By: Will Burchfield
Ken Holland wasted no time jumping into the free agent fray on Saturday afternoon.
As confirmed by the team, the Red Wings have signed defensemen Trevor Daley and Luke Witkowski. The former will add speed to Detroit’s blue line, the latter will add toughness.
The Wings could use both.
According to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet, Daley’s deal is for $9 million over three years. For a puck-moving defenseman with strong skating ability, that’s pretty good value in today’s NHL. Daley, 33, is also a two-time Stanley Cup champion, having won each of the last two years with the Penguins.
The Wings were rumored to have a deal in place with Daley well before Saturday’s signing period opened at noon, so the news comes as little surprise. In some ways, he’ll fill the void left by Brendan Smith: a puck-mover who can trigger the breakout up ice.
Over 109 games the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, Daley had 30 assists and 41 points.
He’s also known around the league as a great presence in the locker room.
Frank Provenzano, who was an assistant GM in Dallas during Daley’s time with the Stars (2003-2015), told The Athletic, “Off the ice, (the Red Wings) are getting one of the best guys I came across in my 17 years in the NHL as a person. There’s a reason why Sidney Crosby handed the Cup to Trevor Daley when he only had been on the team a few months (in 2016). It’s because of who Trevor is.”
Daley should help shore up a Red Wings blue line that enters the 2017-18 season with a lot of uncertainty. The team doesn’t know what to expect out of veteran Niklas Kronwall and his achy knees, and youngster Ryan Sproul may not be ready for the start of the season after undergoing off-season surgery for a torn ACL.
If Daley performs well on a mediocre Detroit team, which feels like a real possibility, the Wings will have an asset to shop at next year’s trade deadline, á la Thomas Vanek this year.
The Witkowski signing is much less significant, but still addresses a team need. The 6’2, 215-pound blueliner will make up for the snarl the Wings lost when they dealt Steve Ott and, to a lesser extent, Smith at last season’s trade deadline.
Witkowski, 27, played in 34 games for the Lighting last season and racked up 39 penalty minutes, including three fighting majors. He had zero goals and four assists.
Wings fans might remember him for squaring off with Anthony Mantha toward the end of the season. Mantha suffered a broken finger in the fight and was out for the rest of the season.
Witkowski’s deal is for two seasons, worth a reported $750,000 per year, according to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.
A native of Holland, MI., Witkowski enjoyed a four-year career at Western Michigan. He played for Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill in the 2010-11 season.