Saturday I determined through some crafty mathematics and Microsoft Excel work that the Wings actually can keep all 7 of their top D-men from the 06-07 season, and still retain Hasek and Bertuzzi, and still have 2M in spare change for injuries/deadline deals (post ; salary chart).
However, in my analysis I also noted that the Wings may be better off not retaining all their veterans so as to start grooming the Fab Four. And of those Four, Derek Meech seems to be getting Hudlered onto the Wings' roster for next season, as he cannot be sent down without clearing waivers. Kyle Quincey, meanwhile, may Filppula his way onto the roster, after a very solid playoffs showing. (The verbs "Hudler" and "Filppula" are copyright me. Don't believe Iwo if he puts them in his glossary and tells you he made them up. Man I should get a glossary.)
While people are excited by Meech's speed, and by Quincey's perhaps legendary playoff performance, these two are arguably the less dynamic and less exciting prospects of the four. I see these two as a very solid 5-6 pair in the future. Each is basically one-dimensional; Quincey is a big, stay-at-homer, with physical play. Of current Wings I would compare his upside to the 2007 Playoffs Version of Andreas Lilja, though perhaps with more speed, so maybe somewhere between Lilja and Danny Markov.
Meech meanwhile has good speed and works the point well. We haven't seen him much, but RWC says he has a good shot, so here's hoping he gets some PP time for the Wings. He's not going to be a Schneider type, but certainly should contribute offensively here and there. That's why I like Meecher-Quince as a good 3rd pair - neither will be an All-Star, but they do complement each other and both will play solid defence.
Jakub MF Kindl meanwhile has me pacing late at night with excitement. The kid's big (6'3'') and has been piling up points in the OHL. The most exciting part is that he's been stirring up shit and getting into fights. Now, the Wings won't let him develop into a Sasquatch-type brawler, but this lineup could use some nastiness. (Word on the street is he punched a baby in anger once.) He almost made the squad this past year and is RWC's #2 prospect, but certainly the Wings won't have room to let him on this year. He'll likely spend at least one season kicking ass for the Griffins before debuting with the Red and White and grabbing the Calder.
As exciting as JMFK is, Jonathon Ericsson may have even more upside. Strengths, via RWC:
Surprising mobility and agility for a big man ... good hands and puck skills ... makes good first pass ... uses his skating, impressive reach and improving positional game to neutralize opponents in the defensive zone ... uses his size well and gets involved ... willing to stand up for his teammates, fighting when necessary ... armed with a heavy shot ... quick and willing learner ... character player ...More exciting, however, is his apparent lack of weaknesses (ibid.):
Needs to move the puck quicker ... has good puck skills, but can get caught when he over-handles it ... began his career as a forward and his conversion to the blue line in his draft year means he is is still raw with plenty of learning ahead ... heavy shot but slow release ...Oh yeah and he's 6'5. Oh yeah and he got taken LAST overall in his draft year. That probably is the best sign on this team, and we maybe should be a little worried about Kindl given the curse that apparently hangs over recent D-Men taken in the first round by the Wings...
But of course, seeing any of these guys blossom is a far way off, given that the Wings, UFAs included, have an admirable Top 7 blueline. If everyone returns, the Wings will have Andreas Lilja, my pick for most improved player in the postseason, as the reserve D-Man.
Miah over at All Things Red Wings has a great post chronicling the Liljahammer's postseason, and certainly he has earned himself a shot at more IT than last season. But maybe, with all the young talent in this organization, it's time to let go of Lils. It's not his turnover against Anaheim that bothers me, and Lilja will be a better D-Man next season than any of the kids. What makes me want to deal him is the fact that he's 31, and a UFA next summer, at which point the Wings will surely not re-sign him.
Getting his 1M off the books isn't really motivation, but that money would in all likelihood go toward the Ken Holland Beer Fund and the possibility of getting an insurance D at the deadline. If the Wings deal Lilja, and keep only one of Markov/Schneider, there's your 6/7 D in form of Quincey and Meech, perhaps alternating. When the Wings need an offensive presence or a shot in the arm on PP, throw in Meecher. When they need physicality and good, sound D, throw in Quince. Who knows, one of them might even make it into the playoffs as the 6th D. And if neither of them show NHL stuff right away, like I said, grab someone at the deadline (hell, maybe it'll be Lilja.)
I know letting go a guy who just turned in a great performance isn't fun, but it's not like I'm suggesting we trade Rasheed Wallace or anything. Remember Mike Vernon in '97? More to the point, remember Chris Osgood in '98?