By @MichaelCaples –
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland joined members of the media on a teleconference call at 4 p.m. today, roughly an hour after the conclusion of trade deadline day for the NHL.
In his opening statement, Holland discussed his team’s decision to acquire draft picks in exchange for some of the team’s upcoming free agents in Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith, Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek.
“Obviously you look at the standings and we’re nine, 10 points out of a playoff spot with about 20, 21 games to go in the season,” Holland said. “At the trade deadline, we had some decisions to make. We had some unrestricted free agents and through the years, we’ve spent a lot of future assets at this time of the year, acquiring players trying to go on a playoff run, and also being in the playoffs 25 years in a row, I think the highest pick we’ve had since the early ‘90s is the 15th pick in the draft.”
The Red Wings traded Vanek to Florida for defenseman Dylan McIlrath and a conditional third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft; Ott to Montreal for a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft; Smith to the New York Rangers for a third-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018; and Jurco to Chicago for a third-round pick in 2017.
“I looked upon this year as an opportunity to acquire some assets and some draft picks – which is not only to pick players at the draft, but maybe some of these picks down the road can factor into a future trade,” Holland said. “We’ve got four third-rounders now, with one of the third-rounders being for Mike Babcock, and we’ve got two seconds in 2018 and a couple of sixths this year and a couple of sixths in 2018. We’ve got 11 draft picks this year and a number in 2018, so that was certainly my thinking going into the trade deadline.”
The Vanek trade has been the one met with the most contention from fans, as the Hockeytown faithful expected more in return for the team’s leading goal-scorer. Holland said that he spoke with teams about Vanek for the last week, and the trade with Florida was the best available.
“It was the very best offer I could get for Thomas,” Holland said. “I can’t comment on these other trades. I just know I’ve been working the phone lines over the last week. I’ve been at this for 20 years, I’ve got relationships with probably at least a good third of the NHL general managers… I’ve been at it for a week, made it very clear over the last week or 10 days that we were gonna be a seller, made it very clear as to which players we were going to sell. I was looking for future assets, and like I told somebody earlier today, I don’t feel I left any crumbs on the table whatsoever here over the last 72 hours. I think that the message was very clear: the people out there that I talked to around the league knew what we were trying to accomplish and we got the very best offers that we could’ve.”
The Red Wings – currently 25-26-10 on the season – are in the midst of their worst season since their playoff streak began more than two decades ago. Holland pointed out that the core of the Wings’ successful teams was found in the draft, and the team will need to start there in a rebuild.
“When I look at the Red Wings teams, go back 20-25 years, it starts at the draft table,” Holland said. “Once you build a core, once you’ve got a group of players, you can kind of complement, make moves to finish out the missing pieces, but the teams that we had in the 90s, the 2000s, were built at the draft table, but once those players got old, we had done a job at the draft table to get into the late-‘90s and early-2000s, they carried us for another decade. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to quite do this, probably because of the pursuit of the Stanley Cup, the pursuit of being a seller factored into where we are today.”
The parity in the current NHL, as well as the looming expansion draft for the new Las Vegas franchise, has made for interesting times for NHL general managers, as well.
“I still think that, when I look at the standings, when I look at our team, I think we’re nine points out of a playoff spot, the league is really, really close. And if you can make a couple right moves and have some things happen to your team with a few players, you can make a little move and sometimes it doesn’t take much of a move to get into the thick of things. I think all those things – the cap the parity, the expansion, the importance of future asset management – it all factors into all of our thinking at the trade deadline. It’s gonna factor into the expansion draft, it’s gonna factor into the thinking once the expansion draft is over at the June entry draft, so it’s the league, and it’s kind of evolving.”
As far as finding successful NHL players in the draft, it’s really a game of percentages.
“If you can get three regular NHL players…we’ve had a couple of drafts, the draft in ’89, I think we had five or six – (Mike) Sillinger, (Bob) Boughner, (Nick) Lidstrom, (Sergei) Fedorov, (Dallas) Drake and (Vladimir) Konstantinov – six. Now those days are over because it was a time when you could mine Europe a little bit better… I think with 11 picks, you’d love to wake up one day and three of them are regular NHL players and maybe you can really get lucky and have four of them.
“Next year, we have two seconds and a first, so hopefully over the next couple drafts here, there’s going to be four or five of these picks [who] are going be players for the Red Wings down the road.”