In the salary cap-strapped NHL, the demand for defensemen with a history of concussions is low. Former Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja didn't get that memo.
Lilja, in what can only be described as a moment of temporary insanity, spurned a one-year, $1 million offer from Detroit to be the team's sixth defenseman this summer. Lilja, who made $1.25 million last year, thought he could get more on the open market. He couldn't.
Now, Lilja has an uncertain future, and may have to relegate himself to a tryout at the Red Wings' training camp, a campaign that probably won't get him a roster spot.
There’s a chance Lilja might head to Wings training camp in Traverse City on a tryout. After skating with the Wings at Joe Louis Arena today, he said he’s mulling offers from teams in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League but would prefer to play in the NHL.
Also working against Lilja is the fact that his work visa expires on October 10th. If he can't land a job in the NHL by then, he'll probably have to play in Russia or look for a job at Volvo in his native Sweden.
"I gotta look at all the options," Lilja said. "I want to play in the NHL. I just have to, I guess, wait today and see what happens tomorrow.
When the Red Wings realized that they couldn't pay what Lilja was asking for, they decided to replace him. They signed veteran Ruslan Salei, and for less money at $750,000 for one year (up to $1 million with bonuses). Lilja probably saw Brett Lebda's deal in Toronto (two years, $3 million) and thought "I'm better than that guy, surely I can get that."
While that seems like logical reasoning, there's nothing reasonable about what the Maple Leafs and Brian Burke are doing. The Wings are currently heading to training camp with six NHL-ready defensemen, plus minor leaguer Jakub Kindl, who many believe could steal a roster spot from Jonathan Ericsson. There's no room at the inn for Lilja. It's a nice gesture by the team, but there's a slim chance this will get Lilja an NHL job.
And maybe, just maybe, the Red Wings never quite forgave Lilja for this.