Click through the gallery above for Ted Kulfan’s player-by-player outlook on the Red Wings’ defensemen. Go here if you are having trouble seeing the gallery. Coming Saturday: Goalies. Previously: Forwards.
Detroit — A few days after their season ended, the Red Wings talked about the need of securing a right-handed shooting defenseman.
The Red Wings played the majority of last season with all left-handed shots.
In a perfect world, coach Mike Babcock likes one of each on his three pairings, creating balance and theoretically making for better passing and overall cleaner puck movement.
There were defensemen on the free-agent market who could have filled the void — Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle and Anton Stralman. But each chose to sign elsewhere.
Staggering back to square one, the Red Wings re-signed Kyle Quincey to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million while continuing to scour the market (free agents, trade targets) looking for a right-handed shot. But they are prepared to go with the same lineup as last season, knowing there are exciting prospects from Grand Rapids who could be ready for prime time.
Some of those prospects even shoot right-handed.
“We made offers to players,” general manager Ken Holland said. “They signed elsewhere. That’s going to happen with 30 teams trying to win and with the salary cap.
“We went in looking to add a right-hand defenseman and we felt we made very competitive offers.”
There is a feeling the defense can be improved simply from within.
The return of a healthy Jonathan Ericsson, who missed the end of the regular season and playoffs because of shoulder surgery, and the continued development of Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser, could improve the group as it is currently constructed.
Then, there’s the talent in Grand Rapids, and many made cameos with the Red Wings last season.
Young defensemen such as Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko are right-handed, while lefties Xavier Ouellet and Mattias Backman appear close to cracking the Red Wings lineup, no matter which hand is their strong hand.
“We feel we have kids who aren’t far away,” Holland said. “We had young players who got an opportunity last season and helped us make the playoffs. We like the pool of players coming up.”
Not that the Red Wings are done looking for veteran help.
Defensemen such as Mike Green (Washington), Tyler Myers (Buffalo) and Grosse Pointe’s Jeff Petry (Edmonton) could be available in trade — and all are right-handed shots. Michael Del Zotto, an intriguing offensive defenseman, is an unrestricted free agent, though he is a lefty.