Detroit Red Wings: 5 Players to Target When Free Agency Opens

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIJuly 1, 2011

Detroit Red Wings: 5 Players to Target When Free Agency Opens

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    I will preface this article by saying that if you've read my previous work you're going to notice some contradictions here. The reason for that is that the free-agent market has changed considerably in the last five or so days, and Detroit's intentions may change as well.

    Currently, the Wings have about $12 million in cap space after signing Jonathan Ericsson to what was, in my personal opinion, a badly overpaid contract. Patrick Eaves has also been re-signed by the Red Wings, for three years at $1.2 million a year.

    Drew Miller, however, isn't close with the Red Wings and probably won't be re-signed.

    It should be noted that Kukla's Korner tweeted earlier that the Red Wings are basically trying to move Jiri Hudler to any team that will take him. If he were moved for draft picks, that would free $2.85 million in cap space.

    So, with all that in mind, here are the five players the Red Wings should look into the most when 12 p.m. strikes.

5. Tomas Kaberle

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    I'm gonna be honest, I really don't like Tomas Kaberle. If you've read my previous articles, this is one of those contradictions.

    A week ago, Kevin Bieksa was arguably the best unrestricted defender on the market. He was signed. Then, Ehrhoff probably took over that title. He was signed. Now, the free-agent market for defense is headlined by Kaberle and a few others.

    Unfortunately, as much as I dislike him, it's a matter of "take what you can get," and while I don't consider Kaberle to be a great defender, and I was less than impressed with his playoff performance, he might be the best the Red Wings can get.

    All I can say is he better not get some albatross contract and then play like he did in Boston.

4. Drew Doughty

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    I'm putting this one so low because it's highly unlikely that the Kings let him go. If the Kings had no intention of keeping Doughty, or he was an unrestricted free agent, he'd easily be No. 1.

    That said, you can call this my free agent dream if you want, because it's almost certainly not going to happen, but Doughty to the Wings would be a great fit and a great future for Detroit.

    Also, there are rumors that LA wants Brad Richards, so if they acquired him, it could be tough to keep Doughty.

    Everybody talks about the compensation that we would have to give up, but I'm really not seeing the issue here. What would we have to give up? At lowest, two first rounders, a second and a third. At highest, four first rounders.

    Has anybody kept track of what Detroit has gotten with their first-round picks lately? Since 1996, the only big name player they have gotten is Niklas Kronwall. Brendan Smith will certainly join the ranks and Jakub Kindl might, but at the risk of Drew Doughty, I'll willingly give up those first rounders.

    Also, haven't the Wings recently proven they can make a splash without the first round, considering they traded their pick and still ended up with Tomas Jurco?

3. Brad Richards

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    Here's another one of those contradictions I was talking about. A week ago I was saying that Detroit shouldn't even look at Brad Richards.

    The reason for that is a valid one, when you finish last season with an offense that is ranked second in the league and a defense that is ranked 23rd, it's obvious where your cash needs to be spent.

    However, as I already said when I was talking about Tomas Kaberle, the defensive pool has gotten much weaker, so the Wings may have to settle with whatever they have defensively and go big in the offensive market.

    Plus, one could argue that Detroit's defense just had a down year and will bounce back anyway without the additions. I know losing Ruslan Salei will certainly help.

2. James Wisniewski

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    Wisniewski is a guy I never had a problem with the Wings signing, but he just didn't seem to be as good of an option compared to Bieksa and Ehrhoff. Now, he could be considered the best unrestricted option.

    Wisniewski's rights are currently owned by the Blue Jackets, but there's only an hour left before free agency begins, so it's very possible that he won't be signed by them.

    Needless to say, Detroit could use a defender to fill in Brian Rafalski's point production, and Wisniewski put up 51 points last season.

    He also shoots right-handed, which should mean something to the Wings considering all of the defensemen they currently have signed are lefties.

1. Zach Bogosian

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    As I already said, if he weren't restricted, I'd put Doughty at the top of this list. Bogosian is restricted as well, but I think Winnipeg is less inclined to keep him than LA is to keep Doughty.

    Bogosian is everything the Wings need: He's young, he's got tons of potential and he has that right-handed shot.

    Needless to say, with Kronwall becoming the No. 1 guy after Lidstrom retires and Brendan Smith and Zach Bogosian as the Red Wings young defensemen, Detroit would be in for a good future at the blue line.