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Khan addresses Red Wings’ defensive needs in a Q and A column

Aside from discussions as to whether the Red Wings should add Shane Doan, who Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy reports is meeting with the Flyers today, or Alex Semin, who Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has reiterated his interest in over the next 24 hours…

The other divisive topic among Wings fans who believe that the team needs to pursue free agency and/or trade options to bolster the team’s offense is, well, where the team goes from here to address the Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart-sized crater on the team’s blueline. As it stands right now, Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl would be Detroit’s starting six defenders, and we all know that’s not going to cut it going forward.

My personal opinion is that the Wings have very little to no leverage in terms of not having to create another crater in the lineup to fill another if we’re talking about trade options, so I’m very comfortable with the Wings adding one or two “band-aid defensemen” from the free agent market—if you take gander at Capgeek’s free agent defensemen list, players like Carlo Colaiacovo, Michal Roszival, Pavel Kubina, Scott Hannan, Cam Barker, Matt Gilroy, Chris Campoli and Jaroslav Spacek—could get the job done on an interim basis, say, until the CBA is settled and the regular season begins, when other teams with too many defensemen (like Philadelphia) or defensemen who lose jobs and/or favor during training camp and the exhibition season might become available at more affordable prices (just as the Wings could pluck Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Knuble, Jochen Hecht, Eric Fehr, Andrew Brunette or Kristian Huselius off the UFA market if they want to add a “band-aid” forward).

To me, given the Wings’ lack of leverage in terms of trades, and given that the Wings’ forward depth is not something I’d want to mess with given that the team can’t afford to lose Valtteri Filppula’s sixty-six points for the sake of adding the same number on defense, nor can the team really afford to have its prospect cupboard raided, and MLive’s Ansar Khan agrees…Sort of…In his latest Ask Ansar Q and A column (and Khan adds Milan Jurcina to the UFA band-aid list):

Q. I understand the Wings’ desire to add a goal-scorer like Shane Doan, but what are their plans for the defense? Are they going with what they have or are they going the trade route? Also, I keep hearing the price is steep on the trade market, so who might the Blue Jackets or Ducks be asking for from Detroit for (Rick) Nash or (Bobby) Ryan? –Benjamin.

Ansar Khan:.Unless something unexpectedly materializes, I believe the Red Wings will wait until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached before adding a defenseman. They are hoping, if the salary cap is reduced, that some players who aren’t available today might become available through trade if some clubs are forced to trim payroll. If they can’t get a top-pair defenseman, they will at least add a second- or third-pair type, as a few probably will remain unsigned until the start of training camp.

The Blue Jackets aren’t asking for anything from Detroit for Nash. From what I’m told, the Red Wings made what they felt was a great offer, but it generated no conversation. They take that to mean Columbus does not want to trade their franchise player to Detroit. As for Ryan, the Ducks won’t necessarily trade him, since he didn’t ask to be moved. But if they do deal him, I don’t think the Red Wings have the assets to acquire him.

Q. Red Wings need another body on defense, and it doesn’t look like there are any blue line prospects ready for playing time (not counting Brendan Smith). Everyone seems to want to talk about Nash/Ryan/(Alexander) Semin, but it seems who they add on defense is really going to make or break the upcoming year. With that said, I have a good feeling Kindl can bring it if given consistent playing time. But they still need that sixth/seventh defenseman to fill out the roster. Given all the extra forwards, I can only assume (general manager Ken) Holland will try for a trade. [Keith] Yandle cannot be cheap. Any idea what Calgary would want for [Jay] Bouwmeester? Maybe not ideal with his cap hit, but it is only for two more years. Any other trade options?—Jason.

Khan: I think you might be right with your assessment of who they add on defense being the pivotal factor this season. I expect Holland will trade a forward for a defenseman. I can’t imagine what Calgary would want for Bouwmeester or even if the Red Wings would add his enormous salary. Then again, the lack of options might force them to do something they might not ordinarily do. As for Kindl, he’ll start the season as the seventh defenseman and I doubt he’ll get consistent playing time.

