Detroit Red Wings, 2013 Stanley Cup Champions: Part 3
The Detroit Red Wings hopes of winning the 2013 Stanley Cup rest largely with their ability to restock a defense corps which just suffered the loss of two out of their top four defensemen. Nic Lidstrom has retired and Brad Stuart's rights were traded to San Jose where he signed shortly thereafter.
Every season in recent memory, the Wings have been at or near the top in goals and points from defensemen. This is a defining part of the Red Wings style of play. They need top end productive defensemen. Expect Kronwall, White and Quincey (pending his re-signing) to top the 30 point plateau next season.
The loss of two of their top four defensemen will put the Wings in hot pursuit of a top four defenseman. On the current roster, they have Nik Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith. Kyle Quincey is a RFA.
Here are some of the top Red Wings targets by tier.
$6 Million Option
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Ryan Suter is not one of top 5 defensemen in the NHL. Ryan Suter is an all-star and an outstanding young hockey player. He is the golden skate of the 2012 NHL free agent defenseman crop. Several teams are going to be questing for his services, including the Red Wings.
Suter's best assets are his skating ability, intelligence, hockey sense, puck moving ability and glue-like defensive stick-to-itiveness. He is a No. 1 or No. 2 defensemen on any team in the NHL. Suter fits the prototype Red Wing player.
Suter will put up numbers in the neighborhood of 10G and more than 30A every year. He is a healthy player who averages 77-plus games per season since he arrived in the NHL seven years ago. His average of a plus-6 over his seven seasons is not an outstanding number but he has played on some inept teams over his career and he logs a ton of ice time.
My gut tells me that Suter will be a Red Wing. It's also a strong possibility that his cap number will be lower than prediction have stated. The Wings could compensate by making it a long term deal. The real question is will Drew Miller give up No. 20 and how much might it cost Suter?
$4 Million Option
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Jason Garrison is the No. 2 free agent defensemen available this offseason. He will benefit from a thin market and may command a more inflated salary due to limited options. If Ryan Suter is the golden skate, Jason Garrison is the silver skate.
Garrison has good size at 6'2" and 220 lbs. His best assets are being a solid two-way player, having physical toughness and a BOMB of a slap shot. That shot led to an NHL second best 16 goals among defensemen to go with 17 assists.
He doesn't have a huge body of work with only two full seasons played at the NHL level but teams have seen enough that some NHL team will give him a long term around $4 million per season. But then again, what's not to like?
$3 Million Option
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Before anyone gets too excited, I am well aware that Matt Carle could command more than $3 million per year. In fact, if some team gets desperate, he may reel in closer to $4 million than $3 million.
Matt Carle is the very embodiment of solid. He doesn't do anything great but he does everything well. He has some size (6', 205 lbs). His skating and athletic ability are above average but that's as complimentary as one can be. He is smart, dependable and plays a thinking man's game. He puts effort into the defensive side and his plus/minus reflects that.
He has logged 80, 82 and 82 games over the last three seasons. He will probably never be a high goal scoring defensemen but his point totals are quite good (35, 40 and 38 points over the past three seasons, respectively).
Carle is an American born (born in Alaska) skater who will make a nice addition to an NHL teams top four defenseman. But if he's in the top pairing, you need an upgrade. Still, it's best to keep all options open.
$3 Million Option
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Bryce Salvador is an older player, he's 36 now. That means that whoever might sign him is on the hook for the entire salary cap hit of his contract. It seems unlikely that Detroit would be interested in an older one or two year rental but Salvador does have value.
At this point in Salvador's career, what he offers is a known commodity. He lacks speed and won't post many points. His stud defense will make you stand up and take notice. He plays the game with a physical edge but rarely takes bad penalties. He is the type and quality of defensemen that will play against the oppositions top scoring line. He is a decent enough puck mover but that is about the extent of his offense.
It would come as a shock if Salvador ended up a Red Wing next season. Stranger things have happened. Let us not forget the recent past. Chris Chelios became a Red Wing.
$2 Million Option
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Matt Gilroy is a bit of an underdog here. He hasn't reached his potential. But 27 is still young. He plays a Red Wing type of game. Gilroy can move the puck and has offensive skills which the Red Wings could use. He reminds me somewhat of the unheralded signing of Ian White.
In spite of his skill set, Gilroy's numbers have yet to reflect that. He is a career plus player at the NHL level and his penalty minute totals are quite low. To add a little perspective, his totals would have made him the fourth highest scoring Red Wing defensemen last season.
If there is a dark horse in the defensemen who may be signed by the Red Wings, Matt Gilroy is it.