Nothing is official just yet, but if Brian Rafalski does indeed retire, the Detroit Red Wings will have $6 million come off the books for 2011-12. Rafalski signed his deal before he turned 35, so his cap hit will disappear if he retires. While I'm sure the Red Wings would like Rafalski back next season, him retiring wouldn't exactly be the end of the world.
The upcoming free agent class isn't expected to be all that strong, but having an extra $6 million to work with would give the Red Wings a lot more flexibility to shore up their defense. Not only would it give them money to go after free agents, but it could result in Nicklas Lidstrom taking a smaller salary next season as well, as Nick Cotsonika speculates.
Just a thought: If Rafalski retires, Wings won't have to pay Lidstrom $6 million to match. What if Lidstrom takes less so they can load up?
The Red Wings gave Lidstrom a $6.2 million contract last season. If he comes back, the thinking has been Lidstrom would have a similar salary. If Rafalski retires, however, it is entirely possible, as Cotsonika said, that Lidstrom could take less to give the Red Wings even more room to make some moves this offseason.
Between the extra $6 million from Rafalski retiring and Lidstrom possibly taking a lower salary, Detroit could have a good amount of money to put to use this offseason.