Can anybody help to save the Detroit Red Wings defense? For nearly two decades now, the Red Wings success has been built on the backs of a top-flight corps of defensemen. In the last two seasons that body of defensemen has atrophied. First it was Brian Rafalski. Then this past season the Wings lost Brad Stuart and Nick Lidstrom. Ouch!
Up to this point, the Red Wings and general manager Kenny Holland have been unable to add to their weakened group of defensemen. They have retained RFA Kyle Quincey and have the young, and very talented, Brendan Smith to promote, but that is all. The Wings are in desperate need of a top-four defenseman.
Michal Rozsival, Jaro Spacek, Pavel Kubina and Carlo Colaiacovo are all UFA defensemen, whose names have been trotted out in a dozen recycled articles about defensemen. But none of them is a top-four defenseman at this point in their career. The present, nor the future, will be found on this list.
Keith Yandle, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle and Paul Martin all may, or may not, be available in trade. None of them is perfect either—some are old, some have bad contracts (some are both) and nearly all will cost the Wings an arm, a leg, a first-born child, second mortgage and a kidney.
It's known the Wings don't do offer sheets. They could wait and hope that the new CBA allows them to cherry pick some released or amnestied players, but that's risky.
What else could they possibly do?
Holland can get on the phone and GM his butt off, that's what. His first calls should be about these two guys.
Robyn Regehr is big, physical, defensively responsible and would make a good partner for either Nik Kronwall in the first pairing, or Ian White in the second. He won't score many points but he would make the Red Wings tougher to play against—something they badly need. He has one year at $4 million remaining which would free up that cap space for 2013 free agency.
Best of all, Regehr would come cheap. The Buffalo Sabres are $10 million under the cap but only have 11 forwards (and nine defensemen) and still need to sign Patrick Kaleta and Tyler Ennis. They could use some cap relief and a forward. The Wings have both.
Derek Morris is a right-handed shot with some size and a gritty edge. He carries a modest $2.85 million salary cap hit for two years. He could play in one of the top-two pairings in his first season, then on the bottom defense pairing in his second season as a veteran who could tutor the young and talented Smith. Phoenix has Yandle, Rostislav Klesla, Zbynek Michalek, Oliver Ekman-Larrson and would love to get younger players, like the gifted David Rundblad, on the ice.
While neither Regehr or Morris is a brilliant long term solution to the problem Detroit has on defense, either one would provide a stable veteran who could play in the top-four defensemen.
The best part is that acquiring either one wouldn't require giving away the farm, and they would set Detroit up well for a very talented and deep 2013 free agent class of defensemen.