Could the Wings be looking at Lukas Krajicek for defensive help?

lukaskrajicek.jpgWhile the buzz around signing Mike Modano in Detroit has appropriately died down, attention now turns to other needs in the Motor City. While they’re still working on a contract for restricted free agent Justin Abdelkader, the Wings are in the market for another experienced defenseman to play on the third pairing with Jonathan Ericsson. While Willie Mitchell has been rumored as a potential candidate for the job, Mlive.com’s Ansar Khan throws another name out there for consideration while taking Willie Mitchell’s case for a job in Detroit down a peg.

Among free-agent defensemen the Detroit Red Wings have inquired about, Lukas Krajicek seems like a more realistic possibility than Willie Mitchell for that sixth spot.

Krajicek is not nearly as good as a healthy Mitchell, but Krajicek is more affordable and more apt to accept a third-pair role than Mitchell.

How much can Mitchell command? That’s tricky, since he was shelved for the season with a concussion in mid-January. He earned $3.5 million last season in Vancouver and probably is seeking more than the Red Wings can afford under the salary cap, even if it’s $2 million a season.

And consider this, too: In Detroit, Mitchell would have no chance of cracking the top four (Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall) this season, barring an injury. Would he want to go somewhere knowing he’s cemented as the No. 5 or No. 6 defenseman and won’t get as much playing time? It’s doubtful.

Krajicek isn’t exactly an exciting name and while he was able to get some ice time for the Flyers during the Stanley Cup finals thanks to Ryan Parent’s inconsistent play, he wasn’t the Flyers top option to use on the blueline initially. Beggars can’t be choosers and when you’re hemmed in by the limits of the salary cap, sometimes decisions get made for you by how the market turns out.

Of course, Khan’s opinion is just that and The Chief at Abel To Yzerman disagrees just a little bit with Khan’s potential dose of salary reality/takedown of Mitchell. Slightly rough language straight ahead.

Well, here’s a frigging storyline for you Ansar…if Willie Mitchell comes to Hockeytown it’s not because he wants to “crack the top 4”.  It’s because he wants a Cup.  And if he’s playing for a contract, if he signs here for cheap, for one year, he’ll get that deal here or elsewhere if he contributes to the mission.  Get it?

Brett Lebda sucks [synonym for posterior], but he’s gonna get nearly 1.5. Yeah, he’s gonna make it in Toronto…where the Leafs aren’t exactly known for redolent decision making, but he’s getting it.  Why Ansar?  Not because of his startling abilities to rove the blue line or move the puck.  He’s getting that money because of his pedigree, because of his association with the Wings.  Toronto’s not paying for the baby Jesus-given talents of Brett Lebda. They’re paying for what he’s learned in our organ-I-zation and the Quincey-like possibility that those lessons translate into success.

The Chief’s take is an interesting one and one that’s got a track record. Marian Hossa used his year in Detroit to get a boost and a long-term deal with the Blackhawks, Kyle Quincey was lost via waivers to the Los Angeles Kings and then ended up in Colorado where he now makes over $3 million a season. Brett Lebda, as he mentions, got a sweet deal from the Maple Leafs based on years of success in Detroit. Is Mitchell looking to get a boost to a bigger contract or does he want to go somewhere that he can just win? His rumored options for where he’s wanted are all intriguing as they’re all very good teams in San Jose, Detroit, Vancouver and Washington. Washington could use a defenseman of his ilk, San Jose is in need of a replacement for Rob Blake, Detroit could use the snarl on their blue line and Vancouver is a situation he’s already familiar with.

While Detroit could go with Krajicek if the market demands it be so (since Washington and San Jose have a bit more money to offer Mitchell) there’s a distinct difference in quality. That being Willie Mitchell is a highly-regarded defensive defenseman and Lukas Krajicek couldn’t lock down consistent minutes for Tampa Bay last season and was a sixth or seventh defenseman for the Flyers. Mitchell is coming off a bad concussion last season and that’s a situation Detroit is familiar with as Andreas Lilja lost a ton of time due to a concussion. The Wings are still talking with Lilja about returning, but they’ve got other options and are exploring them. Whether that means they’ve got actual interest in Lukas Krajicek remains to be seen.

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    Goalie nods: Andersen back for Leafs

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    Curtis McElhinney held up his end of the bargain.

    Now, it’s back to Frederik Andersen.

    After missing the last game (well, one-and-a-half games) to an upper-body injury, Andersen will resume his regular No. 1 duties when the Leafs take on the Preds in Nashville this evening.

    Andersen was initially hurt Saturday in Buffalo, then sat out Tuesday’s big win over Florida — one that McElhinney called the biggest start of his career, and responded to by stopping 25 of 27 shots.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Andersen fares in his first game back, and if he continue his strong month of March (6-1-2 in his last 10 games, with a .936 save percentage). The Preds have played well of late, winning seven of their last nine, and haven’t lost at Bridgestone since Mar. 4.

