While the free agency pool was not nearly as deep this year as it has been in years past, people need to remember that GM's can also make player trades. It's not as if the free agent market is the only way of obtaining new blood.
This again is why I am giving Holland a solid C. He did nothing to make the team better. Lidstrom, Eaves, and Miller all wanted to come back (Lidstrom's decision was his own, not Hollands), and their signings in no way were "hard work" for Holland. Commie, White and Conner were decent signings (the best in terms of likely output being White), but other then that he really didn't do much at all.
He definitely didn't do a bad job, but I do not see how he could be given an A for what he did. An A would mean he excelled this offseason, which really insn't the case. He kept the ship together and added a couple cogs to our back end - again, not a bad job, but far from "excellent".
I have a weird feeling though there is still a trade coming - one to bring in another top 6 forward. I could and probably am living in the smoke of a pipe dream, I just have a feeling Holland is not done. And if that is the case, I will of course have to re grade.
The problem with your theory is while Holland could have made trades, it would plug a hole while creating two new holes. Detroit doesn't have lots of assets unless you trade players you don't want to trade. Of course Holland could have probably traded Filppula, Kronwall, Helm, or Smith, but outside of that who? Trading any of those players, you just created new (bigger) holes.
Smith is our future, so why trade him? He's going to be a core player in a couple years.
Helm is a unique type player and a fireball, he's the type of player you need to win championships.
Kronwall's contract is arguably one of the best contract (cap hits) in the entire league. His cap hit is only $3 million, Holland can't replace him for under $6 million per year. So why trade him?
Filppula is a great player, but overpaid. He's not even a 20 goal guy. He's a good two-way guy, and a borderline 2nd liner. He doesn't really have lots of 'trade value' unless you package him up with a Darren Helm or a Brendan Smith. Then after you trade him, a new hole just opened up. He's an integral piece to Detroit's 2008 cup win, and was just as important in the 2009 run. He's a solid depth guy that helps Red Wings win championships.
I guess Franzen could be trade bait, but to be honest, I don't think he has much value. He's a playoff beast when healthy, but that's the problem, the guy is made of glass and has what... 9 years left on his contract? So perhaps Holland could offer him for an overpaid fringe 2nd liner that disappears in the playoffs, but what's the point? Aren't the Detroit Red Wings playing for the playoffs? Why trade the 2nd best playoff performer on the team for a fringe 2nd liner who will probably disappear?
I think people over-value the assets on this team. Detroit is a good team because the way it's built and the core (Lids, Dats, Zetterberg) with good supporting cast that compliment each other. Detroit doesn't have any real assets unless you want to package up some type of crazy deal just to trade (i.e. Helm, Kronwall, Smith).
There's no point in trading unless Holland can get a steal... but, unfortunately, that only happens on NHL11 or HFboards "trade proposal" message boards..