The Detroit Red Wings enter the season with questions on defense. However at the rate that the NHLPA and NHL are progressing in their labor talks, they might not have to worry about it until next season.
Not that another season missed is wanted, but if it is going to happen, why not look ahead at the 2013 class of free-agent defensemen. Now of course this list could change based on what happens with the labor deal and whatever agreement the sides come to, but at least it gives a starting point.
The goal should be to add players for the long term. For that reason, several older players did not make the list. Here are eight players to keep on your radar for next season’s free-agent class.
Detroit’s Ian White will be a free agent as well. Barring some unseen event, he will be the team’s first option, with the rest of these players filling other holes.
Hainsey is not a high-scoring defender but he plays a very solid two-way game. He has a cap hit of $4.5 million on his current contract, which might be a bit high after the labor deal is done. He started his career in Columbus before moving to Atlanta/Winnipeg. He also played for the United States in the 2010 Olympics.
Regehr is 32 but has already played 12 seasons. At 6’3" he is a strong physical presence on the ice. He played most of his career in Calgary before joining Buffalo last season. He is a shot-blocker who delivers big hits. He will not score many goals but is a solid stay-at-home defender that can shut down the other team.
At 6’0" Streit is not an overly physical player, but he still brings a solid game to the ice. He has topped 46 points in each of the last four seasons, with a high of 62 in 2007-08. He can easily jump into the offensive zone to make a play but still maintains his defensive responsibilities.
Edler’s play has improved in each season of his career. Once shy at the physical nature of the game, he has now become more comfortable with it. He is offensive-minded but still plays good defense. His slap shot is one of the hardest in the league and he would be an asset to any team.
Murray is a hitter and a stay-at-home defender. He will not add to the score sheet very often but his focus on defensive responsibilities helps make up for that. At a current $2.5 million cap hit, he would not break the bank.
At 26 he is has already played five seasons. While underrated by many, he is one of the better shut-down defenders in the league. He will not score much as he only has nine goals in his career, but five of those happened last season. That could be a promising sign of an area that he is developing. He is a solid hitter and shot-blocker who would play well in Detroit’s system.
With only 105 NHL games Clitsome has limited experience. Hockey's future gave him a decent enough ranking to warrant putting him on the radar. A lockout season would greatly hurt his progress, but he is still one to watch.
Hopefully there will still be a season this year and the Red Wings will be able to learn how good or bad their defense really is.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
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