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Detroit’s Defense Could Look A Lot Different Next Season

If Brad Stuart decides to play closer to home and Nick Lidstrom decides to re****, two of their top 4 defensemen will have to be replaced.

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

The Detroit Red Wings haven’t started contract talks with Brad Stuart because the defenseman hasn’t decided where his future lies—in Detroit or closer to his home on the West Coast.

If it were strictly a hockey-related decision, it would be easy, Detroit would be Stuart’s first choice. But his wife and kids, two young sons and a stepdaughter in high school, live in San Jose, and that is where they must stay.

So it has been difficult for Stuart being away from his family for long stretches, flying to the West Coast and back during breaks in the schedule.

“It is going to be a tough decision,” Stuart said. “It’s not going to be all based on hockey and what I want for my career. It’s going to be a little bit (about) family, which is important. Those are things I still have to kind of sort out, try to figure out what’s going to be best for everyone.”

read on

Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: brad+stuart

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Leo_Racicot's avatar

Losing the Kronwall/Stuart pairing this spring would be a killer, those guys have been money this season (and the past four, for that matter).

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 01/24/12 at 01:26 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Family trumps all—he came to Detroit on a deadline deal, played so well, won a lot, and got an offer for a nice contract and a further chance to win a lot more. It feels impossible to get into the mind of someone you don’t know, but I have to think that in some ways he felt:

A) that signing the one contract with Detroit was a career move he had to make to satisfy himself, and/or
B) that he would ultimately settle there and thus convince his family to make the move.

If they don’t want to move, I can’t imagine being in his shoes and signing another deal with Detroit, even if it would be the best continued thing for his career. As a fan, I hope I’m wrong, but it’s hard to get my head around that if I put myself in his shoes. The only hypothetical alternative I could think of is if he was thinking he was close to an early retirement, and would do a year-to-year thing and stay in Detroit, but even then, the time moves so fast and you just don’t get it back. And besides, he has a lot of good hockey left in him… someone closer to home will give him another four year deal worth $15 million. That’s a steal for a player like Stuart given the way prices for D have spiraled out of control the last offseason.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 01/24/12 at 01:32 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I can’t stand to think about losing Stuie! I am in no position to know, or judge, his family situation but I can’t help wondering why his family “must” stay in California for the next few years. They can always go back when Stuie hangs them up. I can handle the idea of Lidstrom retiring more easily because at least he won’t be playing for another team. But Brad Stuart in a Skanks sweater!  NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/24/12 at 01:37 PM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

Nathan, I’m pretty sure his step daughter cannot move out of California per her parents divorce decree.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 01/24/12 at 01:39 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Stuart is a good dude and if he has to make a family-based decision when it comes to signing his next contract then that’s what he has to do—family is the rest of his life and he shouldn’t shortchange that for anything else… even the Wings.

As for Stuie wearing a Sharks sweater? Been there, done that.

Posted by SK77 on 01/24/12 at 01:48 PM ET

Avatar

Two more years, Stu! Then retire as Wing and join your family in the beautiful Bay.

The last two weeks or so he’s been playing like it’s 2008; would hate to see him go.

Posted by Jesters Dead on 01/24/12 at 01:50 PM ET

Primis's avatar

0% chance he plays in a Sharks sweater ever again.  Fans there still consider him a supreme bust, and I think there are hard feelings there on both sides.

I think he resigns with DET for 1 or 2 years.

Posted by Primis on 01/24/12 at 02:05 PM ET

Avatar

I think he re-signs with DET for 1 or 2 years.

I hope so.  I would hate for him to be in a Sharks, Ducks or Kings jersey next season…

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 02:19 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

He will be sorely missed if he moves on.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 01/24/12 at 02:20 PM ET

11B4PF7 in MN's avatar

When Kenny extended Kronwall earlier this year, Holland said that he was going to wait until the offseason to negotiate with Stuart.  I can only think that everything depends on what happens at the deadline or draft.  Think ahead to next year for a moment—assuming no one takes E52 off of our hands.  Smith’s play and E52’s salary will dictate that they are in the top four; if Kenny picks up a top two d man via trade or UFA, then I think Holland lets Stuart walk to be near his family.  If Kenny is unable to acquire a top two d man, then I think Holland will put his best effort forward to resign Stuart. 

