Detroit Red Wings: 5 Possible Replacements for Brian Rafalski

Matthew ShepardContributor IIIJune 11, 2011

Detroit Red Wings: 5 Possible Replacements for Brian Rafalski

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    DETROIT - MAY 6: Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gr
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Detroit Red Wings are going to have to fill a hole in defense. Brian Rafalski will not be easy to replace, but it has to be done. The Wings struggled in defense, and as a result, they finished as the third seed in the West going into playoffs. 

    Free Agency is less than a month away. The Wings will have to compete against 29 other teams to sign big names. The only question is, who to sign? Should the Wings sign a defensive forward, or a checker?

    The Wings already have their hands full. Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Mike Modano and Nicklas Lidstrom are all possibilities for retirement. This means that Detroit may not only have to worry about revamping their blueline, they will have to add forwards as well.

    They have talented players in the minors, but the lack of defense was shown in the 2010-11 season.

    These are the top five replacements for Brian Rafalski. 

5. Tomas Kaberle

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    BOSTON, MA - JUNE 06:  Tomas Kaberle #12 of the Boston Bruins skates against of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Three of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 6, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Tomas Kaberle had some great seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but when he was traded to the Boston Bruins, his numbers dropped. 

    It could be that he just was not the right fit in Boston. The Bruins have talent, and Toronto has been failing to reach the playoffs year after year. Kaberle may just need a new home, and Detroit may be that fit.

    Rafalski had 49 and 48 points the past two seasons, respectively. Since he has not done well in Boston and his numbers dropped, his contract maybe cheaper then expected.

    The Wings should take a look at Kaberle. If they can get him for $3 million a year, he would be a great sign. It will be a gamble, but if they can sign him plus another defenseman, the Wings will be on top.    

4. Ian White

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 12:  Ian White #9 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Detroit Red Wings in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 12, 2011 in San Jose, California.  (Photo
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Ian White's numbers may not be as impressive as Rafalski's, but with the proper development he could become an even better player. 

    He is young and can hit; he is an enforcer. The Wings have been signing European players lately, which is not a bad move at all, but there seems to be something missing in the Detroit lineup. They need someone who can hit. 

    White is not afraid to throw his weight around, and his presence on the ice is well-known. However, in the 2010-11 season, he was traded three times, so he'll want a place to settle down.

    The Wings have already faced White in the playoffs, while he played for the San Jose Sharks. Their defenseman were one of the main reasons why Detroit failed to defeat the Sharks.

    The main reason why Detroit should sign him is that they will not have to spend $6 million on him. If the Wings expect to solve all their problems with one major sign, they are mistaken.

    The NHL is changing: It is about youth. White can provide youth for the Wings.  

3. Joni Pitkanen

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 19:  Joni Pitkanen #25 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 19, 2010 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    He is big, he can check and he can setup players for goals. Joni Pitkanen is a name well-known, and he will be one of the top defenseman to the hit the free agency. 

    Pitkanen would benefit any team. His contract had him earning $4 million a season. He will not be cheap, but he should not be $6 million.

    Before the NHL lockout, Pitkanen was ranked as one of the NHL's top 25 defenseman. When he played for the Philadelphia Flyers, his numbers were amazing: he was just under 50 points for two consecutive years. 

    He most recent near-50 point season was 2009-10, which is not that long ago.

    Recently, he has become a solid 30 point player. If Detroit signs him, they have some space in the cap to sign some more help.  

2. Christian Ehrhoff

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    BOSTON, MA - JUNE 06:  Christian Ehrhoff #5 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Boston Bruins during Game Three of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 6, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Vancouver Canucks will most likely try to re-sign Christian Ehrhoff, but Detroit maybe able to convince him to switch sides. 

    The Wings have not had a big German hockey player since Uwe Krupp. Although Krupp was a letdown, Ehrhoff should make a great fit. 

    He is able to handle the puck, which has led him to gain more ice time during penalty kills. He also has a great slap shot, which would help the Wings on the power play. 

    His numbers only seem to climb, and signing him to a long term deal will be key. He is at the height of his career, and since he is an unrestricted free agent, Vancouver may have a hard time keeping him.  

1. James Wisniewski

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    CALGARY, AB - FEBRUARY 20: James Wisniewski #20 of the Montreal Canadiens takes the shot against the Calgary Flames during the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic Game at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames defeated the Cana
    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    No one would make a better fit to replace Rafalski then a fellow Michigan native, James Wisniewski.

    Wisniewski has the most potential to sign with the Wings: he can come home.

    Wisniewski watched the Wings growing up, and every player has wanted to play in their hometown. This hometown feeling will be key in signing him.

    He has great speed and skill. He has earned this with proper training, and even at a young age, he was winning awards.  

    Back in his OHL and CHL days, he won many awards, including CHL Defenseman of the Year and the OHL Max Kaminsky Trophy in 2004.

    The Max Kaminsky Trophy is an award given to the most outstanding defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League. Players such as Al MacInnis, Larry Murphy and Chris Pronger have won this award. 

    Wisniewski is the biggest defenseman to hit free agency this year. If Detroit hopes to replace Rafalski, they need to look no further, because Wisniewski is the best replacement.