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Wings look to reload this offseason

By Jay Skebba
On June 18, 2012

With 11 Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters, it’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings are one of the most illustrious franchises in professional sports.

The last three years, however, have not lived up to the lofty expectations of the team and their fans. After losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, the Wings were ousted in the second round the next two seasons. This past year, Detroit failed to make it out of the first round for the first time since 2006.

After years of Western Conference domination, the Red Wings have started to fade slightly; they’ve looked a step too slow and a year too old.

Much like an aging Hollywood actor trying to reclaim top billing, the Red Wings are in need of a facelift. Luckily for GM Ken Holland, they may very well get one this offseason.

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, a lock for the Hall of Fame, finally hung up his skates after two decades in Motown. Even in his final season at the age of 42, you could tell he was still one of the best in the game.

Lidstrom’s departure leaves a huge hole in the defense, but it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Next year’s NHL salary cap is projected at $70.3 million. With Lidstrom off the books, Detroit only has about $44 million committed for next season, leaving them with over $26 million to spend on free agents when the signing period begins July 1.

The biggest fish in this summer’s free agent pond is New Jersey’s Zach Parise.

The left winger from Minneapolis is good for at least 30 goals every year and can skate with anyone on defense.

In the 2008-09 season, Parise scored 45 times and rang-up 94 points en route to an MVP-caliber campaign.

Aside from the immense amount of talent that Parise possesses, he’s still just 27-years old. He would supply Detroit with some much needed firepower, but perhaps more importantly, some youth.

The former American Olympic captain is Detroit’s top target, but prying him away could be easier said than done. Parise has stated publicly that remaining with the Devils after taking them to the Stanley Cup Finals is his first choice. Whether New Jersey can re-sign him or not remains to be seen. Plus, it’s not too often a free agent-to-be says something different.

Target number two for Holland and the Wings is Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.

Unlike Parise, Suter has made it clear that he intends to test the free agent market. Predators GM David Poile admitted Friday that he’ll likely “take a peek” when July 1 rolls around and Detroit is rumored to be the favorite to land him.

Nobody can fully replace Lidstrom, but the silver medalist would certainly come close. He’s also just 27.

Suter is easily the best defenseman on the market and is considered to be one of the best in the league. He scored seven times last year and piled up 39 assists. By comparison, Lidstrom had 11 goals and 23 assists.

Much like the former Red Wing captain, Suter can generate offense as well as play elite defense.

In addition to having more than enough cash to sign both players, word has it the two are strongly looking into the possibility of playing together. They both played for the United States in the 2010 Olympics and would like to reunite.

It’s also been reported that Parise and Suter want to play for a team that can compete for a championship on a yearly basis. With 21 consecutive playoff appearances, Detroit certainly fits the bill.

The two all stars would require contracts totaling about $15 million per year. That would still leave the Wings with $11 million to resign some of their own free agents, most notably Jiri Hudler, Tomas Holmstrom, and Darren Helm, and even give them moderate raises.

The Red Wings have needed a tune-up for a few years. The addition of these two stars to go along with players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen would certainly make Detroit a Cup favorite for years to come.

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