2012 NHL Free Agency: Is It Time for the Detroit Red Wings to Panic?

PJ Sapienza@@pjsapiContributor IIIJuly 5, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23: Martin Frk, 49th overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings, looks on during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Well, the unthinkable has happen for Detroit Red Wings fans, both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have decided to sign elsewhere

While this definitely throws a wrench into the Stanley Cup parade plans that Wings fan were ready to throw, it does not doom them.  They need to switch to Plan B in a hurry now and figure out what the fallout from this will be.

First off, if neither Parise nor Suter were going to sign here, then going to the Minnesota Wild was the best possible option for the Red Wings.  How you ask?  The other options were more dangerous to the Wings.  Nashville already beat Detroit in the playoffs this year, and New Jersey made it to the Stanley Cup finals.  Eliminating each of these players’ former teams makes both franchises worse.

Other teams were interested in signing at least one of these players, and clubs like Chicago or San Jose would have improved greatly by just adding one of these players.  Pittsburgh was another possible destination for the duo.  If they had both ended up in Pittsburgh, the Penguins would have been far and away the favorites to win the cup.

Minnesota is a rather harmless place for them to end up.  There is no doubt the Wild are now a much better team, but this does not make them Stanley Cup favorites.  The Wild have not made the playoffs in four years and only twice since they joined the league for the 2000-01 season.  After finishing 30th in goals scored, Parise will help boost that ranking. 

Suter will strengthen an already solid defense.  Even with these additions, though, the team will now be regular playoff contender, but they are not a runaway favorite that the Red Wings need to fear.  Now of course, as the Los Angeles Kings proved this year, once you are in the playoffs, anyone can win.

So where do the Red Wings turn now?  With their recent signings, it appears that a trade is in the works as they are heavy with forwards.  Rick Nash is the dream target, however, the asking price has been too high.  Now the Wings have struck out on Parise and Suter it is likely that the price is even higher now.  On top of that, the chances of him being traded within the division are very slim.

Offensively, they can look at Shane Doan and Alex Semin but they have likely already added the player who they think will spark their offense. Damien Brunner was signed the first day of free agency. Coach Mike Babcock believes that he can be a top-six player. If that is true and he can handle NHL play then he would be a steal and could help boost an already healthy offense.

Shane Doan will likely stay in Phoenix if he is sure the team will still be there.  If not, then he would be a great asset to add. 

Semin is a huge question mark.  His two-way play has improved, however, he can be the best player in the game one day and be invisible the next. One would hope a change of scenery and the leadership of Red Wings would curb some bad habits. Still, bringing him in would be a risk, especially at the length of contract he is likely to command.

Yet, one more option is Bobby Ryan.  He has scored between 31 and 35 goals in each of his four full seasons in the league.  The asking price for Ryan would be lower than Nash, although as Darren Dreger tweeted, the Anaheim Ducks would be looking for a second-line center.  In addition to that, a couple of top prospects would need to move.

The bigger issue will be on defense.  In the last two seasons, the Red Wings have lost Brad Stuart, Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski.  These are huge holes that the team needs to fill.  Brendan Smith is thought to be the next great defenseman.  He played well in a short stint with the team last season.  This year, he needs to step in and play at a top-four pairing level. 

The high-end quality of defensive free agents was short to begin with.  Soon after Suter went off the market, so did the next best option when Matt Carle signed with Tampa Bay.  Now they are left looking at players like Michal Rozsival, Jaroslav Spacek and Carlo Calaiacovo to fill out their roster.  While not bad players, they pale in comparison to Suter.

The best option will likely be via a trade.  Keith Yandle and Jay Bouwmeester might be available.  Yandle would be a very good fit for the team, it is just a matter of how much Phoenix would want for him. 

Yet another option is to wait to trade.  Rather than jump now on any move, they can wait to see how the season progresses then make a trade around the deadline as needed.

Fans will surely be in panic mode after what can only be described as a disappointing offseason.  The team has been able to reload for two decades now, but are they now at the point of rebuilding, especially on their defense? 

General manager Ken Holland certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt here.  He has been successful for years both in the draft as well as free agency.  The Red Wings have made it a habit of finding the hidden gems and allowing them to shine in Detroit.  Never before, though, has Holland faced the challenge he does now.

Is it time to panic? Not yet.  Remember, we were told Holland could not build a team under the salary cap. Yet, in only four seasons, he built a team that made it to the finals twice, winning once. 

Just take a few deep breaths and relax.  Allow Holland a chance to see what he can do.  It is not a matter of who you wanted and did not get.  It is a matter of who you do get and how well they can play.


PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.

You can follow him on Twitter.

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