As Red Wings fans continue to digest yesterday's free agent acquisitions, two things are clear.
1. The team needs a top-pairing defenseman
2. The team has too many forwards and not enough defensemen.
While making it happen is much easier said than done, it appears like Ken Holland is looking to trade one or more forwards in a package to bring back a defenseman. Here is a look at potential targets.
Potential targets not covered here:
St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is available, but the price to get him is reportedly very high, and he will be an UFA after next season. If the Wings are going to give up the type of assets it will likely take to get a 1D, they should go for a young player, if possible.
Nashville has arguably the best top four defenseman corps in the league, so it doesn't seem likely they would want to break that up before seeing what they can do. If they would be open to that, a player like Mattias Ekholm would be a great target. Mike wrote a fanpost that discusses Ekholm, so take a look at that if you are interested.
What the Wings have
In case you have questions about the Wings need for a top-pairing defenseman, here is one of our top defenseman's HERO chart.
Who do you think this is?
If you guessed Danny DeKeyser, you're right. I'm not saying he's a bad defenseman, but he hasn't performed as well as fans had hoped he would. So what are some options to improve our d-corps?
Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler
Lindholm is a 22 year old, left shooting defenseman who is currently a restricted free agent. There are no reports that Anaheim is looking to shop him, but they are looking to trade his teammate, 24 year old Cam Fowler, who has 2 years left at $4m a year. If you watched either the draft coverage or the free agency coverage on NHL Network, you heard people talk about how Cam Fowler is one of the best defenseman on the market.
The stats say otherwise. Here are Lindholm and Fowler's HERO charts
Now, Lindholm is likely not available, but his chart looks much more like the chart of someone you would be willing to trade major assets to acquire. Fowler's chart isn't in the same neighborhood, so remember that when you hear Fowler being hyped by someone like Pierre McGuire.
The Avalanche's Barrie is a 24 year old, right shooting defenseman. Colorado has made a long-term offer to keep him, but he has not yet signed. It's looking like he will head to arbitration. The Avalanche say they want to keep him, but could they be persuaded? Definitely something to look into.
As you can see, Barrie is much more of a legitimate top-pairing player than Fowler, and they are the same age.
Winnipeg RFA Jacob Trouba is one of the defenseman most speculated as being available. Three days ago, Boston was rumored to be preparing a massive offer sheet for the 6'3" right handed blueliner.
Trouba is 22, and already a top-pairing player with the potential to continue to elevate his game. His chart is not as good as Lindholm or Barrie, but much better than Fowler.
Comparing all of them
I already have a good deal of charts in this article, so I made a stat table to compare these four players with Danny Dekeyser, as well as with a mystery Red Wings d-man. Stick tap to Prashanth for advice on what stats to use.
Stats used (all stats 5 on 5): Time on Ice / 60 ; Score-adjusted Corsi For Relative ; Expected Goals For / 60 Relative ; Expected Goals Against / 60 Relative ; Primary Points (goals and first assists) / 60 ; Defensive Zone Starts (DZone Starts / (DZone Starts + Neutral Zone Starts + Offensive Zone Starts + On The Fly Starts)) ; Time on Ice. Quality of Competition (The weighted average TOI% of a player's opponents faced)
You can see that each defenseman has his strengths and weaknesses. Barrie has strong offensive stats, but his CFRel is substantially lower than Lindholm. Lindholm has the much better possession stat here, second only to the mystery Red Wing defender. Trouba's stats are better than Dekeyser, nearly across the board. Fowler's disappointing numbers shouldn't be too surprising if you looked at his HERO chart earlier. I'll come back to the mystery man at the end of the article.
Whom do we look at and what will it cost?
The order of which player I would most want is:
Lindholm, Barrie, Trouba, Fowler
The order of which player I think we can reasonably acquire is:
Fowler, Trouba, Barrie, Lindholm, with a pretty sizable gap between Barrie and Trouba.
That being the case, I think a reasonable expectation is Jacob Trouba, which would give us a young, legitimate top-pair defenseman. As I've shown, I really don't want us to go after Cam Fowler.
As for what it will cost, be prepared to give up more than you want as fans. I can easily see a player like Anthony Mantha or Andreas Athanasiou being part of a deal. I am very high on both those players, so that would hurt, but the team's need for a top defenseman is major, and there are not many available.
I mean, it took Taylor Hall just to get Adam Larsson!
All joking aside, obtaining a player like Trouba will cost the team dearly. And if we do, who do we play him with? We saw above that DDK is not really a top line guy.
Which brings us back to the mystery Red Wing. I'll just leave his chart here: