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Wings to use buyout on Colaiacovo

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Carlo Colaiacovo missed 42 games of the regular season with a sprained shoulder, but played well in the last nine games of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – As a newlywed, the last thing Carlo Colaiacovo thought he’d have to do this summer was shop for a new job.

“I got married over the weekend, so it was something that wasn’t even on my mind,” he said. “I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors over the last couple of weeks, but I really didn’t know what to believe because I haven’t heard from anybody of importance.”

Colaiacovo was struck with the cold reality Wednesday morning when his agent called to tell him that the Red Wings planned to buy-out the final year of his contract worth $2.85 million.

By cutting Colaiacovo, the Red Wings now have seven NHL defensemen, but more importantly it shaves $2.5 million off their salary cap, which drops to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season.

Before the Red Wings can buy-out Colaiacovo, the veteran must first clear waivers by noon Thursday. He’ll then become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any NHL club while still collecting two-thirds of his salary over the next two years from Detroit.

Unfortunately for Colaiacovo, he was bitten by the injury bug in late January, something that has followed him throughout his 10-season NHL career. He suffered a sprained shoulder in the season’s second game at Columbus on Jan. 21, and missed 47 games, including the first five of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Toronto’s first-round draft pick in 2001, Colaiacovo has dealt with a litany of injuries over his career, including a serious concussion while playing for the Maple Leafs. Still, he’s managed to overcome those setbacks to be a solid positional defenseman, whether it was with the Leafs, St. Louis Blues or Red Wings.

“I came into Detroit last summer because I knew I was a top-four guy that could play in a situation there,” said Colaiacovo, who collected one assist in six regular-season games. “I went through some difficulties last year that I would rather not talk about, but I still believe that I’m a guy who can play top-four on any team. I believe that I’ve proved that through my play, but they have some young guys who they relied upon real hard and some guys that they’re going to lean towards next year. So who knows where I would have fit in there?”

With the signing of Danny DeKeyser and the development of Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland was forced to make a decision on Colaiacovo.

“When he got hurt, Lashoff had the opportunity to play 20 games,” Holland said. “Lash has to go through waivers, if Lash didn’t get a chance I’m not sure where he’d end up. Jakub Kindl got a chance due to all of the injuries, and they all did a good job and we really want to carry seven D.”

Under the new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association, each team is allowed two compliance buyouts to help clubs comply with the salary cap restrictions.

Colaiacovo believes he’s a victim of the new cap.

“Look around the league with the guys that are being put in the same situation as I am,” he told Detroit in a phone interview Wednesday. “With the cap going down and teams needing to be more flexible with the money that they spend, they have the opportunity to do that through compliance buyouts.

“I still believe in myself, I believe in my abilities that I can help a team win. We were a game away from eliminating the Blackhawks this year and who knows where that could have led us to, but I consider myself a big part of that.”

Last summer, the Red Wings signed Colaiacovo to a two-year deal, hoping to shore up a defensive unit that lost Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and Brad Stuart, who was traded to San Jose. But early-season injuries battered the Wings’ blueliners with Colaiacovo, Brendan Smith, Ian White and Kyle Quincey all missing significant time.

As hard as it was to take the news of the buyout, Colaiacovo said he understands it’s a business and doesn’t take the Wings’ decision personal. Even though his stint in Detroit was short, he did manage to create some friendships among his teammates.

“I made a lot of friends on that team and there are a lot of good people that you’re surrounded by every day,” he said. “Unfortunately the plan next year will be different for me, but I’ll always keep those friends close.

“I thank everyone there and hopefully in the next day or two I’ll get to chat with Kenny to express my gratitude and all of my thanks for everything that they provided me with.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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