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.