Defenseman Brian Rafalski’s retirement will free up $6 million in cap space for next season for the Red Wings, potentially sending them into this summer’s UFA market.

DETROIT NEWS/DETROIT FREE PRESS/MLIVE.COM/FOXSPORTS DETROIT: report Brian Rafalski’s anticipated retirement will likely send Red Wings GM Ken Holland into this summer’s unrestricted free agent market in search of a potential replacement. Rafalski’s retirement will free up $6 million in cap space, which Holland can use to sign his replacement. Possible UFA candidates could include Boston’s Tomas Kaberle, Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski, Montreal’s Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Brent Sopel, Hal Gill and James Wisniewski, Tampa Bay’s Eric Brewer, NY Rangers’ Bryan McCabe, San Jose’s Ian White, Washington’s Scott Hannan, and Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo. Potential offer sheet targets could be Drew Doughty of the LA Kings, and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. Potential trade targets could include Philadelphia’s Brayden Coburn, Minnesota’s Brent Burns, Atlanta’s Zach Bogosian and Nashville’s Ryan Suter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kaberle hasn’t had a strong performance with the Bruins, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Red Wings have brought in a supposedly fading defenseman and see them rally back into form (Larry Murphy, Brad Stuart). Jovanovski, Hamrlik and McCabe seem past their prime. Hannan, Gill and Sopel wouldn’t replace Rafalski’s offense, while Salo has a long injury history. Markov when healthy is among the league’s best blueliners but he has a recent injury history and the Habs are expected to re-sign him. Bieksa’s performance this season has likely earned him a long-term extension with the Canucks. The best UFA options could be Ehrhoff and Pitkanen if the Wings decide to invest most of that $6 million in one defenseman. Brewer and White could be good additions if they opt to spend less to add more depth. Forget about prying away Doughty from the Kings and Weber from the Predators, as it’ll cost far more than $6 million per season to land either guy. As for those possible trade targets, their respect teams would want a scoring forward in return, and would probably want Valtteri Filppula, rather than Jiri Hudler. Even then, that might not be enough. I believe free agency will be the way to go, and the Wings would stand a great chance to land one of the better available defensemen if they wish.

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19 Responses to Rafalski retirement could push Red Wings into UFA market.

  1. Buffbry says:

    i want Bogosian,Wisniewski,Pitkanen,Bieksa on D and up front Laich thats it, 1 of those 2 andd laich with Brendan Smith and JakubKindl getting regular d minutes next year we only need 1 d and 1 girtty forward

  2. DurtMCHurt says:

    Markov and/or Kaberle would be interesting. I agree with Spector, in that the Wings have had pretty good success with reclamation projects. I’m still suprised Rafalski walked away from 6 million though, I wouldn’t have lol! Is his retirement pretty much official? Has he called a press conference or anything?

  3. Konstantine says:

    I think Markov’s injury history may scare off the wings. Look for Kaberle going there and finding his touch he had wth the Leafs.
    Let’s face it, the style of hockey Boston plays is not something Kaberle can adopt, he’ll be a much cheaper acquisition in the off-season for Detroit as I think they could land him for $5M per season.

  4. Buffbry says:

    his press conference is today at 11am eastern time

  5. Sean says:

    I could definetely see Ehrhoff wanting to play in Detroit and the rest of Team Sweden.

  6. Buffbry says:

    oh and if we pay kaberle 5 million a season i’m literally never going to watch another wings game until he is off the books cause that would be the worst signing in the history of sports. worse then ryan leaf. Cmon man 5 million? if he’s a reclamation project we get him for 2 million tops maybe 2.5

  7. Konstantine says:

    Buffbry: Not that I disagree with you, but there are other teams out there who would probably be ready and able to shell out at least $4-5M/season for Kaberle. Most scouts out there (and in the press) realize his poor play with Boston is strictly a clash of playing styles.

  8. Cameron Clark says:

    Just my opinion, but I’m thinking James Wisniewski would be a perfect fit for the Wings and the talk lately is Montreal doesn’t want him. He has an offensive flare to his game with a howitzer from the point and can also play a physical game. Look for Ken Holland to go after him quick!

  9. Flash in the Pan says:

    @Buffrby If you’re willing to pay over 4M a year for a borderline second line winger, then go ahead, because that’ll have to be his asking price for the Caps not to resign Laich. Personally, if he’s signing for 4-5M, I wouldn’t want him because he’d be horribly overpaid. He’s not Mike Fisher.

  10. DurtMCHurt says:

    Buffbry, thanks for the press conference info. And although I agree the Wings could get Kaberle cheaper then 5 mil, 2.5 is way too low. 4-4.25 is about right.

