The Detroit Red Wings can scratch another potential free agent target off the list. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10-year, $40 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. The Sabres acquired his rights from the New York Islanders on Wednesday and were able to lock him up before free agency opens on Friday.
Earlier in the week rumors surfaced that the Red Wings were interested in replacing Brian Rafalski with Ehrhoff. That obviously won't be happening now, though. Ehrhoff is yet another defenseman that is off the market before free agency even opens. Joni Pitkanen, Kevin Bieksa, Andrei Markov and Eric Brewer were also thought to be possible targets of the Red Wings come Friday, but all have signed deals.
The Red Wings' last real hope at landing a relatively big-name defenseman is if James Wisniewski doesn't sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus acquired his rights from the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and is hoping to get a deal done before free agency opens. If they don't, the Red Wings will have a chance to make Wisniewski an offer to return home to Michigan and be one of their top four defensemen.
If the Red Wings are unable to land someone like Wisniewski, their best bet may be to sign an older defenseman for a year and go after a bigger name next year with what is expected to be a stronger free agent class. Obviously the Red Wings need to worry about next season, but if they could get by for a year with someone like Ed Jovanovski, they may be able to just wait until 2012 to go after some bigger names.