The free-agent signings of Ian White and Mike Commodore give the Red Wings a deeper and more versatile defense corps.
While it doesn’t have quite the elite skill level in the top four as it did last season because of the retirement of Brian Rafalski, the blue-line group boasts eight NHL defensemen and the top-four still has plenty of high-end skill, thank you.
They are: Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, White – who signed a two-year contract worth $2.875 million on Saturday – Jonathan Ericsson, Commodore – who signed a one-year, $1 million deal on Friday – Jakub Kindl and Doug Janik.
Both White, 27, and Commodore, 31, bring a bit of abrasiveness and being hard to play against to the table.
In addition to his offensive skills and ability to play the point on the power play, White – despite only being 5-10 and 195 pounds – is quite feisty, as Detroit learned in its seven-game, second-round elimination at the hands of White’s San Jose Sharks a couple of months ago.
Commodore is certainly big at 6-4 and 225 pounds and is a physical stay at home defenseman, but who also makes a good first pass out of the defensive zone.
Also, White and Commodore are the only two Red Wings’ defensemen who are right-handed shots.
It also gives coach Mike Babcock a myriad of choices for his defense pairings.
Lidstrom and Stuart would likely remain the top pair. Kronwall and White could be the second duo.
That would leave the third set as Ericsson with either Commodore and Kindl, depending on whether the opponent warranted a physical stay-at-home defenseman like Commodore or a good skater and puck mover like the young and steadily-improving Kindl.
Or Ericsson could play in the second pair with Kronwall.
Before he signed his three-year contact worth $9.75 million, Ericsson said he wanted to play a bigger role and play in the top four. In order to do that, especially with the signing of White, Ericsson will have to take the next step as a player and Detroit thinks that he is be ready to do that.
Janik, a journeyman who has played most of the past two seasons with the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate the Grand Pa[ids Griffins, has a one-way contract (he will be payed the same salary whether he is in the NHL or AHL) this season.
Before the free agent signings, prospect Brendan Smith was expected to be given every chance to make the the team out of training camp. But it seems likely now that injuries would be the only way that Smith would make the Red Wings out of camp.