  11. Buffbry says:

    he is making 4.5 now and he wasn’t great on toronto or boston. He just looked better at the time in toronto cause they had nothing else. He is a really soft player, his best assets are the breakout pass(ie rafalski’s best thing too) just sick of our defenders getting man handled in front of the net and behind the net getting run because they aren’t going to stand on there head. I really don’t want Kaberle that’s why i was saying 2.5 million.

    Also on Laich, on a team like the wings he would be a depth signing but his grit and determination in the playoffs shows it’s exactly the type of player that puts you over the top in playoffs. I can care less if he scores 15-20 goals in the regular season, in the playoffs he steps up and those are the players that get you the cups…. dallas drakes,maxim talbots, kris drapers, joey kocur in 1997 for the wings, i’m telling you laich is a great addition for a team like detroit that needs grit and dirty go to the net hardnose style.

    Personally i just want Smid from edmonton and sign pitkanen oh and a backup goalie if we did that and only that this offseason i’d be happy

  12. Rick says:

    Sean, Ehrhoff is German, not Swedish.

  13. Sandy says:

    Want an aging but decent offensive defenseman — who had a bad year this year (mostly due to coaches placing him on the opposite side in the lineup) but who had many good years in Pittsburgh… I give you Sergei Gonchar.
    A 2 year experiment who you can walk away from at the end of the contract.
    Has won the Stanley Cup. Smooth skater and great on the PP (except in Ottawa this year).

    All it will cost is a 1st round pick.

  14. DurtMCHurt says:

    Sandy, stop saying Gonchar will fetch Ottawa a first rounder. He clearly won’t.

  15. prattleofontario says:

    Perhaps Kuba then, in exchange for some mustache trimmings?

  16. Liddy5 says:

    Ottawa would be lucky to simply give away Gonchar after the year he had. I laughed at the idea of Gonchar at first, but if the Wings find the asking prices of this year’s UFAs unpalatable, I could see them taking Gonchar for a 5th round pick. The problems? 1. Gonchar is slower and less healthy than he used to be, which doesn’t really help the Wings current roster-wide issue. 2. He’s left handed and basically plays the same role that Lidstrom does. That is, he’s the bomb from the point and so is Lidstrom, so I’m not sure how that would work. Liddy seems to do better when paired with a passer on the PP.

  17. Michael says:

    Everyone needs to stop going nuts, DET will ink one D-man to a 1 year deal, stop gap, till next year and wait to have over 14 mill I’n cap space and a much better free agent class. White would be a great chose, cheap prob 3.0 and a good park moving D man. That said we will still have lots of cap space so going out and getting a vet forward to a 1 year deal at about 3-4 mill who I’s cup hungry would help as win, and leave us with about 4 mil I’n space after we ink NL, DM, and PV. That way a month or so I’n the season or trade deadline, we will have money, 1st round pic, and hope hudler gets out of the gate strong so we have a scoring forward for bait as well. Krownwall I’s a very good number 2.D-man we just need a 3-4 to go with BS, and have kindle 5, and smith playing one more year I’n the ahl, but play couple with the big boys. Anouther opp, not likely is trade for semin, Franzon, hudler, and sturt for semin, win win, DET gets 40 goal guy with dats and sheds 3 mil off the books, wash who needs to shack it up, gets proven playoff score I’n JF, when healthy ( hurt as much as semin ) a 3rd line score I’n hudler, and a tough playoff d-man who brings a vet to team that needs vets. That would leave DET slim I’n back but again would have LOTs cap room, ink white, and jovie with NL, NL-NK, EJ-IW, JK-BS very sold d core. DC-PD-AS, HZ-VF-TB, TH-JA-DH. DM-JM-PE. Prop won’t happen but I think win win, and money works.

  18. Flash in the Pan says:

    @Buffrby So 7 goals in 37 playoff games is stepping up in the playoffs? Laich was at best invisible in the playoffs this year, and his one goal bounced in off his body. He didn’t provide much for our special teams. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that he’s great in the playoffs, because he simply isn’t. The best thing he’s done in April is change a fan’s tire after losing last year’s game 7.

  19. Aj says:

    If I’m the wings, I take a ruin with my new found cash at Burns. This guy is a huge risk of injury, but when he is healthy he is phenomenal. He’s a future PP QB which, while the Wings don’t need with Lidstrom around, they should be thinking of the near future when he won’t be.
    The knock on the Wings has been and old staff. having a new young stud would greatly help future planning as well as move that stereotype a bit away.

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