This morning at Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement press conference, Red Wings GM Ken Holland said, “I’ve been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997.”
And you believed him when he said it. After all, how does one replace, as Holland put it, the “most valuable player of his era”?
Well, one doesn’t. But Holland still has to try.
Ryan Suter is usually the first candidate to come up. The 27-year-old Predators defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and if he chooses to leave Nashville, Detroit is the most rumored destination.
However, if the Red Wings are interested in Suter, they won’t be the only team. In Philadelphia, the Flyers may be forced to move on without their own captain and Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, Chris Pronger. The 37-year-old suffered a serious concussion this season and there’s talk he could be forced to retire.
How important is Pronger to the Flyers? Shortly after they were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Flyers owner Ed Snider said if Pronger (and defenseman Andrej Meszaros) had been healthy, they “would have won the whole thing.”
Philly d-man Kimmo Timonen, 37, is also approaching the end of his career.
If Holland can’t get Suter, he could always inquire about Nashville’s other top defenseman, Shea Weber, who can become an unrestricted free agent the following summer. The Preds won’t let Weber, 26, walk away for free though.
Another option is Justin Schultz, the 21-year-old college star who can become unrestricted if he doesn’t sign with Anaheim, the team that drafted him in 2008.
Holland could also pursue “lesser” pending UFAs like Dennis Wideman, Jason Garrison or Barret Jackman, then hope Niklas Kronwall can elevate his game.
There’s also 23-year-old Brendan Smith waiting in the wings.