Red Wings general manager Ken Holland discusses how close the franchise is to competing in the playoffs. "It's going to take time," he says. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — The final hours leading to the Monday deadline for trades in the NHL were quiet for Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
Prospective unrestricted free agents such as goaltender Jimmy Howard, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Thomas Vanek, along with players such as forward Luke Glendening and defenseman Trevor Daley, all of whom had been speculated as potential trade bait — stayed put.
The Wings were able to strengthen their rebuild by acquiring a 2019 second-round pick and a conditional 2020 third-round pick from San Jose for Nyquist (the third-round pick becomes a second-rounder if the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final this season or Nyquist re-signs in San Jose).
From Washington, the Wings received young defenseman Madison Bowey and a 2020 second-round pick in exchange for Jensen and a 2019 fifth-round pick.
“I can’t make it (trade demand) up, I can only deal with what is the marketplace,” Holland said. “To rebuild going with youth, it has to be done through the draft, through multiple picks and we’re trying to acquire multiple picks.
“Would I have liked to acquire more picks? Yes. But the marketplace speaks.”
Holland and San Jose GM Doug Wilson talked before and after Sunday’s game — the Sharks played in Detroit — and finalized the trade for Nyquist later in the evening.
There was mild interest in re-signing Nyquist, but the fact the Wings have struggled this season gave Holland reason to change the look of this roster.
“You look at the standings, we’re not nearly as competitive as we need to be,” Holland said. “As you work through January, February to the trade deadline, I felt it was more important to grab more future (picks), and that’s the direction we’re going.
“To go and re-sign the team, it hasn’t been quite good enough.”
There was little, to no, interest in Howard, Holland said. All the playoff contenders have stable goaltending situations, and everybody is healthy. Injuries usually ignite demand for a rental goaltender.
“I don’t think there was any market for goalies that I could tell,” Holland said.
Holland added he’ll sit down with Howard at some point in the coming days and talk about a new contract — which both the Wings and Howard would like to complete.
There was speculation teams such as Toronto and Columbus had some minor interest in Kronwall, but the veteran defenseman — and Holland — preferred to stay and finish his career with the Wings.
“I met with Kroner about two weeks ago, and I would say over the last two or three days there were two or three teams that were tire kicking (asking about Kronwall),” Holland said. “I don’t think they were going to offer a ton, so what he’s meant for this franchise and means for this franchise in terms of leadership in this locker room and with the young players, I guess if somebody would have stepped up big time — and I don’t know what big time means — but I would have probably had a conversation with Kroner. But it didn’t happen.”
Holland says he believes Kronwall, 38, could play next season, but that decision is up to Kronwall.
“As I’ve dealt with older players through the years, a lot of it is about the fire they have,” Holland said. “You have to work all summer in the gym, work twice as hard to maintain and not gaining any ground, and obviously Father Time is banging away.
“I’ll talk with him at the end of the year and see what he’s thinking.”
Meeting with reporters after the trade deadline, Holland addressed several issues around the team:
►On the future of coach Jeff Blashill, who is in the final year of his contract: “Between now and the end of the year I’m going to sit down with him,” Holland said. “He’s done a great job. You look at the standings, and it’s hard to think anybody has done a great job when you see where we are in the standings. But he’s playing our young players, plus the young players have improved under his watch.
“I’m also big on experience. It’s his fourth year in the NHL and there’s no doubt he’s a better coach today than he was four years ago, just by his experience of getting to know the NHL and the types of players it takes to play in this league and how you want to build a team.”
►Holland said he isn’t worried about his own future, regarding the persistent speculation former Red Wing Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman will eventually return to the Wings’ front office.
“I don’t really worry about. I’m in a good place with my career, with my life. I’ve been here since 1983, and all I’m concerned about is making moves because I want this franchise to win another Stanley Cup and compete to be banging away (to win Cups). The things we’ve done last year and this year are going to be pieces of that puzzle. But there’s more pieces that need to happen.
“I’m not worried about my future. My wife isn’t worried about my future. I’m in a good place no matter what happens.”
►On the expectations of possibly making the playoffs next season: “That’s what I’m hoping for. That’s what I was hoping for this year. As we sit here today, it hasn’t happened. I believe when we come into training camp next year a lot of these kids who are on the team will take a little bit of a step (forward). We have to make some moves this summer to find some veteran players to come in and complement them and then you need a lot of things to go right.
“My hope for the ’18-’19- season was we were going to compete for a playoff spot and I’m disappointed it hasn’t happened. That’s on me, and we have to figure out a way to make the team better.”
►Holland said the league signed off on allowing injured forward Evgeny Svechnikov (knee), who has missed the entire season, to be eligible for the AHL playoffs in Grand Rapids when he’s ready to play.
Holland is hopeful Svechnikov could be ready in early- to mid-April.
Holland said the team, in paper transactions Monday, sent down Filip Hronek and Filip Zadina to Grand Rapids to make both eligible for the AHL playoffs. Both will be recalled to the Wings.
►Holland said the Wings will not recall another forward from Grand Rapids for Tuesday’s game against Montreal despite the team having only 11 forwards.
Luke Witkowski could play forward if needed, Holland said, and the team will reassess heading into the weekend depending on how Thomas Vanek (hip flexor) feels.
The Wings only have four recalls from Grand Rapids until the end of the season, and Hronek and Zadina will count as two of them.