DETROIT – The Red Wings were frugal shoppers as the league’s trade deadline approached Monday afternoon.
Detroit general manager Ken Holland said he was looking to acquire someone who fit the Wings’ system as they gear up for their 24th straight postseason. However, he wasn’t willing to overpay for the services of rental-type players who can become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
“As we got into the last two days, we had lots of conversations with lots of teams about lots of different players. I like the price that we paid,” Holland said. “We like the people we added. We like the dimensions that we added to our team. That’s sort of what’s happened over the last two weeks.”
The Wings found the right price when they acquired two pieces – a big power forward and a right-handed shooting defenseman – that they believe will be vital to a long playoff run this spring.
On Sunday, the Wings made a trade with Dallas for 6-foot-2 Erik Cole, who will instantly add size and speed among the team’s top-six forwards, either playing on a line with centers Henrik Zetterberg or Riley Sheahan.
The 36-year-old Cole had been doing a nice job for the Stars, skating with Jason Spezza and Alec Hemsky while producing 18 goals and 33 points in 57 games.
“Cole has played on the top line for the last little while with the Stars,” Holland said. “We think Cole would be a good fit on the Zetterberg line. I think that’s where we’re going to start him out. We have Riley Sheahan also in the three hole so we’re hopefully going to be able to put three lines together that can contribute some offense.”
The Wings also swung a deal Monday afternoon with New Jersey to hook Marek Zidlicky, a versatile 5-foot-11 defenseman, who can play in numerous situations. His right-hand shot is something that has been missing from the Wings’ power play since Brian Rafalski retired after the 2011-12 season.
“It means a lot,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “A right-handed shot, we haven’t had that since Rafi really, powering in from the point on the power play. So I think that’s something we’ve been looking for and we’re going to be really excited to have him here.”
Another nice thing about the Wings’ deals is they essentially cost them two low-end prospects who are in Sweden and a couple draft picks without losing veterans or developing prospects from either roster in Detroit or AHL Grand Rapids.
“I think that’s huge,” Kronwall said. “I think we’ve got a really good thing going. We’ve got really good chemistry in the room. So I think that was very important.”
In return for Cole, the Red Wings sent defenseman Mattias Backman and center Mattias Janmark along with a second-round pick to Dallas. Detroit also acquired a conditional third-round pick in the deal, which goes back to the Stars should Cole play in 50 percent of the playoff games and the Wings reach the Eastern Conference finals this spring.
“We basically flipped draft picks,” Holland said. “We get their third and they get our second. If we go to the final four, (Dallas GM) Jimmy Nill gets the third-round pick back. So if we lose in the first or second round we’re really moving back in the draft 10, 12, 15 spots, depending on where we finish and where Dallas finishes. Certainly the hope is we’re going to give him his third round pick back.”
On the backend, Zidicky is a solid puck-moving blue-liner, who has demonstrated some offensive acumen in the past. The 38-year-old, who has 82 goals and 380 points in 762 career NHL games with New Jersey, Minnesota and Nashville, had a no-move, no-trade clause in his contract, which he waived to accommodate Monday’s deal.
In return, the Devils received a conditional third-round pick in 2016. Should the Wings reach the Eastern Conference finals this spring, New Jersey will additionally receive a fifth-round draft pick in 2015. If Detroit advances to the ’15 Stanley Cup finals, the fifth-round pick reverts back to the Wings, and the third-round pick New Jersey receives becomes a second-rounder in 2016.
The Devils also retain $1 million of Zidlicky's salary to complete the deal.
“In the deal with New Jersey there are draft picks there and more if we get to the final four,” Holland said. “It was a cost we could live with. The hope is we’re in the final four and we’re going to pay more. We’re doing the deals thinking we’re a deeper better team than we were 48 hours ago and now over the next 12 or 20 games hoping (Cole and Zidlicky) can fit in and Mike Babcock can find exactly where they fit in.”
The newly acquired players are expected to participate in the Red Wings’ practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. Both will likely be inserted into Wednesday’s lineup against the Rangers as replacements for forward Darren Helm and defenseman Alexy Marchenko, who could be out 7-10 days, Holland said, with oblique injuries that they suffered Saturday in Nashville.
The Red Wings have been talking about acquiring a right-handed shot on the point for several months. It’s a strategic philosophy that worked successfully for Holland and Babcock as they put together Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the Sochi Olympics.
“I’m confident we’re a better team,” Holland said. “I’m confident we can go on a playoff run, but I also understand the competition is really stiff and that there’s going to be eight teams that had really great regular seasons that will be out in the first round.
“The moves we’ve made the last couple of days to make us a little deeper and a little better that’s really all you can do. When I look back at some of the deals we’ve made here over the years you never really know which deals will be the perfect fit or which deals don’t quite work out the way you want. We want to go down swinging and make a couple moves to make our team a little bit deeper and a little bit better.”
The Wings are among the best defensive teams in the league, allowing just 2.46 goals per game. Ideally, they would like to generate more offensive from the backend, like they did Saturday with goals by Brendan Smith and Marchenko.
“Our defense really defends well,” Holland said. “We’ve down a good job in keeping the puck out of the net in relation to where the other 29 teams in the league are. If we can create some offense on the backend without giving up more scoring chances or goals is ideally what we’d like to do.
“The number one priority going into the playoffs as a team is to still play good defense. If your fourth and third line can chip in offense and your defense can it’s an added bonus. The moves we made today and yesterday were to try and bring some of those options to our team.”