Brian Rafalski: Is Detroit Red Wings Veteran Defenseman Set To Retire?

Franklin Steele@FranklinSteeleAnalyst IIMay 23, 2011

The Skinny

After all the talk of Nick Lidstrom retiring, it appears that fellow blueliner Brian Rafalski has beaten him to the punch.

Hot off the presses over at sportsnet.ca, their sources are claiming that an ACL injury is forcing Rafalski to leave the game for good—an injury that he apparently played through during the playoffs this year.

The 38-year-old three-time cup winner could announce his intentions as early as this week. 

He has had an exceptional career, and helped Detroit win their last Stanley Cup in 2008.


The Fallout

Let's be honest here: anyone who has watched Rafalski play through the last season or season and a half knows that his play has fallen off considerably. His paycheck is larger than his role has been, as he was set to make $6 million this upcoming season.

While Rafalski could have returned to form, I wasn't counting on it and considered the guy to be a bit of a cap drain. If he had re-upped after his current contract expired, it would have been for quite a bit less and freed up some space for the Wings to resign a guy like Niklas Kronwall.

Well, so much for all that.

With Rafalski out of the picture, the Wings now have several million dollars to play with.  They could spend the bucks in numerous ways, and this could clear the way for the Wings to make a splash even if Lidstrom decides to say.

Now the scary part: What if Lidstrom does decide to hang them up as well?

Then all of a sudden Detroit has lost two of their top blueliners, and will be on the ropes a bit as far as the play in their own zone goes. Kronwall has played marvelously and could at least mildly fill the void left by these two outstanding puck-moving defensemen, but then who?

Brad Stuart?

He has been serviceable to say the least, and I like him as a second-pairing guy, but it'd make my stomach turn to see him out there against Ryan Getzlaf or Sidney Crosby on a nightly basis.

In so many words, an area that was seemingly strong and only in need of one player could suddenly be in need of three.

Stay tuned for updates on the Rafalski retirement, as well as what to expect from Detroit now that he is leaving.

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