Brian Rafalski Retiring: Potential Impact on the Chicago Blackhawks

News out of Detroit on Monday afternoon is that a veteran defenseman is retiring.

Surprisingly, the name associated with the report is Brian Rafalski.

Rafalski, 37, has played 11 seasons in the NHL. Most analysts figured Detroit would lose one of their top defensemen this summer, but the popular assumption was that Niklas Lidstrom would be the name at the retirement press conference.

The difference between Rafalski and Lidstrom, other than age, is that Rafalski has a contract to return to Detroit; Lidstrom is a 41-year-old unrestricted free agent.

This news comes in the wake of reports that the Blackhawks are shopping one of their defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson.

While the odds that the Blackhawks would deal Hjalmarsson inside the Central Division – especially to Detroit – are less than zero percent, a weak free agent class on the blue line could peak league-wide interest in the Hawks’ young defenseman.

Consider some of the top under-30 defenseman that will be unrestricted this summer:

  • James Wisniewski
  • Christian Ehrhoff
  • Kevin Bieksa
  • Joni Pitkanen
  • Ian White
  • Anton Babchuk
  • Grant Clitsome
  • Jonathan Ericsson

If Detroit enters the bidding this summer looking for two defensemen (possibly three if Ericsson leaves), a thin market just became even weaker.

The Blackhawks have the restricted free agent rights to Chris Campoli, another name that could become popular in trade discussion around the Draft. But considering the number of analysts claiming Hjalmarsson is on the block, his production and price tag ($3.5M), the Blackhawks might be ready to make a move in a market desperately lacking quality.

3 thoughts on “Brian Rafalski Retiring: Potential Impact on the Chicago Blackhawks

  1. It will be very interesting to see what Detroit does with the $21-$22M they’ll have in cap space. As you mentioned they are going to focus on defense with their top 2 guys retiring (I’m assuming this seals the deal on Lidstrom). But, considering they are returning their top 10 forwards, they’ll be able to spend freely on defensemen. The free agent market for defensemen isn’t that great at the top end (Canucks have plenty of cap space to resign both Bieksa and Ehrhoff should they desire, and I bet they keep at least Bieksa) , so they could turn to the trade market to fill at least 1 of the spots. Also of note is that Stuart and Kronwall are UFAs after next season, so they could have 100% turnover in a couple years on the d-corps.

    I wonder if they inquire on Bouwmeester, whos been a disappointment to a very cap strapped Flames team. They could get him and picks/prospects for a bucket of pucks.

    I also wouldn’t limit the list to just under 30 FAs. There is actually a decent crop of UFAs in their early 30s , such as Kaberle, Hannan, Montador, and Brewer. They might be able to bide their time with short contracts for a couple of these guys until they find the franchise guy(s) they want. Its not like the wings are adverse to suiting up vets!

  2. Where are you getting your numbers, Ozzzie? the Canucks have 7 forwards under contract, 4 defensemen, and 2 goalies. They have $45M locked up in 13 players; they need to find 5 forwards and, most importantly, either replace or make competitive offers to Bieksa & Ehrhoff (which, if DET is in the market for D, could be $9-10M for those two alone). Vancouver does NOT have plenty of cap space.

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