Q. If the last 20 years are any indication, having a lights-out defenseman is a necessary building block. What are the realistic chances you can see Holland re-shaping the core of the team to add a new, young piece via trade for a player like Keith Yandle or the oft-rumored Zach Bogosian? Would Holland make a bold decision in taking advantage of the numbers on forwards and move a (Johan) Franzen or (Valtteri) Filppula to solidify the blue line?—Will.

Khan: Phoenix supposedly would want a top center for Yandle. Filppula would fit the bill. The problem is, they’re not likely to move Yandle for a player who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer (unless the rules change with the new CBA), unless they can sign that player at the time of the trade. Plus, I think the Red Wings would be real hesitant to deal Filppula, who is coming off a breakout season and still has much upside. Franzen, however, I believe they would move for the right deal. I don’t know if Winnipeg would trade Bogosian, but he is a player Detroit was interested in a couple of years ago.

The only player that intrigues me in terms of a trade at this point is Tobias Enstrom. He’s a smaller player, but the Winnipeg press spent from January until June wondering whether the Jets can retain Enstrom’s services given that Bogosian becomes a restricted free agent next summer, and as such, Enstrom, who will make $3.75 million this season, may be their only tradeable asset….

Q. The big question on everyone’s mind now it seems is what will (general manager Ken) Holland do next. However, the more time passes the more I seem to think that this is it and our team is set. I’m currently terrified by that and seem to feel that our defense is incredibly lacking. Losing three top-four defensemen (Lidstrom, Stuart, Brian Rafalski) in two years and not replacing them with any developed top-four talent makes me wonder if this is the year we finally miss the playoffs. I like Smith, but going into next year I don’t want him to be a top-two D-man. We have Kronwall; Ian White I think was helped tremendously by Lidstrom’s presence which will be exposed next year as a bottom four. Quincey I could see as a 3-4 with the time to re-learn the system in camp. Then Ericsson should be a 5-6, and Kindl doesn’t seem to have developed and should be a 6-7, as usual. Can anyone consider this a playoff defense and where does it even rank in the league now because I have to imagine bottom third.—Chris.

Khan: No question the defense took a huge hit with the losses of Lidstrom and Stuart. Smith will help, but they still need somebody else. They also need significant improvement from within—Kronwall must be better in his own zone, Ericsson has to take a big step and Quincey needs to settle down and play the way he is capable of.

As we learned from the Wings’ pursuit of Nash and discussions with Shea Weber’s agent, the Wings are still moving very aggressively and will definitely look into every possible option in terms of adding a defenseman via trade, but for the moment, we’ve got to wait and see whether the team can pluck someone off another team’s roster without selling the barn to buy a horse, and it’s going to take some waiting on Wings fans’ parts…

And we don’t do the whole “being patient” thing very well, do we?

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RorSchach's avatar

No, we don’t do the patient thing well.. but I do applaud Holland and gang for not signing people to ridiculous contracts. That could cripple a team. I’ll see how it goes. Personally, I don’t the the D is all that bad on paper.. but another body would be nice.

Posted by RorSchach from Datsberg on 07/21/12 at 07:21 PM ET

DocF's avatar

Actually, I would prefer Colaiacovo or Kubina to some of the so-called prime blue-liners who are free agents. 

Kubina is sort of Lilja on steroids, but he can plug a hole and put in some effective minutes. 

Colaiacovo is a guy I would like to see wearing the Winged Wheel simply because he kills us when he is playing against us.  He has his moments (brain farts) but he was relied on by Capt. Kangaroo to kill penalties and was effective on the power play. 

Trade?  Hmphhh!  I don’t think so.  The Red Wings, George, as you have pointed out, really do not have any trade bait.  They have no one they can afford to give up right now who will make an opposing GMs thighs quiver.

I am comfortable with what the Wings have right now.  I want to see Brendan Smith get big minutes as he can become an outstanding defenseman.  If the coach can get his head back in the game, the rest of the crew is better than average.  Look as some of the guys who play regular minutes around the league.


Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 07/21/12 at 09:04 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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