I think Stuart offers a lot of flexibility to our D-pairings though.  It would be a big loss if he leaves.

Posted by 11B4PF7 in MN on 01/24/12 at 02:31 PM ET

Avatar

Holland said that he was going to wait until the offseason to negotiate with Stuart.

With what’s come to light now, I take that to mean that Stuart isn’t going to negotiate until after the season is over and he talks things over with the family.

Smith’s play and E52’s salary will dictate that they are in the top four

Nope.  I don’t believe that at all.  They won’t put Ericsson in the top four unless he earns it with his play, and I don’t believe that Smith will be put in the top four in his first year.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 02:35 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

I think Forlorn is right about the reason Brad’s family can’t leave the West Coast. So if he decides not to resign, he’ll get cheered every time he steps on the ice at The Joe. He’s earned that respect.

As for “replacing” Brad and TPH, that’s not going to happen. But the Wings are actually in a pretty good position to create a new defense corp. Both of those guys leaving would free up $10M. Even by today’s standards, that’s a lot of money for two defensemen. In fact, I think they can even save some money moving forward.

How about this…
Suter: $6.6M average cap hit for 4 or 5 years*
Kronwall: $4.75M (new cap hit beginning next year)
White: $2.85M
Errorson: $3.25 (it gags me to write that)
Kindl: $883k
Smith: $875k
Commodore: $1M
*After Nick leaves, no one should have a higher cap hit than Pavel

That’s a total of just over $20.2M – about $700k less than this year’s cap hit for defensemen (and probably $1.7M less than it would be if Stuart were resigned).

The pairings might be:
Suter - White
Kronwall - Errorson
Smith - Kindl/Commodore

It’s not as solid as what the Wings have now, but it’s not all that bad.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 01/24/12 at 02:41 PM ET

Avatar

but it’s not all that bad.

Not all that good either.

Ericsson on the top four?

Stuart replaced by Smith?

Losing a top-flight defensive defenseman and replacing him with a useless tall guy and a rookie?

Yikes…  Whatever the decisions of Lidstrom and Stuart I think the bottom pairing has to be Ericssson and Kindl/Smith or the Wings could be in a pretty bad place.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 02:56 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Yikes…  Whatever the decisions of Lidstrom and Stuart I think the bottom pairing has to be Ericssson and Kindl/Smith or the Wings could be in a pretty bad place.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 11:56 AM ET

I gotta say.  If I had to pick a team goat at the season’s half point, it would be Ericsson.

That said… Does it seem to anyone else that he has started to turn the corner in the past five to ten games?  I don’t want to lose Stuart or Lidstrom either, but it may the situation may not be as dire as we think if the situation arises.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 01/24/12 at 03:24 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

That said… Does it seem to anyone else that he has started to turn the corner in the past five to ten games?  I don’t want to lose Stuart or Lidstrom either, but it may the situation may not be as dire as we think if the situation arises.

Posted by bezukov from South of Detroit on 01/24/12 at 12:24 PM ET

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 01/24/12 at 03:26 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

What if Kenny figures he can’t sign him in the off season?  What if Kenny figures he needs to trade him because of that?  I don’t think he can do that, and yet what a crime thinking he just ends up empty.

Posted by MoreShoot on 01/24/12 at 03:33 PM ET

Avatar

What if Kenny figures he needs to trade him because of that?

I don’t see that happening.

He didn’t trade Samuelsson.
He didn’t trade Hossa.
I don’t believe he’ll trade Stuart. 
Unless he can somehow wrestle Suter or Weber from Nashville during the season, which he can’t.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 03:44 PM ET

11B4PF7 in MN's avatar

Posted by MoreShoot on 01/24/12 at 12:33 PM ET

When it became clear that Hossa was not going to sign again, Holland didn’t trade negotiation rights for him to another team, Holland simply allowed Rich F-stick Winters to negotiate with other teams prior to July 1st.  I would imagine that Holland would do that again because this is one of the things the Wings do to make this such a desirable place to sign as a UFA. 

Does this sound right to others?

I know that i would prefer obtaining at least some mid-round draft pick if we are going to lose a player of Stuart’s caliber for nothing.

Posted by 11B4PF7 in MN on 01/24/12 at 03:49 PM ET

Avatar

Brad Stuart leads the Red Wings in Shorthanded Time on Ice, but the Wings’ PK is only ranked 22 in the NHL, maybe a stronger penalty killer would be an effective addition on the blueline.

