The Detroit Red Wings have have long struggled to maintain a capable defensive corp. The days of Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios feel like a lifetime ago. It would be unfair to place all of the Wings’ faults squarely on the blue line, but inconsistency is the only factor that’s been consistent at the Joe Louis. But a line has been drawn and while the desperately needed complete rebuild probably won’t happen; Ken Holland‘s free agency shopping has potentially calmed the storm.
On paper Trevor Daley feels like a great addition. Daley, 33 has just won back-to-back Stanley Cups Stanley Cups, which is two more than anyone on the current Detroit roster. Daley’s journey to the Motor City has been somewhat fortuitous. Having been drafted by the Stars in 2002; Daley was then plucked from Texan obscurity when the Blackhawks traded Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns for Daley and Ryan Garbutt in July 2015. In December the same year the Pittsburgh Penguins traded Rob Scuderi for Daley. A few months later Daley had his name etched onto the Stanley Cup.
When his time with Pittsburgh came to end last season, the current champions didn’t feature on Daley’s list of future employers; fortunately Detroit did. Having relied heavily on Mike Green for the last two seasons, Daley offers variety and will likely partner Danny DeKeyser. Hopefully helping to unlock some of DeKeyser’s potential that we’ve seen little infrequent flashes of. His three year deal carries a cap hit of $3.16 million and a two year no trade clause (year three has a modified NTC).
Michigan native Luke Witkowski is the guy who ended Anthony Mantha‘s season early by breaking his finger in a fight last season. Witkowski can expect a frosty reception when he unpacks his gear in the
Gordie Howe Arena Little Caesars Arena. Despite having a strong beard game, his NHL stats aren’t exactly mind blowing. In three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning Witkowksi has four points to his name in 54 games.
He may not be missed all that much in Tampa, but Witkowski’s AHL stats are slightly better and he could have made a great captain for the Syracuse Crunch, but Detroit need him to perform in the big league. Fortunately he has the potential to do this, the 6’2″, 200 lb blueliner is a physical menace when on the ice and puts up a big presence. He might not find himself on the scoresheet very often, but the Wings need a stay-at-home defenceman, and Witkowski fits the bill. He comes in cheap too, his two year deal is only worth $1.5 million.
The additions of Daley and Witkowski give Wings coach Jeff Blashill options on the blue line. Daley has the opportunity to be a top line defenseman while the Jury is still out on Witkowski. The former Bronco might be just what Detroit’s beleaguered blue line needs, or he might just disappoint. The big positive is that it means that the onus is now on the existing roster to step up and try to earn that spot. Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen will soon be approaching the end of their contracts and need to make this next season count.