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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.