The Detroit Red Wings, fresh off an offseason which saw the team lose two steady defenders in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, might have identified the blue line as their biggest area of need for an upgrade quickly this season.
In recent months, flashy back end names such as Keith Yandle, Jay Bouwmeester and Zach Bogosian have come up in rumors. Each one of those defenders, however, would likely require a trade with a sizable return. Outside of Yandle or another blockbuster move that also netted an impact forward with such a defender, there isn’t a deal out there right now which would be inspiring enough to pull the trigger on immediately.
Then, Wednsday, the Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James brought another name into the mix which was a bit more intriguing. Wade Redden, formally of the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers, was recently placed on waivers. Redden, since signing in New York prior to 2009, hadn’t lived up to the high-dollar expectations his contract came with. Eventually, he was sent packing to the minors, all but forgotten about in the AHL. After that, the Rangers were content to cut him loose in light of the lockout situation.
For a team who might be feeling short of veteran leadership and a bit of offensive punch on the blue line, the 35 year-old Redden could be the perfect fit for the Red Wings to bridge the gap this season. There would be no cost to the team in terms of prospects or draft picks, and essentially, Detroit could gamble and only stand to gain with this particular move. Redden wouldn’t be in any position to command a big dollar deal this time around, giving the Red Wings leverage in potential negotiations.
Offensively, Redden could provide a bit of needed punch in the absence of Lidstrom. His best season, 2005-06, saw him net 10 goals and contribute 40 assists for a total of 50 points. Redden was also a career best +35 that season, and has only been a minus player twice in his career. He scored 17 goals once in his career, and in a place like Detroit, could feel relaxed enough to rediscover some past success.
Sometimes, players just don’t feel comfortable in certain situations. Such was the case for Redden in New York, playing with the pressure of his big dollar deal. The Red Wings have a track record of rescuing lost defenders late in their career and getting big results. Few people would have considered Larry Murphy and Jamie Macoun excellent additions in 1997 and 1998, but those veteran defenders quietly chipped in and led the Red Wings to glory. If Detroit is to have any success in the shortened 2013 season, a considerably shaky defense will have to be unexpectedly leading the charge.
The Red Wings have an excellent track record of successfully panning for undiscovered gold, especially after lockouts. Truthfully, that’s the way teams can have the most success in a salary cap world. Dan Cleary was a similar player in 2006, and the Red Wings have been able to get excellent results out of him since his much unheralded signing. Nobody’s pretending Redden would be the second coming of Bobby Orr or Lidstrom, nor stay in Detroit forever. However, he could be a steady fill in for a team with more questions than answers on defense after the lockout.
In a low risk, high reward situation, the Red Wings should keep an open mind about adding Redden as a free agent. Right now, the most important question is, what would they stand to lose by doing so?
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax