Look Around the League: Available Defensemen

 

It's no secret that the Red Wings have not played up to their defensive potential this season; they've surrendered more goals per game than any other currently playoff-bound Western Conference team.  While my post yesterday lays my opinions about this pretty clear, there are people out there in Red Wings nation who would like to see GM Ken Holland make a move before the trade deadline to help shore up the defensive corps for a playoff push.  TSN's Bob McKenzie was on NHL Network's NHL on the Fly last night to discuss the bevy of available defensemen out there.  While I remain strong-minded that the Wings don't need to make a move, it's worth it to explore the options and to see what the Wings would have to give up in order to get something back. 

 

 

So there you have the list.  Follow me below the jump where we'll take a closer look at some of these guys.

First off, the salary cap issue:  The Red Wings are up against the cap about as far as they can go.  I'm going to simplify a complex issue.  For every dollar they take on, they have to lose a dollar somewhere.  As a result, I'm automatically throwing a few guys off the list for being too expensive.  Francois Beauchemin ($3.8M), Tomas Kaberle ($4.25M), Ron Hainsey ($4.5M), Robyn Regehr ($4M), Eric Brewer ($4.25M), Sheldon Souray ($5.4M), and Mike Commodore (forget the cap hit, he hates Babcock)

 As for the salary going the other way, there are a few options.  For the sake of sanity, I'm going to assume that none of the guys we're discussing are worth more than two Red Wings players.  Here are the players I'm considering as trade bait:

Jonathan Ericsson: He's a UFA at the end of this season, where he's making $900K to play.  All of Red Wings nation has vacillated between hope and despair for him.  He's basically the must-move in this situation, as it would be his roster spot the replacement would be taking.  If for some reason you believe Jakub Kindl would be better to get rid of (or more likely to be requested in a trade, rather), then feel free to replace Ericsson in your own mind with Kindl's $833K cap hit through the 2012-13 season (where he's an RFA).
Jiri Hudler: With a cap hit of $2.875M and a contract that expires after the end of the 2011-12 season, this still-underperforming-but-looking-better Czech may be traded as a way to clear up cap space for some of the more highly-paid guys.  If Holland is confident in the Wings' forward health going into the playoffs, he might take a risk that Hudler isn't going to keep his improvement up after being moved back to the third line.
Drew Miller / Justin Abdelkader / Patrick Eaves: Salary ranges from $650k for Miller to $787.5K for Abdelkader make these guys the alternate expendables for a move.  If the Wings get fully healthy, there's not going to be space for all of them anyway.

A couple notes on guys I haven't mentioned here.  Kris Draper and his $1.583M cap hit are not going anywhere.  Throw out the organizational loyalty and you still have a +35 contract and a no-trade clause.  Secondly, I've seen Valtteri Filppula's name pop up here and there.   I'm sorry, but if you believe this, I'm amazed you've been able to read this far down.  No matter how emotionally detached I make myself from this conversation, I cannot take seriously a way that Filppula as a solid 2nd-line center making $3M per year at age 26 is worth trading, especially for what will have to amount to a 4th-5th defenseman.

So, let's get to the guys who are available that McKenzie mentioned:

Chris Phillips - Ottawa Senators: Age 32 Contract Status: UFA $3.5M 25 GP 0G 3 A -25
The biggest complaints about Phillips are about his head, not his ability.  His rating is horrible on a horrible team, but like McKenzie says, maybe he just needs a change of scenery to turn into the second coming of Brad Stuart.
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Hudler
Risk/Reward: High/High - It's always tough judging the "needs a change of scenery" guys because for every Brad Stuart success, there's also been a Jiri Slegr.  In his favor, Phillips is a 13-year NHL veteran who clearly knows how to play a shutdown role and physical defense.  You are definitely giving up offense to get him, as he won't provide much of his own

Mark Stuart - Boston Bruins: Age 26 Contract Status: UFA 1.675M 29 GP 1G 3A +6
Yes, it would be funny to have two Stuart's on the back end... This one plays only 16:30 a night for Boston when he actually plays, but has been sidelined with a broken hand lately.  He's not very good with the puck, but likes to play physical. 
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Abdelkader (Abby's the only one of the three who makes enough to hit the dollar-for-dollar plateau)
Risk/Reward: Medium/Low - To get Stuart, we'd give up the lower-paid Ericsson and one of our better forecheckers.  What we get back is a guy who's likely going to turn the puck over just as often as the defenseman he replaces. 

Radek Martinek - New York Islanders: Age 34 Contract Status: UFA $1.5M 39 GP 1G 5A -5
A smart defenseman on the back end who can make good passes and knows when to pinch, Martinek has an  injury history that reads like a sadistic doctor's fanfic.  He's played more than 70 games only once in his career. 
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Miller/Abdelkader/Eaves
Risk/Reward: High/Medium - If healthy, he can provide in a few different roles, but the problem is being healthy. Throwing away depth forwards likely isn't going to help here.

