Lilja signs, Stuart talks to go on until noon
Lilja's signing gives Detroit six blue-liners who played significant time last season under contract -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda and Derek Meech are the others.
Lilja was on the third defense pairing for Detroit most of the regular season, but was a healthy scratch midway through the playoffs as he battled with Chris Chelios and Lebda for ice time. Lilja replaced Chelios in the lineup for the final game of the Western Conference final and remained in the lineup until the Cup clinching game.
Both Chelios and the Red Wings have said that the veteran will return to Detroit this fall, but they'll wait to see how the numbers fall after the free-agent signing period gets underway at noon tomorrow before fitting Chelios in under the cap.
Holland said that he'll remain in talks with Brad Stuart until noon and then will act as though Stuart is going elsewhere.
"History says when noon comes July 1, they're going somewhere else," said Holland.
Salary is what is creating the gap between the sides in the Stuart talks, not contract length.
Stuart came to the Red Wings from Los Angeles at the trade deadline and became a regular on the second defense pairing alongside Kronwall.
If Stuart isn't signed by noon tomorrow, the Red Wings' two options are to sign a free-agent defenseman or go with a youth movement on the blue line. Prospects Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey have been labeled as "NHL defensemen" by Holland and Jakub Kindl isn't far away.
"If we lose him (Stuart), we'll look at the market," said Holland. "We might just go with some of our kids. At some point, they've got to play."
Holland also said that he's not concerned about restricted free agent Valtteri Filppula getting a contract offer from another club and that a Filppula deal possibly won't be done until near the end of summer.
"For me, another offer isn't a concern," said Holland. "That's done to teams that don't have cap space. We've got cap space."
Including Lilja, the Red Wings have 18 roster-possible players signed for a total cap hit of $41.3 million next season. The NHL's salary cap is $56.7 million and the roster limit is 23 players not on injured reserve. Still unsigned are potential restricted free agents Filppula, Quincey, Ericsson and goalie Jimmy Howard and potential unrestricted free agents Stuart, Chelios, Aaron Downey, Darren McCarty and Dallas Drake.