With the news today that forward Alexander Semin had signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and the report that the Red Wings are out of the running for Shane Doan, much has been made of Detroit general manager Ken Holland’s summer inactivity.
I’m on record as saying that I don’t think you can call a summer in which you sign Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo and Jonas Gustavsson and have $11 million in cap space remaining a successful summer. Reasonable, perhaps, as it appears the available players just didn’t want to come to Detroit. Not successful.
There is an argument that going after Semin or Doan is counterproductive because the Wings’ holes are on defense, not forward. As of right now, the team has six defensemen on the roster and 15 fowards, before signing restricted free agent Justin Abdelkader.
Let’s take a look at a possible set of forward lines…
Gustav Nyquist – Pavel Datsyuk – Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula – Henrik Zetterberg – Damien Brunner
Danny Cleary – Darren Helm – Mikael Samuelsson
Drew Miller – Justin Abdelkader – Todd Bertuzzi
Jan Mursak – Cory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo
More important than actual lines here is where each player fits in the depth chart. That’s why I’m throwing a healthy dose of optimism in there, with both Nyquist and Brunner panning out and fitting into the top six.
Send Brunner to Grand Rapids and slide Samuelsson up if you want, either way I think this shows that the Red Wings have about six forwards that you can actually define as “top six” and not just “players who happen to play on the top two lines.”
Signing Semin or Doan would give Detroit one more of those. Why is that a good thing?
There are no more top defensemen on the free agent market. Detroit already has enough bottom-pair defensemen, adding one more of them doesn’t help. As Holland has already suggested, if the Wings want actual help on their blue line they’ll need to trade for it.
Dealing forward depth for defensive help seems like a perfect fit for this team. The problem is that you’re not going to see a deal of Emmerton and Miller and Mursak for a Keith Yandle. No one is going to deal a top defensemen for a bunch of third- and fourth-liners, even a whole line of them.
To make a deal for a top-four defenseman, you’ll have to include a top-six forward. Do that with this lineup and suddenly you’re pretending that Todd Bertuzzi belongs next to Pavel Datsyuk again, and I say that as someone who likes Bertuzzi.
Signing a top-six forward gives the Wings the option of including Johan Franzen or Valtteri Filppula in a deal for their new defenseman. It gives them flexibility that they don’t have right now.
The Wings’ forward depth in its current form does not help them in bringing in a defenseman. All it does is push Brunner and Nyquist to Grand Rapids because they can be sent there without losing them, and then you have both Bertuzzi and Samuelsson in the top six and still no addition on defense.
Maybe the new CBA will make certain players available but as of right now, with no top-six forwards available to sign and the free agent market dried up, I don’t think the Wings have what teams will want for a top-four defenseman.