Deadline Reality Check: Defensemen
Like every other fan, I'll throw out a crazy trade possibility or nine this time of year. As hockey fans, it's typical to lose rationality in the month leading up to deadline day, an unofficial holiday in my book.
As Red Wings fans, this tendency is even stronger due to past deadline deals that brought Hall of Famers such as Chelios to Hockeytown. The salary cap era has stifled Ken Holland's freewheeling deals but with the Wings sitting atop the standings with over $5 million in cap space, many think a big splash is coming.
I think the Wings are going to make a lot of noise... in the summer, especially if Lidstrom and Holmstrom retire and Stuart bolts out West. I don't see Holland overpaying in a middling trade market unless it improves due to some current buyers or teams unsure of their status quickly become sellers in two weeks. Holland and Babcock has expressed contentness with their current roster and are definitely welcome to a move but don't think a huge piece of the puzzle is missing.
As long as Joey MacDonald continues to provide steady goaltending I don't think Holland will pursue a backup because there are limited possibilities. Nabokov is keen on staying on the Island now and divisional rival Chicago might have to be aggressive getting a goalie to solve their woes in net. Wings brass' and journalists have constantly stated two possibilities for trades: depth defenseman and forward with grit, preferably that could/would fit in the top six.
So no, Ryan Suter is not going to be a Red Wing February 28th. No, Shea Weber is not going to be traded to rival Detroit. No, Winter Classic opponent Brian Burke isn't going to ship Luke Schenn to Motown and no the Red Wings aren't trading Brad Stuart who isn't likely to re-sign. The Wings like to take eight defensemen into the playoffs so they could either bring up Brendan Smith or acquire someone else. Here are four defenseman that I see as possible, realistic acquistions.
Nicklas Grossman (Dallas): Yes, another Swedish defenseman named Nicklas. The Wings have a good track record with them so far! Grossman is on a Dallas team flush with young defenseman. He's struggled this season after playing much better last, although some attribute the drop off to his partner going from Stephane Robidas to Sheldon Souray. He might remind Red Wings fans too much of Jonathan Ericsson though. He's a big body (6-4, 230) that doesn't use it often. He is a great penalty killer but has very similar offensive output as Big E and would be nothing more than a stay at home defenseman. Dallas is in the thick of the playoff hunt and will probably have a better vantage point for their playoff chances by the deadline.
Hall Gill (Montreal): A big defenseman that doesn't do much inside the opponent's blue line. However, Gill (36) brings more size (6-7, 240) and over 85 more games of playoff experience to the table than young Grossman (27). Wings fans remember him battling against Detroit forwards in the 2008 and 2009 Cup Finals with Pittsburgh who acquired him at the deadline in 08. Gill is very physical but avoids taking many penalties (he only has 5 more PIM than Lidstrom). Don't look for him to score any clutch goals but he won't hesitate to clear out the area in front of Howard. The Canadiens have been falling and a recovery doesn't look imminent. Unless they go on a 2-week streak, they'll be sellers.
Bryan Allen (Carolina): The trend of offensively limited, big defenseman continues with 6-5, 226 lb Allen who's on the outside looking in on the current cellar-dwellers in the East. Carolina has resigned Tim Gleason and is in talks with the forward most embroiled in rumors, Tuomo Ruutu, but beyond those two, the Canes will be sellers. Allen is very strong and will his size doesn't diminish his mobility as much as one would expect. He would bring another physical presence to the Wings blue line but has a penchant for taking bad penalties. He's more mobile than Gill, but less disciplined.
Andy Sutton (Oilers): Sutton is another huge defenseman at 6-6, 245 lbs but has the most offensive upside of the four. He has a booming shot but his best offensive days are behind him. He's extremely physical but sometimes his urge to hit can take him out of position. He's been suspended three times though which may make Detroit steer clear. Like Allen, he does have a problem with injuries but is the most complete package out of the four. The Oilers are definite sellers and Sutton's name has come up several times in rumors and speculation.
All four defenseman are impending UFAs on potential sellers that could challenge Kindl and Commodore for playing time in the final stretch and playoffs. They are all sizable d-men with varying levels of physicality. I'm most keen on Hal Gill because of his extensive playoff experience compared to the others, however if Grossman performed well he's the only one young enough that I could see becoming more than a rental.