Brian Rafalski rumored to announce retirement from NHL

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski plans to officially announce his retirement from the NHL after 11 seasons according to reports circulating around the internet.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland stated that Rafalski hasn’t notified him of his intentions yet and the Wings are awaiting confirmation on the decision. Neither Rafalski nor his agent have officially announced the decision yet.

”I think (retirement) is an option for him,” Holland said. “He wanted to take some time (to decide).”

Rafalski has one more year left on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million.

As one of the better puck moving defenseman in the NHL, Rafalski initially struggled to break into the league after playing four seasons for the University of Wisconsin – Madison. After several seasons in Europe, Rafalski signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils in 1999. He went on to win two Stanley Cup championships during his seven year tenure with the Devils. In 2007, the Michigan native decided to sign with the Detroit Red Wings where he won a third Stanley Cup championship in 2008. Throughout his NHL career, Rafalski appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals a total of five times and also played for Team USA at the Olympics three times, the last time being in 2010 where he serves as an alternate captain and led all defenseman in the tournament with four goals and four assists en route to a silver medal and was named to the tournament All-Star team. Rafalski scored 40 or more points in 10 of his 11 NHL seasons and reached the 50-point plateau four times.

While Rafalski has been hampered by injuries over the past few seasons, including a lingering knee injury that kept Rafalski from skating on off days during this year’s playoffs, the decision for Rafalski to retire comes as a big surprise  – especially since so much speculation focused on whether teammate Nicklas Lidstrom would retire this offseason. If Rafalski does in fact announce his retirement as reports are indicating, the Red Wings will have some major decisions to make in terms of replacing Rafalski on the blue line. Luckily there are plenty of available high-end unrestricted free agent defenseman this offseason. Players like Ed Jovanovski, Andrei Markov, Thomas Kaberle, Kevin Bieksa or James Wisniewski could all be potential targets for the Red Wings. However, the Wings could also choose to put money toward a high-end free agent forward, such as Brad Richards, and opt to bring up their younger defenseman or sign a more cost-effective defenseman.


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