Posted by Mike from PA on 01/24/12 at 03:50 PM ET

Ajax19's avatar

Yes, I don’t see Holland trading Stuart this season.  The Wings have been in “win it now” mode for almost 20 years.  They don’t ship off potential UFAs that are playing significant roles.  Only potential contenders would be interested in Stuart as a rental, since his family status wouldn’t be changed, and there’s no way the Wings would hurt themselves (losing a top 4 d-man) and helping another team heading into the playoffs.

Obviously when Holland re-signed Ericsson to that deal this summer he was hoping that he’d make strides and possibly develop into a #3/#4 type defense, since that’s how he’s being paid.  I am not exactly sure what that was based on, because, if anything, Ericsson has been regressing the last couple of years.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that, barring something clicking or some great strides, Ericsson is not good enough to be a reliable #3/#4 defensemen over any considerable length of time.  It’s not a great contract, but there are many, many worse out there.

Trying to replace Lidstrom is impossible, but they’ll have to do the best job they can.  Replacing Stuart is easier, but wont be easy.  I don’t see anyone within the organization that can dependably step into that role right now.  I haven’t looked at the UFA market yet.  But it will likely be that or a trade, unless they want to take a huge gamble with what’s in the organization. 

Once Lidstrom retires they may be more open to that idea.  They will still be in “win it now” mode, but there I think there will be a bit of a shift in overall thinking once he retires.  I can’t see how there wouldn’t be.  Losing once in a generation guy like Nick undoubtedly has wide ranging effects on an organization as a whole.

Posted by Ajax19 on 01/24/12 at 03:53 PM ET

Avatar

What if Kenny figures he needs to trade him because of that?

Also, both Holland and Stuart said they’ll not being negotiating until after the season.  I can’t imagine a scenario during the season in which it becomes so dire that Holland decides there’s no way to keep Stuart without having even negotiated with him.

On top of that, there’s no way to replace Stuart’s ability with what Holland would get back, which would make the team weaker going into the playoffs.

I don’t see it happening.

I’d rather take the chance of winning the Cup with Stuart only to lose him in the off-season than to trade him for a pick or two with quarter of the season left and greatly reduce the team’s chance to win the cup while making another team better.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 03:54 PM ET

Avatar

Brad Stuart leads the Red Wings in Shorthanded Time on Ice, but the Wings’ PK is only ranked 22 in the NHL, maybe a stronger penalty killer would be an effective addition on the blueline.

If you can find a team that will trade a better penalty killer than Stuart in exchange for Stuart, then pull the trigger.

Problem?  There is not a team in the league who is going to trade even an average penalty killer for Stuart.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 03:57 PM ET

Avatar

If you can find a team that will trade a better penalty killer than Stuart in exchange for Stuart, then pull the trigger.

Problem?  There is not a team in the league who is going to trade even an average penalty killer for Stuart

I agree with that, maybe it would be worth it to let Stuart walk and look for PK additions in free agency if nothing could be worked out by the trade deadline.

Posted by Mike on 01/24/12 at 04:15 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Trade isn’t an option for the reasons already mentioned by a few other people…

As for the roles of Smith, Kindl, and Ericsson…

Smith absolutely should be a top four guy within two full seasons. Next year, he obviously needs to either be on the bottom pair or paired with a veteran like Kronwall for stability and the learning curve. But his second full season, he really should be in the top four. That’s what he was drafted to be, that’s what he’s continued to be through his development in college and now with the Griffins. That’s his track, much like what Kronwall’s was, and if he doesn’t meet those expectations, it will be a disappointment. Not that he couldn’t still be a good #5/6 guy and power play specialist that we’d love to have on the club, but as it sits today we have to count on him filling that role within two full seasons.

Kindl is actually much the same. He’s shown a bit less on-ice potential than Smith, but still a lot of promise, and has had a much more stable maturation process off-ice. To me, with where he was drafted, and how his development has gone to this point, Kindl should be counted on to be a mainstay as the #5 guy no later than the 2013-2014 season.

