DETROIT >> Desperate times call for desperate measures.
And that’s just where the Detroit Red Wings found themselves around noon Wednesday, three hours before the NHL trade deadline.
After shutting down Pavel Datsyuk for three weeks due to an injured knee and learning that Darren Helm is battling headaches, the Wings ramped up their search for a first- or second-line center and landed David Legwand from the Nashville Predators.
Detroit is also without Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery).
“When you look at our center ice with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Helm and with Weiss the uncertainty of where we’re at, other than Z and I guess there is some certainty with Pav that he’s going to be shut down for three weeks, we felt it was important to get a bonafide center ice man,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
The Wings sent Patrick Eaves, prospect Calle Jarnkrok and a third-round draft pick, which could turn into a second-rounder if they make the playoffs this season, back to Nashville.
Holland said all the time leading up to the trade deadline they weren’t interested in a rent-a-player, but that indeed could be what Legwand is. He’s in the final year of deal that averaged out at $4.5 million a season.
“With all the news we’ve received, and Weiss could be OK in two to three weeks, but right now there is uncertainty,” Holland said. “That all factored into acquiring a center ice man and he is a local boy so we’re thinking if we want to keep the player beyond this year we think it’s a very reasonable to happen. He had to waive a no trade clause to come here so obviously we wanted to come home.”
Holland also doesn’t view the move as desperate.
“I don’t know that a whole lot of people knew much about Pav,” Holland said. “Pav was frustrated and all we were going to do is have an athlete that was, in our opinion, going to get emotionally burned out. When you can’t do something that you know you can do at a certain level, it just grinds on you and grinds on you and grinds on you.”
Right now there are no plans for Datsyuk to have surgery.
“That might be an option in the offeseason, but right now the doctors feel we’re going to shut him down,” Holland said. “In January he didn’t play hockey, but worked real hard off the ice thinking he was a day away, a day away. We’re going to back way off the off-ice. They’re going to do some treatments with him over the next few days. We’re going to see where we’re at in three weeks. Right now surgery is not an option, but we’ll see what the future holds.”
Legwand, 33, has 10 goals and 30 assists this season for Nashville in 62 games.
Holland said he think Legwand will center the Wings’ top line, alongside Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist.
“We felt it was time to make a move to fill an important need that was down the middle and the guy coming in will be our No.1 centerman for a little bit here, and hopefully, again there’s that hope word, I’m hoping that next week we get another one or two of these guys back and we can play our way into the playoffs,” Holland said of Legwand. “He’s good defensively. He’s a guy that puts up 50-60 points and he’s an established, legitimate NHL player who can kill penalties and can play against anybody from the other team. That’s sort of been his role.”
The move also was made to keep Detroit in the race for the playoffs. The Wings start Wednesday a point behind Columbus for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but with a game in hand.
“Without a doubt,” Holland said when asked if the move was done to stay in the race. “We have to win some games and as we go along here we’re going to get some of these players back. If can qualify for the playoffs we still believe there’s a chance in the first round of the playoffs Z will be back. He’s feeling better.”
Legwand is a Detroit native, attending Grosse Pointe North High School.
He also played his junior career with the Plymouth Whalers. In his final year of juniors he won the Red Tilson Award as the Ontario Hockey League’s most outstanding player after totaling 54 goals and 51 assists.
“Patty Eaves is in the final year of his contract, he wants to play, he wanted to play here but if he didn’t play here he would like an opportunity elsewhere,” Holland said. “We want to make the playoffs. We saw last year when we went into the Anaheim series, we had a tremendous series and found a way to win, got to game seven against Chicago. We think if we get some good news (on injuries) as we go along … we want to play our way into the playoffs. Kids giving us dimension of speed and energy.”
Legwand was drafted second overall by the Predators in the 1998 draft, behind Vincent Lecavalier. He leads in every franchise record in Nashville, including goals (210), assists (356) and games played (956).