Friday, July 20, 2012

Detroit Red Wings Plan B

Nick Lidstrom has retired and Brad Stuart has returned to San Jose. The Detroit Red Wings have lost 2 of their top 4 defensemen and have not replaced them with anybody. They lost out on Ryan Suter and Matt Carle, and now the list of available free agent blue liners has become perilously thin. If they are unable to replace this loss of talent, then this roster will struggle next season. Being on Suter and Parise's short lists handcuffed them from making significant offers to Jason Garrison, Sami Salo, even Sheldon Souray. Kyle Quincy signed a 2 year deal at a fair price, but he's not much better than a 4th or 5th defenseman.

Ken Holland must have a plan B, which has to be bringing in new talent on the back end through the trade market. The team has plenty of cap space to take on big contracts, but hardly the abundant supply of young assets needed to land a big fish. Wings fans must be patient, because the best time to make trades will be immediately after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the cap comes down, there will be a number of teams forced to shed salary, making for a buyers market. I would even go so far as to say that Wings fans should cheer for the cap to come down substantially, but for salaries to remain the same. It would create the optimal conditions for a buyers market, and Detroit has abundant cap space.

In the meantime, Holland could also bear down and sign a few RFA offer sheets on players like Michael Del Zotto, PK Subban, John Carlson, or even Dmitri Kulikov. The offer sheet is not in Ken Holland's playbook, but it is a perfectly legal tool that NHL General Managers should use to help build their roster. We all remember Brian Burke skewering Kevin Lowe for signing Dustin Penner, which serves as an example of how this tactic is perceived among the GM fraternity. It is not a good way to make friends, however it is completely legal and arguably more fair than long term heavily front loaded contracts intended for salary cap circumvention. There is RFA talent available on the blue line, but the offers would have to be pretty high for the other teams not to match.

There was virtually no way they ever had a realistic shot at Shea Weber, unless he went UFA in one year. Anyone suggesting Detroit struck out on Weber, slow your role; Poile was not going to trade him to a heated rival inside the division (and is all but certain to match any offer). It's the same reason why you are unlikely to see Columbus trade Rick Nash to the Red Wings, even if they met Howson's ridiculously high asking price. Calgary is likely eager to move Bouwmeester at the right price, and Keith Ballard could be had in Vancouver if you're simply willing to eat his contract. For Christ's sake the Red Wings might almost be better off with Wade Redden than Jakub Kindl.

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