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Detroit Red Wings Inside Shots 7-7-11

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DETROIT - OCTOBER 28:  Head coach Mike Babcock and assistant coach Paul MacLean of the Detroit Red Wings watch play against the Phoenix Coyotes during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on October 28, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

DETROIT – OCTOBER 28: Head coach Mike Babcock and assistant coach Paul MacLean of the Detroit Red Wings watch play against the Phoenix Coyotes during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on October 28, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Red Wings spending their money wisely

For the first time since the implementation of the NHL’s salary cap in 2005, the Red Wings headed into free agency with a lot of money, roughly $16 million under the cap.

But they weren’t prepared to get into any bidding wars for the top free agents. They were determined to spend wisely. And that’s what they did.

The Red Wings addressed their biggest need by signing a pair of defensemen — the skilled, puck-moving Ian White (two years, $5.75 million), and the big, abrasive, stay-at-home type, Mike Commodore (one year, $1 million). The club also took care of business by re-signing three of its own free agents — big defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (three years, $9.75 million) and grinding forwards Patrick Eaves (three years, $3.6 million) and Drew Miller (two years, $1.65 million).

White essentially replaces the retired Brian Rafalski. White isn’t as good offensively as Rafalski was, but he can play the point on the power play, he plays with edge despite his size (5-10, 195) and he’s a right-handed shot, something the team needed.

Commodore, 31, provides a much-needed physical presence on the third pairing.

The Wings expect Ericsson to assume a bigger role by playing more minutes and taking the next step in his career, after two disappointing seasons. Eaves and Miller are good energy players and penalty killers who chip in some offense (they combined for 45 goals over the past two seasons).

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