The Red Wings made one more — and likely final — addition to their blue line this afternoon, inking veteran journeyman Ian White to a two year deal, worth an average of $2.875M per season. With the signings of Ericsson on Thursday evening, and Mike Commodore on Saturday afternoon, the Wings blue line for the 2011-2012 season has taken shape. Follow me after the jump for some analysis of this signing and what to expect from the Wings backend this year.
Ian White made his NHL debut with a 12 game stint in Toronto in the first season following the lockout.
He played with the Leafs until the trade deadline of the 2009-2010 season, when he was dealt to Calgary in the deal that brought Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie to Toronto.
He finished that season with Calgary, and played 16 games with them the next year before being dealt to Carolina, who then sent him to San Jose at the 2010-2011 deadline.
In all, White has played for four different franchises in a little over a year.
He made $2,999,995 last year, so he took a bit of a pay cut for the certainty of playing for one team for the next two years at least. He easily could have gotten more on the open market, especially with players with similar career stats like James Wisniewski signing long term, big money deals (6 years, $5.5M per season).
It was a deal that worked for both player and team, and that’s always what you want to see.
There is an easy and obvious first connection to make with White, in that he is an undersized, offensively capable, right handed defenseman. Comparisons will immediately be made to Brian Rafalski, for the reasons above.
The downside in many fans eyes with Rafalski was that he didn’t play “tough enough” in his own zone. I can guarantee that will be a non-issue with White. Despite his generous listing of 5’10″ and 191 pounds, he plays like a man much bigger. He doesn’t back down, and that will endear him to Wings fans almost as much as the points he is sure to put up.
I can almost guarantee that White will get a chance on the first power play unit with Nick Lidstrom, as Lidstrom really benefited from having the right shooting Rafalski to play with. If the Wings elect to keep the pairing of Lidstrom and Stuart together at even strength, then he could wind up with Nik Kronwall at even strength, which is another good pairing in my opinion.
White finished second on the Sharks defense in playoff scoring, notching 9 points in 17 games, while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a night.
While he could be classified as a power play specialist, White is also capable of playing down a man. He was a regular member of the Sharks PK unit in this playoff run, and was used there extensively in his final season with the Maple Leafs.
White’s signing gives the Wings a glut of defenseman, and helps make a couple of decisions easier. A look at some potential pairings explains this:
Lidstrom — Stuart
Kronwall — White
Ericsson — Commodore
The Wings carried 7 defenseman last year, electing to go with 14 forwards and 2 goalies to fill out the 23 man roster limit.
The upcoming decision as to whether Doug Janik or Brendan Smith would be the number 7 defenseman — and for reasons explained in the Commodore article — is now a moot point. Kindl will slide back into the role as the team’s number 7 defender, a role he occupied last year.
With the inevitable injuries, and general wear and tear, that happens throughout the course of the season, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to get into another 40 or so games this year.
Smith and Janik will both be heading to Grand Rapids for the year, although Smith would likely be the first guy called if an injury situation necessitated a defenseman being called up. Janik, due to the fact that he is not waiver-exempt, would only be able to come up in an emergency situation where the Wings had less than 6 healthy defensemen on the active roster (meaning at least two of Lidstrom, Kronwall, Stuart, White, Ericsson, Commodore and Kindl went on injured reserve). Smith could go up and down at the Wings discretion, so that makes him the logical first choice.
What I’m interested to see is how the defensive pairings shake out at even strength, five on five and penalty kill.
We know that Lidstrom, Kronwall and White will all play big power play minutes, but who is the fourth there? Do they give Ericsson and his 100+mph slap shot have a go at it? Does Hudler get another chance to man the point on the second unit? Does Kindl get a couple kicks at the can in the games he gets into?
The addition of Commodore to a PK that includes Ericsson, Kronwall and Stuart means White won’t have to play there a lot, but he does have experience in that role if one of the above finds himself in the sin bin.
These past two days have already got me excited for the season to start. October 7th against Ottawa can’t get here soon enough!