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Red Wings looking for some veteran blue line help in free agency

Former Wing Brendan Smith re-signed with the New York Rangers Wednesday

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - For those Red Wings fans who harbored hope that defenseman Brendan Smith might return to the fold, they will have to settle for someone else.

TSN's Bob McKenzie was the first to report Wednesday that Smith had re-signed with the New York Rangers for a four-year deal worth an average annual value of $4.35 million.

At the trade deadline, the Wings traded Smith to the Rangers for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft.

However, the Wings do intend to sign a veteran defenseman, possibly two, when free agency officially begins at noon on Saturday.

Among the candidates available are Dan Girardi, whose contract was bought out by the Rangers; Ron Hainsey, who just won his first Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins; Trevor Daley, a Penguin for the last two championship seasons; and Brian Campbell, who turned 38 last month.

Girardi, 33, is 6-foot-1, 212 pounds. He had four goals, 11 assists and was plus-8 in 63 regular-season games and had two assists and was minus-1 in 12 playoff games.

Hainsey, 36, is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He had four goals, 13 assists and was minus-8 in 72 regular-season games and had two goals, six assists and was plus-5 in 25 playoff games.

Daley, who turns 34 the same day Henrik Zetterberg turns 37, is 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. He had five goals, 14 assists and was plus-7 in 56 regular-season games and had one goal, four assists and was plus-7 in 21 playoff games.

Campbell, 38, is 5-foot-10, 192 pounds. He had five goals, 12 assists and was plus-12 in 80 regular-season games and no points and was minus-2 in four playoff games.

Another name that has been mentioned is Dmitry Kulikov, who is just 26 but had an injury-plagued and less productive season. In 47 games with the Buffalo Sabres this past season,

Kulikov had two goals, three assists and was minus-26.

According to CapFriendly.com, the Wings currently have about $7.9 million left in cap space. Some relief comes from Johan Franzen on long-term injured reserve.

They Wings have to sign their restricted free agents, Tomas Tatar, Andreas Athanasiou and Xavier Ouellet.

That would indicate that they would not be in the market for Kevin Shattenkirk, considered to be the top defenseman available, and likely to command a long-term deal for a minimum of $6 million a season.

The Wings do have seven defensemen in Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Nick Jensen, Ryan Sproul and Ouellet.

Kronwall's status will always be in question due to chronic knee problems.

If the Wings do sign two defensemen, they will likely not have enough cap space left to sign any of the possible available free agent forwards such as former Wing Thomas Vanek or Radim Vrbata.

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