or Pittsburgh, where he could blend in more than be expected to stand out.
Plus, the Wings don't so much need help up front, especially if they should ever be fully healthy. Right now, tag Darren Helm as a potential so-called "trade deadline addition," because if he keeps improving as he has been, he could be ready to return on very fresh legs at that time.
Who and what the Wings have to offer also have to be considered. They just can't mortgage their future and trade a first-rounder or highly rated prospects like Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan or Calle Jarnkrok. Their most valuable trade asset, in some ways, is Valtteri Filppula -- only he's in a contract year, so teams are going to be wary of a rental. And if the Wings do sign Filppula to an extension, he'll likely demand a limited-movement clause.
There's also Johan Franzen, who has a nice salary-cap number at $3.9 million even if he does have seven years left on the deal. But Franzen is the Wings' biggest forward, a regular 20-goal scorer, and a guy who had a big role in the back-to-back playoff trips to the finals in 2008-09. Get rid of him, and they'd just have to replace him.
As for defenseman Ian White, he has become the odd-man out over the past week, but there's a limit to what he would bring in return, and there's no such thing as too much defensive depth in the playoffs.
The Wings have been searching for a top-four defenseman since last summer. They'll look very hard again over the coming four weeks, but they won't be alone, and they won't find many available.
The 2013 trade deadline, if anything, shows the full impact of the 2004-05 lockout: There's parity like never before -- and that's going to make parsing for players precarious.
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