True to his word, Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland made no moves at Wednesday's trading deadline. He had predicted as much in the days leading up to it.
Holland then watched his team move into first place in the overall NHL standings Wednesday night for the first time this season with a 3-2 victory against the Avalanche in Denver. The Red Wings have 94 points, one more than the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins, two teams that made significant deals Wednesday to get better.
"If I could have made a hockey deal, I would have, but I had no interest in a rental," Holland said Thursday. "We like our team. We won the Stanley Cup last year and, recently, we are finally starting to show signs that we are playing closer to last year. We've had a run of games where we've given up none, one or two goals in a game, except for that blowout by Nashville.
"We're seeing signs of more attention to detail and more focus. With the salary-cap issues we have and the free-agent challenges we face this summer, we were very content to do nothing and that's what we did."
Holland said he listened to a few offers Wednesday and in the days leading up to the deadline.
"I got some phone calls over the past two or three days and I talked to a few teams but I went in not expecting to do anything," Holland said. "We worked the phone lines to see if maybe something made sense. But I told (coach) Mike Babcock last summer, when we signed Marian Hossa, that we were making our deadline deal then. We won the Stanley Cup and then kept Brad Stuart
and signed Hossa.
"We signed Ville Leino, took a flyer in May last year, an older free agent who stepped right in at training camp. We gave him a look last month and we like him. We've been playing Jonathan Ericsson
and he looks good. We felt we couldn't get anyone better than the ones we had coming in. We'll be losing players this summer, a number of unrestricted free agents.
"Why spend more on rentals? Being near the cap, we would have had to send one out to bring one in, pay a price to upgrade. Why?"
Holland said he wasn't surprised there wasn't more activity from Central Division rivals -- except for Columbus -- that are chasing the Red Wings but he was impressed with what Western Conference rivals San Jose and Calgary did.
"Calgary brought in a No. 1 center (Olli Jokinen) and a defenseman (Jordan Leopold) who helped them get to the Final in 2004," Holland said. "Every year, they assess at this time and they had a huge day. Every year, there is one team that has a huge day and the others make little moves for depth.
"I'm looking for San Jose to get a boost because they added a defenseman (Kent Huskins) and two guys (Huskins and Travis Moen) who have won the Stanley Cup."
Holland also thought the Blue Jackets helped themselves by acquiring Antoine Vermette from Ottawa for goalie Pascal Leclaire.
"Antoine Vermette will help Columbus, without a doubt," Holland said. "We play Columbus a lot through the year and they play us tough. They're building a big team, they're very organized under Ken Hitchcock and they have a great, young goalie. In the last week or two, they've added Jason Williams and Vermette so they've added more skill.
"Columbus is big, strong, skilled, organized and they lean on you. Put skill into their mix, add in that goalie and they're looking like a legitimate playoff team. They will be very difficult in the first round, regardless of who they play."
Holland said the Red Wings' payroll is very close to the cap and that many other teams were in the same position. Holland didn't mention it, but as an example, the Philadelphia Flyers in the last week waived, traded, promoted or demoted seven players to squeeze Daniel Briere back onto their roster again from injured reserve.
"We didn't have any space, so therefore we were not in a deadline-deal mode," Holland said. "We would have made a hockey trade but between everybody's budgets and caps, it's harder to make a deal.
"As we have come into this (salary-cap) system -- this was the fourth trading deadline in the new world -- it is working as designed and there is tremendous parity. Ten years ago, Detroit, Dallas and Colorado were the Western powers and we all had a lot of money and then there were maybe two or three other teams that could compete. You had teams that thought, 'Why spend a lot to play Dallas, Colorado or Detroit in the first round?'
"Now, with more parity, fewer teams are sellers, even if they don't want to be buyers. The way it works now is that you need a steady flow of kids and they come from the draft. If you trade away prospects, you don't have the flow you need. First- and second-rounders will continue to be moved but not to the degree of two or three years ago."
"The deals we made last year for Stuart and the deal Pittsburgh made to get Hossa helped both of us to get to the Stanley Cup Final. Some team this year will find that they made the perfect move at the perfect time and go for a run. But be careful, don't judge yet that (March 4) someone was the winner and the other teams were losers because only one team can win the Stanley Cup. The way I look at it is, I judge by the final four. If you can get to the final four, you've gone three playoff rounds and gained experience for your kids, and you've excited your marketplace for about six weeks. If what you did at the deadline helps you get to the final four, you've had a great day. You are the winner if you made the right moves for your team.
"Lots of teams made great moves, now the game transfers back to the ice."