    For the Preds, Pekka Rinne starts in goal.

    Elsewhere…

    Thomas Greiss, who’s lost his last two starts, gets another shot as the desperate Isles take on the Flyers. Philly will counter with Steve Mason, who’s riding a personal three-game winning streak.

    Eddie Lack remains out with a neck injury, so Cam Ward starts when the ‘Canes host the Jackets. No word yet on a Columbus starter, but Sergei Bobrovsky has played three straight, including Tuesday’s win over Buffalo.

    — The B’s are desperate for wins, so no surprise they’re riding Tuukka Rask into tonight’s tilt against Dallas. The visiting Stars have yet to name a starter, but Antti Niemi is likely.

    James Reimer and Roberto Luongo are both out injured, so Reto Berra starts for the Panthers while newly recalled Adam Wilcox backs up. For the host Habs, it’ll be Carey Price.

    — Another team desperate for points? The Bolts, who will go with Andrei Vasilevskiy after he was hooked from — then returned to — Monday’s wild comeback victory against Chicago. Petr Mrazek goes for the visiting Red Wings.

    Alex Stalock, recalled yesterday, will bump Darcy Kuemper from the No. 2 gig in Minnesota, and make his regular season debut. He’ll be up against Craig Anderson in the Ottawa goal.

    — The Ducks just keep winning with Jonathan Bernier in goal, so why rush back John Gibson? That will continue to be the plan tonight, as Anaheim visits Winnipeg. Michael Hutchinson starts for the Jets.

    — It’s Martin Jones versus Cam Talbot when the Sharks take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

    Pre-game reading: On Matthew Tkachuk, the NHL’s newest villain

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    — Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones were none too impressed with the Los Angeles Kings’ response to Matthew Tkachuk last night in Calgary. Milbury took aim at Drew Doughty for turning the other cheek, while Jones ripped Jake Muzzin for turning down a fight.

    — Tkachuk is the “villain we need right now,” according to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. After watching the 19-year-old’s busy night against the Kings, Kennedy writes: “The kid is mixing things up. He’s the perfect example of the guy you want on your team but hate when he’s on the other side. And he’s just getting started.” (The Hockey News)

    Brock Boeser has a bright future with the Vancouver Canucks, but his journey to the NHL hasn’t been all roses. In 2010, Boeser’s dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and in 2014, one of his good friends was killed in a car accident. “When you have experiences like that,” said his mom, “you can’t help but grow as you deal with them.” (National Post)

    — TSN’s Gary Lawless wants the NHL to crack down on slashing. And we bet Johnny Gaudreau agrees. Johnny Hockey got chopped on the hand again last night. This time, the referee called a penalty. But too often slashing goes unpunished, just like hooking and holding used to. (TSN)

    — A Q&A with Alex Radulov, who really wants to sign a contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens. “I would love to stay here. I like it here. I love the fans. I love this [training] facility. I come here even at night time; it’s all open doors. I can come and do whatever I need to. I really enjoy it, it’s really nice. You got everything here just to make yourself better.” All that said, contract talks are on hold for now. (Sportsnet)

    Braden Holtby, fashion icon? Apparently, one of the best goalies in the NHL is also quite the clotheshorse. “I’ve always had an appreciation for things that are well-made, be it art or houses or carpentry, woodworking, clothes, I find the details very impressive for people putting their work into their craft. They see visions and they see those things come out, and you can see when someone cares about what they’re making. I think fashion’s a bit along the lines of that.” (Washington Post)

    Enjoy the games!

    Jets’ Enstrom undergoes second knee surgery in 12 months

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    There’s not much left for Winnipeg to play for — just five regular-season games left, and no playoffs on the horizon — so today’s news that Tobias Enstrom has undergone season-ending knee surgery isn’t a crippling development.

    Can’t be good, though.

    Enstrom’s had a difficult year health-wise and, at the time of surgery, was dealing with a concussion suffered on a Tom Sestito hit back in early March. Prior to that, he missed time while attending to a family matter in his native Sweden and, prior to that, was shut down late last season to undergo knee surgery.

    It’s unclear if today’s procedure was related to the one Enstrom had last March.

    It is worth noting that, at the time of last year’s surgery, head coach Paul Maurice noted the 32-year-old had been dealing with the injury for months.

    “He’s been able to get through it because of blocks of days off. If he can get a two day block, he’d get a little better and it’s just getting worse,” Maurice said, per Global News. “It got to the point that he’s not recovering and he hasn’t been. He hasn’t been for almost a month now. He’s not recovering enough on his days off for the pain ever to subside.”

    All told, Enstrom appeared in 60 games this year, scoring 14 points while averaging just under 22 minutes per night. Next season will be the last of a five-year, $28.75 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

    Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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    Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

    The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

    But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

    Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

    “I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

    With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

    Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

    The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

    Raanta will start one of the final two games.

    The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.