Red Wings Brian Rafalski Retires: How Move Impacts the Columbus Blue Jackets

Patrick DrottarCorrespondent IMay 25, 2011

DETROIT - APRIL 18: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets tries to get around Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 18, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At the beginning of the week, rumors began to float around that Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski was thinking about retiring from the NHL with one year remaining on his contract.

Today, according to, the three-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic silver medalist officially called it a day after 11 seasons in the NHL.

He spent his career with Detroit, as well as the New Jersey Devils, where he won two of his three Stanley Cups.

This is not the first time this offseason that the Red Wings have dealt with retirement rumors, as defenseman and captain Nicklas Lidstrom has also considered retiring after a stellar career.

According to Matt Wagner of The Cannon, the retirement of Rafalski has thrown a wrench into the Columbus Blue Jackets free agency plans, whether he realizes it or not.

The Red Wings will most likely look for an aggressive defenseman when free agency opens this July, which just happens to be the same position the Blue Jackets are looking to upgrade.

Rafalski's retirement frees up six million dollars in cap space, which allows the Red Wings to go after some of the top free agent defenseman.

This list includes such names as Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa and Christian Erhoff, as well as Montreal's James Wisniewski.

If any of these three were offered deals by both the Blue Jackets and the Red Wings, the opportunity to play for a storied franchise like Detroit could lure any defenseman away from playing in Columbus.

One example of the drawing power that the Red Wings possess is their acquisition of Marian Hossa in 2008.

Hossa played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the previous season. The team went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals where they faced the Red Wings and lost in six games.

Hossa, like all NHL players, wanted to win a Stanley Cup and thought that he stood the best chance if he played for Detroit. After the finals loss, Hossa took a pay cut so that he could play for the Red Wings the following season.

He got what he wanted when the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the second straight year. However, the Red Wings would lose to Hossa's former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in seven games.

Even though his team lost, this is just one example of the sacrifices players take to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup.

Another problem with this year's free agency is the fact that there is a lack of defenseman available. Several teams, including Columbus and Detroit, are going to try and attract the same four or five players.

The Blue Jackets do have a lot of money to play around with this offseason. However, they lack the drawing power that teams like Detroit, New Jersey and Toronto.

In able to get the aggressive defenseman that Columbus needs, the Jackets will most likely have to acquire that player through a trade.

Money can only go so far so the Jackets will have to add either draft picks or prospects to sweeten the deal to acquire the missing pieces to be a playoff contender.

As the NHL Entry Draft draws closer and closer, it seems that general manager Scott Howson is very interested in trading the team's eighth overall pick for a player that would make an immediate impact.

If the Jackets do not acquire the players they need through trades, then they will have to offer substantially large contracts to free agents to lure them away from consistent cup contenders like Detroit.