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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    Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

    OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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    PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

    With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

    For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

    1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
    2. Senators – 70 in 59
    3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

    Bruins – 68 in 61
    Panthers – 66 in 60
    Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

    You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

    Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

    1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
    2. Islanders – 68 in 60

    Bruins – 68 in 61
    Panthers – 66 in 60
    Flyers – 63 in 60

    Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

    Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

    Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

    (Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

    Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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    The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

    Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

    Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
    Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
    Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
    Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

    You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

    They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

    Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

    1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
    2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

    Kings – 62 in 60 GP
    Jets – 62 in 63 GP

    (The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

    So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

    Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

    All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

    With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

    Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

    That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

    Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

    They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

    The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

    Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

    In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

    As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

    It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

    Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

    As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

    Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

    It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

    Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

    The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

    There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

    Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.