So I throw my speculative hat into the ring. Brain Rafalski retires due to excessive injuries? Yup, it's spreading like wild fire and already driving dialogue in oppose team fan blogs. Most notably from those within the Central Division. Some are becoming bold enough to suggest this signals the end of the Detroit Red Wings dominance within the Central Division. More pragmatic heads quickly dismiss such fantasies as this turn of events may leave Detroit in an even stronger position.
Of course this news along with the question of Nicklas Lidstrom really does throw everyone for a loop on cap space and possible replacements. Should both Lidstrom (God forbid) and Rafalski retire that means over $12 million dollars for Ken Holland to play with to secure as many as 3 quality defensemen and still maybe have money left over to secure other players such as Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller. Certain GMs around the NHL are now going to be looking over their free agency wish lists and may even have to redouble their efforts to secure their rosters from Red Wing predation. Slow march to July 1st, HA!
One. I'd like to see another large bodied, skilled defenseman added to the Red Wing blue line. Ericsson is not developing fast enough for any Wing fan.
Two. Someone closer to or even under the age of 30 so we can sign them to the long term.
Three. I am willing to give up some draft picks to land a RFA because then we can concentrate on developing our current crop of hopefuls in the minors while having possibly landing a monster on our blue line that can hit, score, and back check like a MF'er. Perhaps Ken Holland will land some more late round draft miracles to compensate for our lack of 1st and 2nd rounders in the years to come. Yeah there's going to be a real debate on whether this is a good idea but we are not going to make everyone 100% happy with an UFA or RFA selection. So let's roll.
While I would love for the Wings to snatch up Weber. It would be just as advantageous to just toy with the Predators so they pay too much to keep him. Though the idea of Weber on the same line as Lidstrom on our PP1 line has visions of sugar plums and Stanley Cups dancing through my head.
I wouldn't mind the Red Wings picking up Luke Shenn from Toronto for a young hard hitting stay at home defensemen they're not about to let him go so easily. Wishful thinking on my part. This replacement choice doesn't address the loss in points by Rafalski. Though that loss would be made up in the fewer amount of defensive lapses that gave me several thousand heart attacks throughout the season. Detroit's defensive game was lacking this year.
Drew Doughty would be the better offensive choice of the elite and youthful RFAs. He would be Rafalski 2.0 on the blue line contributing points at even strength and on the PP with good puck handling. But like Luke Shenn with Toronto, LA is not going to give Doughty up without a fight and should be more than willing to pay to keep him. Especially since LA is looking to displace San Jose in the coming years to pull in front of the Pacific Division.
My dark horse pick will be Zach Bogosian from the Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets, maybe, who knows). This kid's numbers show frustration. He plays in the same division as the offensive blitzkrieg Washington Capitals and the up and coming TB Lightning at the age of 20. He's got a heavy shot, skates well, and can play aggressively in his own end. However, he is going to be too expensive of a risk to take on for his age and experience. Detroit would have had him play a couple years in Grand Rapids instead of throwing him to the wolves. He has shown the same inconsistencies like a certain Red Wing we all know. And he's a RFA to boot. Perhaps Detroit could look to pick him up in the future as one of those players that are looking for a second chance in the NHL.
Well that's my little take on Rafalski's possible replacements. There's plenty of time for reflection and day dreaming until July 1st. Never know this is all just one of those silly rumors to get us all riled up.