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NHL free agency preview: Red Wings likely to be in market for experience on defense

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

This is the second in a three-part series looking at the Red Wings' position-by-position needs entering free agency. Today: Defensemen

Detroit — The Red Wings’ defense likely will look much different next season, whenever that’ll begin.

Mike Green was dealt at the trade deadline — a few weeks before the season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic — and Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson are veteran unrestricted free agents who will not return.

Defenseman Torey Krug is a Livonia native who starred at Michigan State.

Young players such as Moritz Seider, Gustav Lindstrom and Dennis Cholowski could be getting greater opportunities if they show they can handle the responsibility.

But the unit has to get deeper and more experienced, which means the Wings likely will be busy sifting through the free-agent market

And there are players who could be potential targets — not just by the Wings, but many teams who may have some space to shop under the salary cap.

The Wings figure to return Danny DeKeyser, who only has played eight games this season due to a herniated disk, Filip Hronek, Patrik Nemeth and Alex Biega.

Along with the young defensemen such as Seider, Cholowski and Lindstrom, restricted free agent Madison Bowey will be battling for roster spots.

More: NHL free agency preview: Red Wings in market for goal-scoring forward

Though there are some interesting options on the free-agent market, and the Wings will have available cap space (only 11 players under contract currently for $46.2 million, while the cap of $81 million could remain flat), there’s still the issue of whether free agents will be attracted to a rebuilding situation.

Here are some potential unrestricted free agent defensemen who could interest the Wings:

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis

2019-20 stats: 16 goals, 36 assists, 52 points

Cap hit: $6.5 million

Analysis: Pietrangelo, 30, is one of the premier defensemen in the NHL and is the Blues’ captain. Yes, St. Louis will have some cap issues, but it’s difficult to imagine these two sides parting.

Torey Krug, Boston

2019-20 stats: Nine goals, 40 assists, 49 points

Cap hit: $5.25 million

Analysis: Krug was coached in junior hockey by Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill, and the Livonia native starred at Michigan State. So, there’s definitely some local connections. But Krug has become a key cog in the Bruins’ roster, a gr owing leader, and the Bruins do have some available cap space.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie has five goals and 34 assists for 39 points this season for the Maple Leafs.

Tyson Barrie, Toronto

2019-20 stats: Five goals, 34 assists, 39 points

Cap hit: $5.5 million

Analysis: This season hasn’t gone well for Barrie, who likely will not return to the Maple Leafs. Barrie is more of an offensive defenseman who might have to settle for a little less than he expected. The Wings could be a possibility.

T.J. Brodie, Calgary

2019-20 stats: Four goals, 15 assists, 19 points

Cap hit: $4.65 million

Analysis: Brodie has been a solid player in Calgary, but the Flames have several free agents and limited cap space. Brodie’s production fell this season, but the Flames are likely to work to retain him.

Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh

2019-20 stats: Three goals, nine assists, 12 points

Cap hit: $5.5 million

Analysis: Schultz’s production fell this season during an injury-plagued season and he’s stronger offensively than defensively. But at age 29, Schultz likely will draw interest for his experience and offense.

Andy Greene, New York Islanders

2019-20 stats: Two goals, 12 assists, 14 points

Cap hit: $5 million

Analysis: Greene, from Trenton, is 37 and spent his entire career with New Jersey before being dealt to the Islanders at the deadline. Would Greene be interested in ending his career near his hometown, and play for his Miami (Ohio) coach, Jeff Blashill?

Brenden Dillon, Washington

2019-20 stats: One goal, 13 assists, 14 points

Cap hit: $3.2 million

Analysis: Traded by San Jose at the deadline, Dillon has barely been able to make an impact with the Capitals. A big, defensive defenseman, Dillon will attract significant interest because of his durability and big-game experience.

Sami Vatanen, Carolina

2019-20 stats: Five goals, 18 assists, 23 points

Cap hit: $4.875 million

Analysis: At 29 in June, Vatanen is running out of time to show some of the promise he showed early in his career in Anaheim. Vatanen could have a good opportunity with the Wings.

Kevin Shattenkirk, Tampa Bay

2019-20 stats: Eight goals, 26 assists, 34 points

Cap hit: $1.75 million

Analysis: Shattenkirk was bought out by the New York Rangers and settled on a 1-year, low-money deal in Tampa Bay. He fit well there, and has indicated he might re-sign with the Lightning for less than market value.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan