Moving to the Eastern Conference was supposed to make things easier for the Detroit Red Wings.
It hasn't exactly worked out that way, and the Red Wings find themselves in unfamiliar territory near the trade deadline, teetering on the playoff bubble in a group of six teams fighting for two postseason spots.
Making things worse for the Red Wings was the news coming out of the Olympics that captain Henrik Zetterberg is probably going to miss the remainder of the regular season due to a back injury that's going to sideline him for at least eight weeks. The only silver lining possible here is that he could be placed on the long-term injured list, giving general manager Ken Holland the flexibility he might need to swing a trade leading up to the deadline if he chooses to do.
If history is any indicator, that may not happen.
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Cap space an issue
The Red Wings find themselves in an unenviable position: holes on their roster, and next to no salary cap space to work with.
In order to make a deal, one of two things is going to have to happen: the aforementioned move of putting Zetterberg on LTIR, or moving money back the other way in any trade (or a separate trade). According to CapGeek, the Red Wings are roughly $925,000 under the salary cap, leaving them little wiggle room when it comes to filling holes on the roster.
Traditionally low-risk at the deadline
The other factor at play is that general manager Ken Holland is traditionally very safe at the deadline and rarely gets involved in bidding wars for rentals. Since the 2007 season, the only in-season trades the Red Wings have completed have resulted in them acquiring guys like Kyle Calder and Todd Bertuzzi (2007), Brad Stuart (2009), Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (2010) and Kyle Quincey (2012).
Depth needed everywhere
Age and injuries, as well as a brutal season from their big free agent signing, Stephen Weiss, have decimated the Red Wings' depth at pretty much every position.
They still have Pavel Datsyuk to drive the bus when he's healthy, and Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have produced, but with Zetterberg down and Johan Franzen fighting through another injury-plagued season, a team that's just middle-of-the-pack offensively could certainly use more help up front. (Could a guy like Florida's Brad Boyes fit here? Productive, dirt cheap and probably wouldn't cost a lot to acquire.)
The defense has been an issue for a couple of years now ever since Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski retired. Niklas Kronwall has settled in as Detroit's No. 1 on the blue line, and Jakub Kindl is set to return soon, but this probably isn't a unit that's set up to seriously compete for a Stanley Cup. The problem is the potential options that could be available in the trading game (Andrew MacDonald, Mark Stuart, Nick Schultz) aren't really that attractive.