Speculation over what the Philadelphia Flyers might do to address their depleted defense corps – which suffered yet another blow with Andreas Lilja reportedly sidelined by off-season hip surgery until December – has overshadowed the blueline plight of the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit’s defense corps currently consists of Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White, Jakub Kindl and rookie Brendan Smith. The retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the loss of Brad Stuart to the San Jose Sharks has GM Ken Holland seeking replacements.
The Red Wings entered this summer with considerable cap space and, given their reputation among the league’s most respected franchises, were considered among the frontrunners for Ryan Suter, the top defenseman among the UFA crop.
But Suter shocked the hockey world by joining his pal Zach Parise in signing with the Minnesota Wild, forcing Holland to look elsewhere.
It’s believed Holland had serious interest in Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, but not enough to break with his long-standing opposition to offer sheets. Weber ultimately signed an offer sheet with the Flyers, which was subsequently matched by the Predators, ensuring he’d remain in Nashville.
Holland wants to give Kindl and Smith more playing time and could evaluate his defense corps in training camp to determine if it needs more experienced depth.
The current NHL collective bargaining negotiations prompted a Detroit pundit to suggest it’s “throwing a monkey wrench into plans for the Red Wings” and other NHL teams.
Still, rumors persist the Wings continue to shop around for a veteran blueliner.
MLive.com’s Brendan Savage recently “a team source” confirmed the Wings contacted the Calgary Flames regarding 28-year-old defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.
Savage noted the Flames currently had around $66.7 million committed in payroll for this coming season, suggesting if the salary cap were to drop from the current $70.2 million under a new CBA, they would be forced to dump salary.
Bouwmeester has two years at $6.7 million per remaining on his contract, which Savage claimed Wings management wasn’t thrilled about but has the cap space (more than $13 million) to absorb. He also reported the Wings were concerned the Flyers would try to trade for Bouwmeester to shore up their depleted defense.
Despite the trade talk, however, there’s no guarantee the Red Wings, Flyers or anybody else lands the Flames blueliner. The Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson pointed out Bouwmeester has a no-trade clause, plus the Flames would find it difficult replacing someone who plays the minutes he does (25:57 per game).
Gilbertson believes the Flames should keep Bouwmeester unless they can become a better team by trading him.
Assuming the Flames are shopping Bouwmeester and he’s willing to waive his trade clause to go to Motown, the Wings still have to give up a decent return.
Given the Flames were among the league’s lowest-scoring teams last season, Calgary GM Jay Feaster would want at least a skilled scoring forward, perhaps Valtteri Filppula, who had his long-awaited breakout performance last season, in return.
The problem, however, is the Wings are also thin in skilled scoring depth beyond Filppula, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. They were in the market for Parise prior to his signing with the Wild last month and have expressed interest in free agent right winger Shane Doan.
Trading away a scoring forward for Bouwmeester would address one problem, but create another.
If Holland intends to bolster his ‘D’ without sacrificing offense, his best option is the free agent market, where Carlo Colaiacovo, Michal Rozsival, Brett Clark, Kurtis Foster and Jaroslav Spacek remain available, probably at bargain prices.
Otherwise, Detroit simply has to wait and see if the new CBA forces rival clubs to shop defensemen or look within its own system for help.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.