So we went into July 1st, “Free Agent Frenzy”, expecting the Wings would get a defenseman to improve their D. They had their options, three guys to be exact. Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Boyle and Matt Niskanen. All three were good options for different reasons. The problem though, they were really the only three options and most teams were looking for the same thing. Wings were told just before July 1st that Ehrhoff wanted five years and Niskanen had the Wings on his shortlist. What happened? None signed with the Wings.
So why did this happen? Well, the players chose to go elsewhere. Ehrhoff took a one-year deal to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wings were never given a chance to even negotiate to try and beat that. They would have too. Boyle took slightly less money to go to the New York Rangers. he gets to play with his old teammate Marty St. Louis and play for the Eastern Conference Champions. Are the Rangers a better team than the Wings? Debatable in my opinion but that’s Boyle’s Choice. Maybe he felt more comfortable then. With Niskanen there are conflicting reports about what the Wings offered him. One said just under what the Washington Capitals signed him for, one said just over that at 7 years and $40 million.Regardless, Wings made competitive offers and the players chose to sign elsewhere. This has thrown the Red Wings fans into a tizzy. Ready to fire Ken Holland. Thinking this will be the end of Mike Babcock in Detroit because players signed somewhere else. There is also one blog post on another site where someone was saying Jim Nill should be the GM or Steve Yzerman should be. Trying to point out what they did with their respective teams. You can’t do that because each team is different. Nill went and got Jason Spezza from Ottawa. The Wings didn’t need to do that and the Stars need to make a splash because of their market and to compete in the tough Western Conference. Stevie Y, the same thing. Tampa had different needs. The Lightning did get Anton Stralman for five years. The Wings didn’t wan to commit to him for five years with some of their young defense coming up.
A lot of fans, and the blog I mentioned above also freaked out on how the Wings missed out on some of the second tier guys and said those guys chose other teams. That’s not how it works. The one player they pointed to was Tom Gilbert. Actually what happened was the Wings called him and at that time he had a deal from Montreal that he needed to get an answer on. The Wings were still waiting on some of their first choices, so Gilbert couldn’t wait. He didn’t diss the Wings, he made a smart choice for himself. What if the Wings then sign a guy and he misses out on his deal with the Canadiens. This is what happens in the free agency world. A team puts most of it’s effort into one or two guys and if they wait on them, they can miss out on the second tier guys. That’s not the GM’s fault, this is the game you play. Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika tweeted out today these very same thoughts, which I’m sure Wings fans didn’t want to hear.
Look, it’s disappointing the Wings lost out on these guys, but that’s the reality of life in the cap world. Everyone is on a level playing field with cap space. Wings are a good team but they are one of many because of the salary cap. On top of that, everyone has the same money to spend, so players have a choice. Fans want to be mad at Ken Holland but he did what he could do. These players made choices for themselves. Ken Holland has to plan for the future and the present and sorry to say, he knows more than us. He’ll be looking at a trade but he’ll need to weigh if it’s good for the present and future. Is it worth giving up Jurco or Tatar for player X? We might think so, he might not. Just because he stands pat, doesn’t make him wrong. I want them to improve their defense, and maybe they still do, because I think they have a shot at competing for a Cup but they do have to be careful with the risk of the franchise. Again, we’re sitting at home on our computers, while these guys are living it, they have a lot more info and insight than we do.
So where do they go from here? The rumors heavy around the draft was Tyler Myers and Keith Yandle. Myers is a little bit of a project. He hasn’t lived up to his rookie season, but he’s only 24 and maybe with a fresh start, a good coach, a good system he could turn it around. I worry there because if he doesn’t work out, you give up a lot and are playing against whoever you gave up probably five times a season. Yandle? Not a right-handed shot but what they are looking for, being a puck-moving defenseman. I’d love to get him. I think he’s greatly underrated, but we don’t know what Arizona would be asking for him. Another option that popped up with the Caps signing both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen was maybe Mike Green is on the block. He’s a bit of lightning rod in Washington, but he’s also what the Wings are looking for. He’s got an expensive cap hit at $6-million but it’s the final year of his contract, so no commitment past this year. Depending on the price to get him, that’s also something I’d consider.
The truth is even with very few changes, a healthy Wings team is still dang good. They missed so many guys last season and still made the playoffs. Health, and better years from Jimmy Howard and Jakub Kindl would be huge boosts to this team. I want them to add another defenseman to try and keep up with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, but I also understand that this isn’t the old days, and the Wings actually still are a pretty good team.