It’s not exactly the splashy free agent signing fans of the Detroit Red Wings were hoping for, but it’s a welcome one nonetheless. On Friday, a day before the NHL and its team owners are expected to lock out their players, the Wings signed UFA defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo to a two-year deal worth a reported $5 million.
The addition comes as more of necessity than a desire. After losing Brad Stuart to the San Jose Sharks, Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and watching their coveted replacement options get scooped up by others, Colaiacovo became one of the only available options for a team that needed to add at least one more defender.
At 29 years of age, Colaiacovo has seven seasons of NHL experience. Well, sort of. Splitting his time between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the St. Louis Blues, the six-foot-one, 200-pound D-man has never surpassed 73 games in any given season, often finding himself sidelined due to injury. Yet the reality of Colaiacovo’s injury-prone nature isn’t alarming to Red Wings GM Ken Holland.
“He’s healthy. We’re aware that he’s a guy that probably plays 60-65 games per year. It is what it is. We’re fully aware of what we’re signing.”
And while they may only be partial seasons, Holland still likes the experience Carlo brings to the team.
“He’s a veteran. He’s played in the NHL. Smith is a rookie. Kindl has been around a bit but hasn’t really had the opportunity to establish himself. Carlo gives us another veteran defenseman for our team. He can play on power play. He’s got the ability to get the puck in the hands of our forwards. It’s another veteran.”
Colaiacovo does indeed have offensive strengths. He averaged 20-30 points a season with the Blues, numbers primarily fueled by assists. He’s a puck-mover, a valuable asset that earned him top-pairing minutes with St. Louis for a portion of last season, but his role there may have been similar to that of Ian White’s position next to Nicklas Lidstrom last season; it’s easy to play well next to all-star talent.
“With the (Alex)Pietrangelo/Colaiacovo pairing on the ice, the Blues managed an excellent Corsi ratio – 55.1-to-44.9 (Corsi is a total of shots, missed shots and blocked shots, and serves as a good proxy for territorial advantage/scoring chances; in this case the Blues had a heavy advantage over their opposition). With Pietrangelo and no Colaiacovo the ratio was similar – 54.8-to-45.2. With Colaiacovo and no Pietrangelo, however, it fell through the floor 48.0-to-52.0.”
All-star talent is something the Red Wings are short on and as such DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose suggests the ride-alongs Colaiacovo and White could find themselves playing side by side, something they did for three seasons in Toronto. But with no all-star to bail them out at every turn, will either be able to provide quality play?
Perhaps the only person hoping that answer is a resounding “no” is Jakub Kindl. Colaiacovo’s presence is expected to push the 25-year-old Czech native out of the lineup and into the number seven slot. A disappointing place to be in heading into your third season. The pressures surrounding Kindl were already mounting but now they’ve skyrocketed.
Pressure will be high for all the Wings defenders, including Colaiacovo. As the team adds yet another former Leaf, they continue to hope they don’t become the Leafs in 2012-13. It will be a challenge; one the entire team must rise to face and hopefully conquer.