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.