NHL Trade Rumors: Franzen Is Key Piece in Red Wings Getting Top-Four Defenseman

Isaac SmithAnalyst ISeptember 3, 2012

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 23:  Johan Franzen #93 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the St.Louis Blues during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on January 23, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland has expressed interest in trading for a top-four defenseman, but if he is serious about trading for a defenseman of that caliber, the price will be fairly steep.

Despite the high price, Detroit is still in a great position to deal as they have a surplus of forwards signed to NHL-level contracts (15 per CapGeek.com, excluding RFA Justin Abdelkader), giving them the pieces to trade if necessary.

Red Wings' forward Johan Franzen could be one of those pieces.

As the third highest-paid forward (fourth-highest on the team overall), Franzen should be subject to certain expectations of his play while on the top line. He has failed to live up to them so far.

Last year, the Red Wings ouster in five games in the first round of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators marked only first time since 2006 that the team missed the second round.

No doubt, the Predators deserve credit for executing their game plan and shutting down Detroit's offense while simultaneously capitalizing on their chances.

But another problem was the Red Wings' top line. Franzen had one goal—a redirection off his skate no less. While all goals count the same on the score board, the fact that the redirection goal was his only point of the series means that Franzen was not getting to the net enough.

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press described Franzen's play, calling him, "so dominant some nights, [yet] so disinterested others." St. James could not be more correct, as Franzen seems to be the definition of inconsistency.

Now is the time for Ken Holland to get serious about the defense corps that he failed to bolster this off-season through free agency.

The Red Wings recently offered a two-year contract (via Answer Kahn of MLive.com) to Carlo Colaiacovo, but Colaiacovo remains adamant that he would like a three-year term.

This impasse might force Holland's hand in a trade, and Franzen would be a main piece going the other way.

Franzen can play both center and wing, but needs to step up his game in order to help the Red Wings move forward.

A sub-$4 million cap hit through 2019-20 along with a no-trade makes Franzen's trade value fairly high, but Holland would likely need to throw in another prospect or draft pick or two in order to get the top-four defenseman he is seeking.

If Franzen remains a Red Wing, he will likely be one at least until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement gets sorted out, but that could take a while as the two sides remain at a stand still.

No GM wants to make a move to increase his team's payroll right now as the NHL is looking to drop the salary cap without rolling player's salaries back, leading to plenty of scenarios (via Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy) as to how that would work.

But CBA negotiations aside, Ken Holland must continue to explore trade options leading up to a new CBA. Because when the discussions finally allow the season to begin, if players do not become available due to teams being over the salary cap, he must be ready to pull the trigger on a trade for a top-four defenseman.


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