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Detroit Red Wings

Detroit’s Defence Looks Decidedly Dicey

Detroit Red WingsWith the season over, it’s time to look at contracts, new players, and retirements.

Brian Rafalski has retired with 3 Stanley Cups to his name, and has been one of the first names on the team sheet for the USA National Team since 2002. Not bad for a player that was undrafted. His knee problems are well documented though, and Brian obviously feels like it’s time to go whilst he can still walk. Smart move in my opinion.

Derek Meech has also decided to move on. This was written on the wall for some time. Meech requested a trade, nobody was interested in trading. Meech requested to be waived, Holland agreed, and nobody picked him up, not even on minimum contract. Therefore when Meech’s contract ran out this summer, it’s not surprising he made moves to leave Detroit. Put simply, he wasn’t able to crack the top 6-7 defencemen, and as such, would like to challenge himself elsewhere, and who can blame him? I think his next stop is Europe, and if he fancies coming over to the UK and playing for my team, we’re in need of a 3rd line defenseman. I’d even sort him out with a bottle of energy drink for free. Tempting offer isn’t it Derek?

So, that leads us to fill one major slot in the Red Wings defence. Who will partner Lidstrom on the top D-line (this is of course, assuming Nick doesn’t retire this year either, although sources and fans close to the team say he’s arranged with his wife to give it one last year)? There’s a veritable treasure trove of RFA and UFA defencemen out there this summer, and many look like excellent partners for Lidstrom.

Weber (RFA) – Nashville Predators

Doughty (RFA) – LA Kings

Bogosian (RFA) – Atlanta Thrashers (or whichever city this franchise is associated with this week)

Yandle (RFA) – Phoenix Coyotes

Jovanovski (UFA) – Phoenix Coyotes

Kaberle (UFA) – Boston Bruins

Markov (UFA) – Montreal Canadiens

Pitkanen (UFA) – Carolina Hurricanes

Bieksa (UFA) – Vancouver Canucks

Wisniewski (UFA) – Montreal Canadiens

Ehrhoff (UFA) – Vancouver Canucks

White (UFA) – San Jose Sharks

Now obviously, everyone would love to see Doughty or Weber team up with Lidstrom, simply for the youth and speed of the younger players, aided by the owl-like wisdom of the Red Wings captain. How frightening would that defensive pairing be? It’s also no harm in picking up a big-hitting physical player, and see if someone like Wisniewski or Jovanovski can challenge Kronwall to a “How many opposition forwards can you give concussions to?” competition.

Looking at a recent poll held on a popular Red Wings website, it appears that the front runners, at least in the fans eyes, are Wisniewski, Ehrhoff, and Pitkanen. Much as though everyone would love Doughty or Weber, their RFA status means Detroit would have to offer up something pretty staggering to sign the services of those players.

The UFA market looks much more likely, and since Ken Holland is a very experienced and shrewd GM, Red Wings fans have a lot of faith that the organisation will make a good move. After all, with Rafalski’s cap space freed up, then we could be looking at a top level D-man to replace him, or maybe even a couple of mid-level defensive players, and a move up for Kronwall or Stuart onto the top line. Either way, neither is a bad scenario.

The Wings have some of their own free agency issues, with 9 players falling into the UFA category this summer, defencemen Ericsson, Salei, and Lidstrom among them. Forwards are Modano, Draper, Eaves and Miller, with both Modano and Draper considering hanging up their skates, whilst goalie Chris Osgood ponders the same decision, both he and fellow backup Joey MacDonald are also UFA.

It’s not unreasonable therefore to assume that simply through retirement, the Red Wings could lose Rafalski, Lidstrom, Modano, Draper and Osgood (with a whopping 14 Stanley Cup wins between them!). This would free up approximately $11-12 million in cap space. With some decent prospect coming through too, such as Mursak, Emmerton, and the highly rated Brendan Smith, it might be prudent to splash out on a big points forward, a top line D-man, and promote a couple of prospects to the full roster.

I’m sure this idea is not new to Ken Holland though, and it is in him that we trust…

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