It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings plan to be active during this offseason. After exiting the playoffs in just 5 games, the team is aware that changes must be made. The most popular avenue suggested for those changes? Free Agency, a time when, according Red Wings Vice President Jim Devellano, the team will be active.
“[General Manager] Ken Holland will be very aggressive come July 1 [the start of free agency]. I think you know how we operate. I think you know how [team owner] Mike Ilitch operates. We’ll be aggressive. If there are some good players out there, we’re gonna go hard. We know the team needs to improve. I would just leave it with Ken. He knows that we need another defenseman and we could use another forward. That doesn’t mean those things will be easy to get because there will be other suitors. Bu you know the Red Wings will be aggressive and won’t just sit on their hands.”
Statements like that coupled with certain glaring needs after the team’s earliest playoff exit in 6 years have led to an enormous amount of speculation from both fans and the media. Detroit may be able to land top talent, and coach Mike Babcock is certainly hoping they do.
“We have tons of money and if we can use our cap space to get high-end free agents, we have a shot to get right back on top. If we’re fortunate in free agency, we won’t have to look at going in another direction. The standard here has always been to chase the Stanley Cup, so as a coach, I’m hoping the free-agent market helps us continue to have those goals.”
And there are high-end free agents available, even if only a few. There’s been no shortage of rumors connecting New Jersey Devils Captain Zach Parise to the team, and even Russian sniper Alexander Semin has found his way into the Detroit discussion as a fall back option. But according to MLive’s Ansar Khan, at the top of their wish list is one Ryan Suter.
“Suter is No. 1 on the Red Wings’ wish list, regardless of whether Lidstrom returns. Some in the organization believe Suter is the closest thing they have seen to Lidstrom. He is an all-around defenseman who moves the puck well, has a terrific shot from the point, likes to hit, logs a lot of minutes and has been extremely durable. And he’s only 27.”
Khan’s statement got me thinking. Certainly the Wings will pursue Suter whether or not Nicklas Lidstrom decides to retire (and I’ve already pointed out that speculation on that topic is useless), but his decision will almost certainly play a larger part in the matter than Khan suggests—just in a completely different way.
As Jason Brough of ProHockeyTalk pointed out earlier today, the Red Wings won’t be Suters only suitors. Nearly every team in the league will entertain the idea of adding the Alll-Star D-man, including 2 other attractive powerhouses.
“The Flyers would undoubtedly make room for Suter, given Chris Pronger might never play again and Kimmo Timonen just turned 37. The Bruins would love to have Suter quarterbacking their troublesome power play. If they have to ship out a guy like Dennis Seidenberg, so be it.”
The Red Wings are by no means clear front-runners in the Suter sweepstakes. There are other consistently successful teams with the ability to offer the coveted defender contracts. Yet the Red Wings have one asset that could potentially put them ahead of the game: Nicklas Lidstrom.
No other team in the league can boast having arguably the greatest defenseman of all time in their lineup. All-Stars sure, but Suter’s already been playing with one in Shea Weber, and that hasn’t made up his mind for him yet. The chance to play with a true legend has to be a significant draw. Who would pass up the opportunity to skate side by side with a future hall of fame player, a man whose jersey will hang from the Joe Louis Arena rafters someday?
Luckily for the Wings, they should know the answer to whether or not Lidstrom will return by the time July 1st rolls around.
“I’ll take my time, having a meeting with Kenny — an exit meeting like all the players have — and go from there. I won’t make a decision soon. I won’t put a timetable on it. I’m sure Kenny would like to know before July 1 to see what’s going on. That’s what we did last year.”
And what might be a factor in Lidstrom’s decision process? According to the National Post’s Michael Traikos, Ryan Suter.
“A player like that might convince Lidstrom to come back for another kick at the can. At the very least, Suter would keep the tower from tumbling over.”
If Lidstrom feels his team has a real shot at going for another cup before he retires, if Ken Holland can convince him that the team will spend to succeed in 2012-13, acquiring players like Ryan Suter, then it may tip the scales and bring him back for another year. At the same time his return may be the final attraction necessary to lure Suter into signing. He’s the biggest uniqueness Detroit possesses, and potentially their biggest free agent signing advantage.