There is nothing the NHL-worst Detroit Red Wings can do to convince management not to be active sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. But starting Friday, the New York Rangers have 25 days to prove whether they should acquire players or stand pat next month.
The Rangers will look to begin a last-ditch playoff push Friday night, when they host the Red Wings in the first game for both teams following the NHL All-Star break.
The Rangers have been off since losing to the visiting New York Islanders 4-2 on Jan. 21. The Red Wings most recently lost their sixth straight game when they fell to the host Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Jan. 22.
The Islanders game was the second straight defeat for the Rangers, who moved on to the periphery of the Eastern Conference playoff race by going 6-4-0 between Dec. 27 and Jan. 16.
However, the back-to-back defeats leave little margin for error for the Rangers, who will enter Friday in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and 11 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs, who are tied for the final wild-card spot.
Barring a swift surge by his team, Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton likely will be compelled to sell at the deadline for the third straight season. But winger Chris Kreider, an All-Star and impending free agent who could be the most popular trade target on the New York roster, said he believes in the ability of the Rangers to climb the standings and make Gorton’s choice more difficult.
“We have such a good group,” Kreider told the New York Post during the All-Star Game festivities in St. Louis. “We’ve already gotten so much better, and we hope that continues.”
There’s not much hope for the Red Wings, whose 28 points are a distance last in the NHL. Detroit’s point percentage of .275 puts it on pace to finish with fewer points than the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche, whose 48 points were the fewest by a non-expansion team since a point began being awarded to overtime losers in 1999-2000.
If the Red Wings continue their pre-All-Star Break skid — they were outscored 29-10 while going 0-5-1 in the final six games — they could even have trouble exceeding the 39 points earned in 1999-2000 by the expansion Atlanta Thrashers, whose point percentage was .238.
Detroit is 3-13-1 in the past 17 games.
Former Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman, who is in his first season as the team’s general manager, expects to be active at the trade deadline, when he likely will continue the franchise’s rebuild.
Detroit’s impending free agents include defensemen Alex Biega, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Green as well as goalie Jimmy Howard.
“My plan isn’t to be passive,” Yzerman told the Red Wings’ radio network during an interview earlier this month. “I’m looking for ways to build for the future and trying to acquire draft picks or prospects or young players that can come into the organization sooner or later.”
–Field Level Media