ZADOROZNY: Legwand Trade Might Push Wings into Playoffs

David Legwand by Resolute, via Wikimedia Commons

David Legwand by Resolute, via Wikimedia Commons

(@Zads07)

Now that the “Christmas Morning” effect of the NHL trade deadline has worn off, many people have calmed down enough to evaluate the moves made by their teams.

Around 2:30 p.m. on March 5, the Legwand trade began to pick up steam, which coincided with a few other players/problems on the Red Wings roster.

About an hour earlier, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland appeared on TSN TradeCentre, talking with TSN Insider James Duthie about his plans for the deadline. He indicated during the interview that he had hoped to get something done, but hearing back about Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm before the deadline was going to indicate his moves.

Clearly Holland didn’t like news that came from the teams’ physicians, as he sought out to acquired a center, instead of a defenseman; the biggest need before the injury news.

Datsyuk will be out of for the next three weeks, Helm is battling concussion symptoms, Henrik Zetterberg is out until at least mid-April, and Stephen Weiss is behind schedule in his recovery.

It was a panic move, but let’s take a step back and try to analyze what happened.

The trade talk for Legwand started to heat up around 2:50 p.m., and wasn’t completed until a few minutes after the 3 p.m. deadline (note: if teams are working on a trade that started before the 3 p.m. deadline, all they have to do is let the NHL Head Offices know via e-mail).

David Legwand was officially a Red Wing at 3:15 p.m. The return for Legwand didn’t squeak out until about 15 minutes later. The price was right-wing Patrick Eaves, prospect Calle Jarnkrok, and a 3rd-round pick in 2015 (that 3rd-round pick becomes a 2nd-round pick if the Red Wings make the playoffs this season).

Now, some fans are upset that Eaves is gone, but you have to remember that Eaves had been asking for a trade since last year. He hasn’t been happy with his playing time and was in the last year of his contract.

The 29-year old has been at best a third line winger, usually a fourth-line winger, depending on the injuries. His average time on the ice as been just above 10 minutes. With the influx of young players taking those roster spots, it’s tough to crack the lineup when you only have 74-goals in a 439 game career.

Jarnkrok was a highly regarded prospect for the Red Wings and an untouchable at last year’s deadline. In fact, when the Red Wings were calling on forwards at the deadline, the Calgary Flames wanted Jarnkrok in a trade for Jarome Iginla, but the Red Wings ultimately said no.

Fast-forward almost a year, and Jarnkrok was easily expendable in this trade, for a 33-year old center.

Now, before you say, “well, he was going to be great in Detroit,” remember, most prospects aren’t guarnteed everyday NHL players, let along superstars. Most Red Wings fans aren’t aware that Jarnkrok has been contemplating  returning to Sweden at the end of the AHL season; according to Red Wings European scout Hakan Andersson.

Jarnkrok was also down on the depth chart as a young center, with a few players that rank above him. Joakim Andersson, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Cory Emmerton are all rated above him (for good reason, as two are currently on the Red Wings roster).

He became expendable with Andersson, Sheahan, Glendening, and Emmerton, along with Landon Ferraro (rated slightly below him at center), all ranking above him at the center position.

Finally, the 3rd-round pick will become a 2nd-round pick if the Red Wings make the playoffs this season. There’s no way of knowing what place in the draft that will be, but with the next two drafts being loaded with prospects, especially 2015 (If you aren’t familiar with Connor McDavid, now might be a good time), the Red Wings will survive, especially with their stockpile of prospects in Grand Rapids.

So let’s take a look at David Legwand. The 33-year old Grosse Pointe native is having a homecoming of sorts. The first ever draft pick of the Nashville Predators will now be playing for his hometown team and will center the first line center as Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Weiss remain out with injuries. Legwand has averaged more than 40 points a season during 14 year career in the NHL.

Legwand has also plays a lot of minutes, averaging just over 17 minutes a game this season. He currently has 10 goals and 30 points for the Predators in a tough Central Division of the Western Conference. But, he’s bringing over those 40 points, and now becomes the second highest point-producing player on the Red Wings, something Detroit has been needing badly. Zetterberg leads the team with 48 points this year.

Since Legwand is from Grosse Pointe and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, there’s an increased possibility he could re-sign with the Red Wings this off-season. Both parties have shown some mutual interest in the past, but nothing has come to fruition. Playing for his hometown team down the stretch could be a motivating factor to stay come July 1.

The one knock on Legwand has been his battle with lower body injuries in recent years. He’s missed 32 games in 2006 with a knee injury and 15 games in 2008 to a foot injury. It’s not the worst health report in the world, but it’s not the best either.

So, was this a smart move made by Kenny Holland? Well, it really depends on how you look at it. This certainly wasn’t a move for the future, because they dealt away one of their former top prospects and a draft pick, but considering the depth, there was some flexibility to make this move. Was this a move for the present and now? Very much so. The 22-year consecutive playoff streak is on the line and Red Wings general manager Ken Holland wants to keep that going. The Red Wings are in an interesting situation. They find themselves in the midst of a tug-of-war.

The Red Wings don’t really have an identity. They are stuck between being a contender (loads of talent, injuries have hampered team all year) and rebuilding (lots of young players filling in for the injured veterans).

When you’re trying to gauge which team will show up on any given, night, it’s more than likely that the young, rebuilding team shows up. But, when this Red Wings team is healthy (if they ever get healthy), they have the talent to compete with just about anyone in the Eastern Conference.

The Legwand trade was for the here and now, not the future, but there’s no reason to panic because a young, skilled player was traded. The way that Kenny Holland runs this team, and his young prospects, the Red Wings will be fine in the future.

The stockpile of prospects that Detroit has been stockpiling in Grand Rapids, Toledo, throughout North America and Europe took a small dent on Wednesday, not the gaping gash that some fans tend to believe.

Legwand will fit right into this team, wearing number 17, centering Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen for the next few weeks. His point production on the top line could go up, and when the Red Wings become healthy down the stretch, and into the playoffs, the veteran presence of Legwand will be a welcome addition to the Red Wings locker room. Year 23 is no longer in jeopardy with Legwand in the mix.