Steve Staios -Calgary Flames: Age 37 Contract Status: UFA 2.7M 15 GP 1G 1A -1
Staios is a veteran's veteran.  He's been around the block a few times and will provide even more veteran experience and leadership.  He knows how to play in all areas, but prefers his own zone.  Unfortunately, he's a big injury risk and has missed time with head injuries each of the last two seasons. 
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Hudler (Technically only Hudler for cap space, but we'd have too many D-Men then)
Risk/Reward: High/Medium - Staios is capable of playing defense very effectively, but unlike Phillips and Mark Stuart, he's likely not a good candidate for re-signing with Detroit to continue his career.  On the bright side, making this trade would give the Wings $1M in cap space in case they want to go after a slightly pricier goalie to play backup to Howard.

Anton Babchuk - Calgary Flames: Age 26 Contract Status: UFA $1.4M 52 GP (Flames/Hurricanes) 6G 16A +1
Big, mean, and mistake-prone describes Babchuk.  He doesn't eat big minutes with the Flames, but he's got offensive flair.  His game still needs to round out in the defensive zone however and he would likely be as harshly scrutinized as Ericsson.
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Miller/Abdelkader/Eaves
Risk/Reward: Medium/Medium - At worst, what Detroit would be trading for here is a replacement for Ericsson who costs half-a-million more and forces the Wings to part with a depth forward to make space.  If they had that extra cap space without having to give up a forward, I'd probably be ok with pulling the trigger (although I doubt Jay Feaster would).

Kurtis Foster - Edmonton Oilers: Age 29 Contract Status UFA in 2012 $1.8M 46 GP 3G 9A -11
Foster is three years older than Ericsson, but carries with him some of the same complaints, that he's a big guy who needs to learn to use his size better and that he makes too many mistakes in his own end. 
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Abdelkader (I'm guessing here that it's close enough to dollar-for-dollar to somehow make it fit)
Risk/Reward: Medium/Low - Foster is paid twice as much, is three years older, and has scored fewer points than Ericsson in more games.  Ericsson may be frustrating, but it looks like he's got a higher career potential.  All we'd be gaining from losing two players for Foster is an extra year on his contract. 

Brent Sopel - Atlanta Thrashers: Age 34 Contract Status: UFA $2.33M 52G 1G 5A +8
To be honest, I'm not sure why McKenzie said they're shopping him.  They're currently in a playoff spot and I'm not sure why they'd get rid of him once Enstrom returns, since they had space for him before he went down.  SBN's player profile page describes him as "somewhat injury prone".  He can log big minutes, but, in what's becoming something of a trend for the big defenseman on this list, he apparently doesn't use his big frame enough to his advantage.
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Hudler
Risk/Reward: High/Low - I've never been very impressed with Sopel and his cost is far too high for what he brings to the table.

Carlo Colaiacovo - St. Louis Blues: Age 28 Contract Status: UFA in 2012 $2.125M 36 GP 4G 12A -12
The Blues aren't shopping their D yet and I doubt they would to a division rival, but if they fall out of the playoff race, who knows?  Colaiacovo is a positionally smart defenseman who doesn't turn the puck over much and almost never gets beaten one-on-one.  He has good sense to know when to join a rush and when to hang back.  Unfortunately, he's another of the oft-injured types.
What we'd have to give up: Ericsson and Hudler
Risk/Reward: High/High - Colaiacovo isn't overpaid like Sopel, considering his skillset, but he's just in that bad pay area where you'd have to give up $3.775M in cap space to get back $2.125.  Like I said about Staios, that could come in handy if Holland has a goaltending move in mind.  I think he could put up good numbers in Detroit if he can stay healthy and aid the Wings' puck-movement style from the third pairing if need be.  The price is just a bit high.

Ultimately, like I said above, I don't think the Wings need to make any of these moves, as the return of Brad Stuart and the beginning of the playoffs will help Detroit shore up their defense more than any roster moves.  As a caveat though, I wasn't convinced the Wings needed to make any roster moves when they traded to get Brad Stuart back in 2007 and look how that turned out.  If I had to pull the trigger on any of these moves, I'd probably take Phillips and roll the dice that the "change of scenery" wheels land on jackpot. I'd like to have Colaiacovo if possible, but the pay doesn't fit for what we'd have to give up unless there are other moves in the pipeline.  Either way, I don't like the concept of dumping Hudler, who I am confident will have a good second half and playoff run, nor do I like the concept of dumping Miller, Eaves, or Abdelkader, the three depth guys that we've really come to rely on.  If I had to get rid of one in a package deal with Ericsson, It would be Miller, but I don't like getting rid of any of them.

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