We are less than a week away from the NHL kicking off it’s annual free agent frenzy, where all 31 teams will be looking to improve their 2017-18 rosters. The Detroit Red Wings will once again be kicking the infamous proverbial tires in hopes of acquiring some new names that will provide a shot in the arm to a team heading into a new arena and looking to rebound from a disappointing 2016-17 season.
And as we all know, the Red Wings could use a little boost on the blue-line.
While this summer’s list of UFA’s contains both notable and veteran surnames, it would not be in Detroit’s best interest to pursue many of them, whether it be in regard to age and/or asking price. Players such as Andrei Markov, Dennis Wideman, Mark Streit, and Francois Beauchemin are all on the wrong side of thirty years old and come with a hefty price tag that the Wings should, and most likely will, avoid.
Then there is Dan Girardi, who at age 33 isn’t the oldest of the available blue-liners, but would certainly be asking a steep price for his services. Girardi, regardless of what NHL team he signs with, will additionally be due just a little over one million dollars next season after having his previous contract was bought out by the New York Rangers earlier this month. The Red Wings should avoid Girardi, even at a discounted price.
Kevin Shattenkirk is the premier defensive free agent name that stands out among the rest. However, Shattenkirk will also demand the biggest asking price in return. Landing the 28-year-old defender would be helpful to any NHL team, including Detroit, but I don’t hold any hope or belief of that coming to fruition for the Red Wings. If we learned anything from Shattenkirk’s one year stint in Washington, he wasn’t the “missing piece” to the Capitals’ Stanley Cup aspirations.
But there are a few interesting and more-affordable defenders that Ken Holland and company could pursue on July 1. Keep in mind that none of the following names will be catalysts that will swoop in and heroically save the Red Wings blue-line and catapult Detroit back into playoff contention, but could instead bring a more balanced look to Detroit’s back-end while lessening the roles of some Detroit’s more inconsistent defensemen.
Height/Weight: 6’3 / 219 lbs
2016-17 Cap Hit: $2.8 MM
Career CF%: 48.7%
Career oZS%: 46.2%
Alzner, a former top five draft pick, will certainly have no shortage of suitors when the free agency market opens up. Karl has appeared in 540 consecutive regular season games for the Washington Capitals since 2010-11. Many expected Alzner to be selected by the Las Vegas Golden Knights during their 2017 expansion draft, but Alnzer was passed up for his fellow blue-liner, Nate Schmidt.
Height/Weight: 6’5 / 224 lbs
2016-17 Cap Hit: $3.3 MM
Career CF%: 49.7%
Career oZS%: 47.7%
After being selected by the Nashville Predators in 2005, Franson has spent his NHL career bouncing from Nashville, Toronto, back to Nashville, and most recently with the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres need just as much help on their defensive side as do the Red Wings, and Cody Franson’s six-foot-five frame will definitely draw Ken Holland’s interest. If Detroit could land Franson at a reasonable price, it certainly wouldnt be a terrible decision on the Wings’ part.
Height/Weight: 5’11 / 195 lbs
2016-17 Cap Hit: $3.3 MM
Career CF%: 48.7%
Career oZS%: 51.2%
Daley is a veteran offensive-defenseman who has appeared in nearly 900 regular season games, mostly with Dallas and Pittsburgh. At age 33, Daley’s career and production may be in the beginning of an unavoidable decline, but there still may be a little bit more left in the tank. It’s hard to imagine Daley wanting to leave Pittsburgh after capturing back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, but USA Today’s Kevin Allen thinks Daley would be a good fit in Detroit.
Height/Weight: 6’3 / 210 lbs
2016-17 Cap Hit: $4 MM
Career CF%: 47.7%
Career oZS%: 49.5%
Like Cody Franson, Michael Stone is a big-bodied defender/right-handed shot that could draw interest from the Red Wings. Like Trevor Daley, stone has a bit of an offensive upside but has had some injury issues while finding himself in a bit of a production decline over the last few seasons. Still, at a reasonable cost and term, Stone could benefit from a change of scenery.
As I stated earlier, none of the players above are guaranteed game changers for the Red Wings, but they also wouldn’t make the team any less productive. As we know all too well, landing free agents is not the assured slam dunk that it used to be for Detroit in the modern-day NHL. Ultimately, Ken Holland can work the phones all he wants, but in the end, may not have the capital or assets to seal the deal.