The Detroit Red Wings look within their department of defense
With the NHL draft finished and the July 1st Free Agency just a day away, the Detroit Red Wings have some glaring holes to fill. They want to add a top 6 forward, they need a backup goalie for Jimmy Howard, but what they really need is to improve on their defense. A defense that was 23rd in goals against, and 17th in penalty killing, re-signing Lidstrom was their first step, but after that they have to start reshaping their defense. With the retirement of Brian Rafalski, the Red Wings will need to replace his right handed shot opposite of Lidstrom. The Red Wings defense is getting older as well. The Red Wings have four defensemen under contract that are 30 years or older. Lidstrom (41 years old), Niklas Kronwall (30 years old), Brad Stuart (31 years old), Doug Janik (31 years old) who played for the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins last year. The Red Wings may need to replace 2 more defensemen with Jonathan Ericsson and Ruslan Salei about to hit free agency as they are unsigned as of June 30th.
The Red Wings either will have to open their pocket books and dive into free agency or will have to inject some youth from within their organization to improve there defense. Enter two prospects that could help out and make the team in October. Brendan Smith is a former first round pick by the Red Wings from 2007. He is a 22 year old skilled defenseman who's good with the puck, has good mobility, and a good skating stride. He is able to join the rush well and also gets involved physically. He finished with 12 goals and 32 points. He had 124 penalty minutes with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.
Jakub Kindl is a 24 year old former 2005 first round pick. Kindl has all the tools needed to be a professional player. He has good size, skates well, can handle the puck, and has already played a hand full of games with the Red Wings. In the 2009-10 season, Kindl made his debut with the Red Wings playing in only 3 games. This past season Kindl played in 48 games, had 2 goals, 4 points, and 36 penalty minutes.
If the Red Wings plan on competing next year and beyond, they will need their younger core of defensemen from within to contribute right away and help fill the holes that the older defensemen will leave.
Side note: Ericsson was signed late Thursday night to a 3 year, $9.75 million dollar contract. Ericsson is 27 years old and played in 74 games last year, with 15 pts and 87 penalty minutes. Ericsson was also a plus 8.