On Monday, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock met on an off-day to plan how the next month or so might play out. Babcock shared his trade deadline wish list for a Red Wings team that has emerged as a bit of a surprise Eastern Conference Stanley Cup contender, at least as surprising as a team that makes the playoffs every single season can be.
"I try to tell him exactly what I think the priorities are," Babcock said Monday. "He knows what I want."
There's no guarantee how much longer the Red Wings will have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at the top of their games. Nor are there any guarantees that Babcock will be behind the bench next season. Factor that with a wide-open East and there might be a sense of urgency to win in Detroit this season. And with that may come added urgency at the trade deadline.
Detroit is loaded with young players pushing their way up from Grand Rapids and the team has stayed relatively healthy, so Holland isn't in the market for depth. It's about impact -- a top-six forward or top-four defenseman, preferably one who shoots right-handed.
There are no surprises on the wish list. It's just a matter of making it happen.
"My job for the next month is talk on the phone with the 29 other managers," Holland told ESPN.com.
Available: The kind of impact players the Red Wings are looking to add aren't easy to find. The trade deadline is filled with depth defensemen and wingers who might help fill out a lineup, but the targets Detroit will pursue actually have to supplant a talented player currently in the lineup. One example is Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and he fills a need on defense as a right-handed shot and as a player who can earn regular time in Detroit's top four. The Red Wings prefer defensemen who can produce offensively, which makes Franson (29 points in 49 games) more appealing than righty defenseman Jeff Petry with the Edmonton Oilers. If the Florida Panthers drop out of the playoff hunt, defenseman Brian Campbell would be nice fit, even if he's another left-handed shot. The Washington Capitals' Mike Green would fill a lot of needs for the Red Wings.
Finances: The Red Wings are one of the few contending teams with cap flexibility, a credit to Holland for not spending foolishly after he missed out on targets this summer like Matt Niskanen and Anton Stralman. Before shutting down, CapGeek.com estimated that the Red Wings could take on about $8 million in salary at the deadline.
Scouting the GM: Holland hasn't been as aggressive at the trade deadline as he was during the Red Wings' glory years. He has been hoarding first-round draft picks since about 2005 to replenish the system, something he's done successfully. Now with a surplus of young talent, he has the ammunition to make a big trade without having to move his first-round pick. He just needs to be convinced the player on the other side of the deal is a major upgrade over what the Red Wings have now. "Are we going to be aggressive? My history has been, we'll trade," Holland said. "If there's a deal there we think fits with what we're trying to do, we'll do it."