Ericsson has flopped. He’s always going to have an intriguing blend of size and skating ability for a D man, but he’s just not getting the mental aspect of the game down. He is a turnover or missed coverage assignment waiting to happen almost every time he steps on the ice. He is terrible and countering a strong forecheck—he might make a great first pass against passive teams playing a 1-3-1 or a 1-2-2, but when a team like the Blues push two guys in on him, I’m usually happy if he’s capable of at least eating the puck along the wall and waiting for a forward to get deep for support and bail him out. Kenny doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and given the history of the Wings developing guys that are older and past their typical “prime,” it’s hard to completely give up, but this does look like one of KH’s few true mistakes, by all objective measures.

Given what Smith and Kindl really need to and should be, when TPH retires, I think our pairs will look like:

UFA - White
Kronwall - Smith
Kindl - Ericsson

If we’re very fortunate, and Stuart decides to re-sign with the Wings, all the better, because it gives us:

UFA - White
Kronwall - Stuart
Smith - Kindl

...with Ericsson either traded for next to nothing, buried in the AHL because nobody wants to take on that salary, or depending on how the new CBA shakes out, bought out/“amnesty” clause-d a la the NBA. Big Rig would be a very nice 7th D, but you can’t have a 7th D making that much.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 01/24/12 at 04:25 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Well, I think it goes back a little bit to what D-Mac said on his return to Detroit:  “Sobriety.  Family.  Hockey.  And in that order.”

I will be crushed and disappointed if Stuart decides to sign with SJS just to be close to his family but at the same time, completely understanding his predicament.  If he doesn’t sign with the Wings in the off-season, I wish him luck…just not against my Wings.  And I don’t think he’d expect anything less.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/24/12 at 04:31 PM ET

Avatar

Given what Smith and Kindl really need to and should be, when TPH retires, I think our pairs will look like:

I think that whether or not Lidstrom retires, if Stuart leaves he’s being replaced by more than just bringing up Smith.  If for no other reason than the fact that Stuart is a defensive defenseman and bringing in Smith willl not replace what Stuart brings to the table.  Even if it’s just on a one-year deal to see how Smith develops playing in the NHL full-time, Detroit has to bring in a solid defensive defenseman to offset the loss of Stuart, if Stuart leaves.

And if Stuart does leave (and assuming Lidstrom stays) I’m betting they go with more of a 1, 2a and 2b pairing than a 1, 2, 3, with Kronwall and Stuart’s replacement each playing with a younger guy (ie Lidstrom/White, Kronwall/Ericsson, Replacement/Smith, or something like that)

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 04:38 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Commodore?

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/24/12 at 04:40 PM ET

Avatar

Commodore?

As a replacement for Stuart?

He’s been an OK replacement for Salei/Lilja, but…

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 04:44 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I made a comment in last night’s LB that he reminded me a little bit of Bob Rouse (and for that matter, Jamie Macoun and Mike Ramsey) in his steady, unspectacular, simple defensive play.

But yeah, I wouldn’t exactly compare him to Stuart.  Definitely a keeper, IMO, as a 5/6 defenseman.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/24/12 at 05:03 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Read some comments under the article at mlive indicating that there is a custody issue with the wife’s daughter from a previous marriage, but that goes away when she graduates from high school, which evidently happens this spring.  So…

Some people are arguing that if Stu indicates to Holland that he’s not coming back, Holland should trade him now to get something in return and then still have money to go after a UFA like Suter in the summer.  But I agree with those who say that it’s very hard to imagine Holland trading a guy as valuable as Stu with Cup #12 in sight. 

It’s clear that Stu would like to continue to play for the Wings so I’m hoping (selfishly) that he’ll decide to re-sign.  If not, I will be very sad but if it’s about family, won’t hold it against him.

But Stuie, PLEASE STAY!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/24/12 at 05:53 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I just don’t see a trade. The Wings are loyal to players that are good in the community, in the room, and on the ice… almost loyal to a fault… and by all accounts, Stuart fits that bill. And more importantly, they have a legit chance to go deep, so if anything they need to ADD a player.

Furthermore, let’s just assume they did want to trade him. The market for him would be other playoff teams, plus any of the west coast teams that aren’t in the hunt but realize they have a good shot at re-signing him.

The Wings won’t trade him to a playoff competitor in the West. That’s just silly. And if a team like the Ducks or Kings is out of the race but has interest in Stuart, why would they give something up for him when it won’t make their season any better, and indications would be he was going to UFA looking for a west coast home anyways?

