Three-time Stanley Cup winner Brian Rafalski has decided to lace up the skates once again after more than two seasons away, and the Detroit Red Wings would be wise to keep an eye on his progress in the ECHL. Rafalski, a defenseman who won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008, signed a standard player’s contract with the Florida Everblades this week. Defensive struggles have been commonplace for the Red Wings the past two seasons, and if Rafalski shows he can still be a solid player, Detroit should do whatever they can to try and talk him into returning to the Motor City.
Rafalski retired with 79 goals and 515 points in 833 games, winning two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils in addition to the one he won in Detroit. He’s a Michigan native, and his familiarity with the Red Wings organization would likely help in any efforts to try and bring him back. Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson have missed significant time with injuries this season, and Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl aren’t having the best seasons. If Rafalski still possesses even part of the skill set he did before, he’d be an upgrade over most Red Wings blueliners at both ends of the ice. Always able to be counted on his own zone, his career assist total also shows how good he was at sending passes up ice to waiting teammates. Of the team’s defenseman with more than five games played only DeKeyser and Niklas Kronwall have positive plus/minus ratings; in his entire career Rafalski never dropped out of the positive in that category.
It’s early to speculate as to what Rafalski’s stint in the ECHL means for his long-term goals, but if he decides to set his sights on the NHL again, he could prove to be a valuable piece for the Red Wings as they push for the playoffs in the second half of the season.