With just 15 days to go before the start of free agency, Red Wings GM Ken Holland has the luxury of financial maneuverability.
Still, questions linger.
Brian Rafalski’s retirement opened up a chunk of salary cap space, but it isn’t easy to replace a defenseman of his caliber. And we still don’t know what the future holds for Nick Lidstrom, who at 41, can still play with the very best in the National Hockey League. Ditto for Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, both of whom may want an opportunity for one last Stanley Cup hurrah.
Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller were fine complementary pieces and key contributors when given the opportunity to perform. There’s a lot to like about Jonathan Ericsson, including the old adage that you can’t teach size. It bears mentioning that we’re talking about a player about to enter his third full NHL season. He’s also been in a situation where his inexperience is exposed playing with some of the very best at his craft.
It isn’t easy suiting up alongside Lidstrom, Rafalski, Stuart and Kronwall on a nightly basis. And I’d imagine it is just as difficult learning to leverage a 6’5” frame after growing up as one of the best players on the ice based on skill alone. Think about how long it took Hal Gill to establish himself, or Zdeno Chara to evolve. Chris Pronger has been the defensive backbone of three clubs that have made the Stanley Cup Final post-lockout, all after turning 30.
You get the feeling that Lidstrom’s return or potential retirement will have a snowball effect on the decisions that are made this summer. Your latest update, according to MLive has Mike Babcock confident that we’ll see #5 back on the ice this fall.
“I’m 100 percent optimistic,” Babcock said Tuesday.
Asked why, Babcock said, “Why not? He’s too good. And our team is too good for him to quit.”
As for who else is out there, fans may drool over Shea Weber, but it is hard to imagine Nashville letting him go elsewhere, especially within the division.
There is Canton-born James Wisniewski, who is a right-handed shot, only 27, and can move the puck.
Vancouver has to deal with a trio of defensemen, Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo, staring free agency right in the face. Bieksa and Ehrhoff will benefit from the lengthy playoff run their club has had.
We’ll start finding those answers out over the next few weeks. Who is on your free agency wish list?