Found January 31, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
Now that the NHL's glorified shootout with human pylons -- A.K.A. the All-Star Game -- has concluded, the Red Wings officially kicked off the second half of their season with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night in Calgary. Detroit is at the top of the league standings, and with the trade deadline less than a month away (Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. EST), speculation is that once again the Red Wings will be aggressive in pursuing talent to make a run at the Stanley Cup. With so many teams still in the playoff hunt, what the Wings ultimately do depends on the desperation level of the teams that they're dealing with and against. It's unlikely that they will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal at the deadline. For the last several years, Detroit GM Ken Holland has shifted his club's emphasis to the free-ageny market during the offseason to acquire major talent. Gone are the days when the Wings would make a mega deal an hour on deadline day. There are many factors as to why this has occurred, but the main culprits are the salary cap and free agency beginning at age 27 instead of 31, like it was when deadline day used to be a free-for-all. That doesn't mean Detroit won't be active; the Wings will be selective. So far this season, the Wings have recommitted themselves to team defense. Jimmy Howard has solidified his spot among the NHL's top flight goalies, and Detroit's offense has been paced with a balanced attack, which includes the league's top-scoring blueline. What could the Wings possibly need? If you look at the Wings' past few playoff failures, injuries and lack of scoring have led to their demise. Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk have each suffered injuries just before or during the playoffs, curtailing Detroit's scoring prowess. The Wings need to add a scoring forward andor depth up front before the trade deadline, and the two names that have been linked to Detroit are Edmonton's Ales Hemsky and Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu. Both players can become unrestricted free agents this summer, and each could provide Detroit with an influx of skill and depth offensively. Ruutu turns 29 in February, and at 6 feet, 205 pounds, is an abrasive forward who is versatile and enjoys mixing it up. He's a good skater and can play all three forward positions. Consistency and injuries have always been issues for him, but Ruutu could provide the Wings with a solid player who can score, set up his teammates and bring a bit of an attitude. In 511 career games with the Blackhawks and Hurricanes, Ruutu has 126 goals and 165 assists. Hemsky, who turns 29 in August, is 6 feet, 185 pounds and a bit of an enigma. Blessed with a skill level off the charts, he's never had that breakthrough season that would propel him into the league's elite level. Injuries have always hampered him. Since February 2011, Hemsky has missed 35 games with various ailments. But he's shown enough in 526 career games with the struggling Oilers -- 118 goals, 296 assists -- to peak the Wings' interest. Hemsky has 247 career penalty minutes to 498 for Ruutu. Chicago and Ottawa have been rumored to be the frontrunners for Ruutu, and Montreal is said to have the inside track on Hemsky. But as long as Ruutu and Hemsky are available, don't count the Red Wings out of the mix. If the bidding gets too high, the wings might back off because they're looking to tweak their roster, not remake it. As much as I like Ruutu, Hemsky's skill set could blossom with the Wings. He should be their target. Another player who could be available is New Jersey's Zach Parise, who the Wings plan to pursue this summer as an UFA. The Devil's ownership is having financial problems, and it appears unlikely they'll be able to sign Parise, a clutch scorer, hits the open market. With the Devils competing for a playoff spot, though, most pundits believe GM Lou Lamoriello will not part with his best player. For those wondering what's going on with Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter -- who has announced he will not re-sign with the Predators before the trade deadline and will only negotiate with the club after the season -- probably nothing. Suter will likely finish out the year in Nashville. What happens after the season is another story. Suter is Detroit's No. 1 objective in the free-agent market. They want him that much. If Detroit can sign Suter and Parise during the offseason, GM Ken Holland will do cartwheels down Woodward Avenue. Still Holland's focus is the present and adding a forward who will enhance the Wings' chances of winning another Stanley Cup. Scotty Bowman always used to say that you can never have enough defenseman. In the case of this year's Red Wings, even Scotty would agree it's the forward corps that needs shoring up.
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