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Holland and Red Wings on Track To Repeat Free Agency Mistakes

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Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers

NHL Free Agent Frenzy is here and as Calgary Flames President Brian Burke states every year around this time “It’s when teams most the most mistakes!” Ken Holland appears to be on his way to making some more of his own.

Someone will overpay for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner this weekend. Someone will give more term to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau then they should. With the salary cap situation, Detroit will not be one of those teams.

However, the Red Wings as reported by Craig Custance of The Athletic have been linked to several defenseman including Daniel Girardi, Trevor Daley, Brian Campbell, Ron Hainsey and Dmitri Kulikov to name a few.

Girardi, Daley, Campbell, and Hainsey are defenseman that make sense as depth moves for contending teams with an already-established blueline core of good players, not a team like Detroit which needs to be rebuilding and was not close to making the playoffs.

With rumors of multiple teams in the running for these four defenseman it appears slim that a one year deal at a favorable cap hit would be enough for them to become Red Wings.

Just this morning TSN’s Pierre LeBrun also reported the Wings and Boston are in the running for Daley. It is safe to assume he will get more money and term than most Wings fans are comfortable with. Besides, the fit doesn’t make sense for where the Red Wings are at this point.

If you want to dip into free agency look younger such as Kulikov. He has not been good thus far in his NHL career, but is 26 years old and a case could be made to take a chance on him on a short one or two year cap friendly deal. Even then for him it’s a bit of a stretch.

Flip For Picks?

The common theme we are hearing with the Red Wings is to sign a few of these veteran defenseman and if it doesn’t work out then flip them for draft picks at the trade deadline. With all the negative reaction to the most recent draft for the Wings and many losing or have already lost faith in the drafting by this organization, this approach doesn’t make sense either.

These veteran defensemen will not guarantee success. Instead, the Red Wings should increase the roles of Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet. How about making sure Nick Jensen’s minutes are not cut into? They should look to Grand Rapids and see what exactly do they have in Dylan McIlrath, Robbie Russo and Joe Hicketts. If we are already hearing what to do when it doesn’t work out, just skip that part of the process and see what guys in your system can do. If you’re not making the playoffs anyway, what’s the harm in this approach?

Mikhail Grigorenko?

Custance, also wrote that Holland is taking a look at forward Mikhail Grigorenko: only 23 and an available free agent. Since Holland and head coach Jeff Blashill still believe in the culture, system and Red Wing way, Grigorenko is a player that makes more sense. He has never had any structure in Colorado or Buffalo and sometimes it takes a player a while along with several different teams before he finally gets to where expectations were. Besides, I’m intrigued by the prospect of Grigorenko centering Anthony Mantha or what about Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar. For an organization that needs more immediate depth at center this is a risk worth taking.

Look Beyond Next Season

Overall, I’m not looking toward just next season. It’s not worth it to just squeak into the playoffs. The current situation of the Detroit Red Wings will be solved first by time, meaning getting some of these contracts off the books and not adding any older veteran players that will make the situation worse. Taking a risk on Grigorenko is fine, he’s young and can develop still and can possibly be a core player when things finally do turn around.

Holland, looking at these 33 and older free agents will try selling you that they will help Detroit make the playoffs and just getting in like Nashville did with the last playoff spot in the west this past season gives you a chance and look what can happen.

There is no comparison to the two teams. These older veteran players will be mistakes which will make the long term situation worse and that extends the real problems this team has. It’s not about next year, it’s about fixing the problems that have resulted from bad contracts in the first place.