The only trade possibility that is even remotely close to being sensible is to trade him to a contender in the East. And since the Wings are competing, that would only be a good trade if they were able to secure another deal for an equal or better D at the deadline. Just… very unlikely. A lot of things would have to line up for it to make any sense.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 01/24/12 at 06:01 PM ET

Avatar

And since the Wings are competing, that would only be a good trade if they were able to secure another deal for an equal or better D at the deadline.

Honestly, even if the Predators were to drop like a rock in the next month and shipped off Suter and Weber, which I don’t believe they would do, and even if they agreed to trade one of them to Detroit at the deadline, which they absolutely would never ever do unless there was a guarantee that one of the two teams were being moved to the Eastern Conference next year, I still don’t believe that the Wings would deal Stuart, because having him on the team makes them that much better.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 06:18 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

for the ones who mentioned the bad blood.. Terry Murry is now the GM of LA and used the Stuart comparison to the Doughty issue they had over the summer.  Not to mention he’s a natural fit for their system and he knows McLellan.  I’m worried.. I’d hope he wouldn’t go to our most legitimate rival right now.

Anyway you slice it, we don’t trade him before the end of the season.  He’s a rental, no team except a playoff team wants him in a trade.  Kenny wont give away that advantage.  He’s like an extra goaltender on the ice.

SYF I’m with you on Commie.  I was MORTIFIED when I saw we’d signed him but after watching him this year, as limited as it’s been, I think he’s been solid.  Definitely a pylon worth keeping.  I also notice how opposing teams F’s stop racing down the ice throwing leaping shoulders into our defensemen when he’s the D man they’re racing towards.  If he sticks to his game and finds his niche I think he could be clutch ina depth role.  He’d also be a GREAT partner for Smith next year.  Help him keep developing his physical play while still covering him and letting him develop offensively as well.  And he’s be CHEAP

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 01/24/12 at 07:14 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

Serious contenders don’t trade valuable players mid-season simply because they may walk in the off-season. You build around opportunities like that.

I’m a big fan of what Kindl has done this season, but if the Wings make a significant deal before the deadline, it’s likely he’s part of it. Easily has the most trade value. Young defender with decent size, good instincts, a solid track record for his rookie year, and cheap contract. Plus the winged wheel pedigree. Lots and lots of upside there.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 01/24/12 at 07:58 PM ET

Avatar

The only trade that will happen involving Stuart, is trading his rights at the draft if there is no chance of getting a deal done.

Posted by jwad on 01/24/12 at 08:10 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 01/24/12 at 04:14 PM ET

I am pleasantly surprised by his signing and his attitude and work ethic.  Not perfect but neither was Rouse, Ramsey, nor Macoun but they kept their mistakes negligible.  It’s those kinds of defensemen who can sneak up on you in the playoffs…like Macoun’s goal against the sTards in ‘98.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/24/12 at 08:14 PM ET

Primis's avatar

So would ya’ll wave goodbye to Stu if it meant welcoming Suter or Weber?

Posted by Primis on 01/24/12 at 08:18 PM ET

Avatar

So would ya’ll wave goodbye to Stu if it meant welcoming Suter or Weber?

Posted by Primis on 01/24/12 at 05:18 PM ET

Possibly, but if Lidstrom retires i dont see why they cant have both Stuart and Suter or Weber.

And i think thats the biggest reason why Holland wont negotiate until after the season.  He’s got to see what shakes out at the trade deadline and Lidstrom’s decision between the end of the playoffs and the draft.

If he has neither Lidstrom or Suter/Weber, Kenny offers Stuart a big raise, just like he did with Ericsson last off season.

Posted by jwad on 01/24/12 at 08:25 PM ET

SYF's avatar

[sigh]

I don’t know, Primis.

It’s family.  The Wings have been generous and patient with what’s going in Stuart’s life.  I think it would be best for everyone to let this season finish up (with a Cup win, of course) and then go from there.  Stu wants to stay.  Holland wants him back.  There is a messy custody battle with the ex-wife.  Something has to give.

If Stu does not return, Suter would be my pick.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/24/12 at 08:38 PM ET

SYF's avatar

But I pray that there is a peaceful resolution so Stu finally has a decision to make.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/24/12 at 08:41 PM ET

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