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Red Wings won't tear it down to aid search for difference-makers

Defenseman Green, goalie Mrazek two players who might be moved by Trade Deadline

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings will not hold a clearance sale before the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 26.

They have two players they'll look to move: pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Mike Green and restricted free agent goalie Petr Mrazek, who they probably won't extend a qualifying offer.

Otherwise they will be patient.

"Am I open to making deals that I think are going to be better for us long term? Yeah," general manager Ken Holland said before a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday. "But it's got to make sense. We're not a farm team."

The Red Wings probably will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight year after making them for 25 straight seasons. They are 24-25-9. With 57 points, they're seven behind the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes in the race for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Holland has not changed his philosophy. He does not want to tear down the roster to rebuild. He wants to win as much as possible while rebuilding on the fly through drafting and developing.

Clearing out contracts?

"Great to move somebody out," Holland said. "At the end of the day, if you don't have somebody to move in, you've got to go out and find somebody to move back in."

Giving roster spots to young players?

"They've got to be ready," Holland said.


Finishing 31st does not guarantee the No. 1 pick, expected to be Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at the 2018 NHL Draft, because of the NHL Draft Lottery.

Even winning the lottery multiple times would not necessarily work. The Edmonton Oilers had the No. 1 pick four times from 2010-2015. They probably will miss the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons. They're 24-30-4. With 52 points, they're 17 behind the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division and the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

"Whether we make the playoffs or don't make the playoffs, it's important to be competitive and not just throw a bunch of young kids on the ice and you have no chance and there's no structure and we think we're going to wake up down the road and all of a sudden you're going to be good," Holland said. "I don't believe in that."

That said, the Red Wings have started to give roster spots and bigger roles to younger players this season: defenseman Xavier Ouellet, 24, and forwards Andreas Athanasiou, 23, Tyler Bertuzzi, 22, Martin Frk, 24, Dylan Larkin, 21, Anthony Mantha, 23.

Video: ANA@DET: Larkin steals puck, finishes with backhand

They have prospects coming, such as defensemen Dennis Cholowski, 20, a first-round pick (No. 20) in the 2016 NHL Draft, and Filip Hronek, 20, selected in the second round (No. 53) in 2016, and forwards Michael Rasmussen, 18, a first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2017 NHL Draft, and Dominic Turgeon, 21, selected in the third round (No. 63) in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Ideally, the Red Wings would trade veterans, collect assets for the future, and clear spots for younger players. But it depends on the return and if younger players can fill the holes.

"I'm trying to turn the wheel, but certainly I'm not putting young players on to our team until they're ready," Holland said. "In terms of trying to create opportunity for them, we've got to have somebody pushing."

Beyond Green and Mrazek, Holland doesn't need to move anyone now. He's in the last season of his contract. Whether or not he returns, the Red Wings can wait until the draft, the offseason, training camp or beyond to make decisions.

Video: DET@CHI: Green fires home a scorching one-timer

No matter who the GM is going forward, the challenge remains the same: find difference-makers. For a quarter century, Detroit's average first pick was No. 38 because of their success and trades. Rasmussen was their first top-10 pick since they took forward Martin Lapointe at No. 10 in the 1991 NHL Draft.

The Red Wings got lucky with centers Pavel Datsyuk, a sixth-round pick (No. 171) at the 1998 NHL Draft, and Henrik Zetterberg, selected in the seventh round (No. 210) in the 1999 NHL Draft. That gave them another window of Cup contention, but it was bound to close. Mike Babcock saw it coming, one of the reasons he left to coach the Maple Leafs in 2015.

"In the end, you've got to have big-time players up in the middle and on the back to be successful," Babcock said after he coached his last game for the Red Wings, a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round on April 29, 2015. "So those are the questions in our organization that we work towards, drafting good and developing good, but we've been winning too much. That's the facts."

The Red Wings continue to feel the effects now.

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