Just a month ago, a report surfaced that the Detroit Red Wings had not started extension talks with pending free agent defenseman Nick Jensen. That news was notable because of Jensen’s breakout season, in which the 28-year old is playing more than 20 minutes per night for the first time in his career. Because of that, Jensen immediately represented a potential rental option for a team looking for right-handed help on the blue line. Now though, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet notes in his latest 31 Thoughts column that the Red Wings are in fact attempting to sign Jensen to an extension and suggests that the team wants to keep a few veterans around their wave of young players.
Jensen actually has always been a relatively effective defenseman. Though he has just 182 games under his belt at the NHL level, that’s not because of some journeyman career in the minor leagues bouncing around different organizations. In fact, Detroit is the only franchise that the fifth-round pick has ever known, signing with them in 2013 after three seasons at St. Cloud State. There’s not a lot of flash or headlines in Jensen’s game, and he doesn’t provide the measurables to stand out when watching him on the ice. But he has quietly registered solid possession numbers and this year has taken another step to carry more responsibility than every before.
That kind of under the radar improvement is likely why Detroit is interested in retaining him. Jensen has never made more than the $825K he is taking home this season, meaning he represents one of the best right-handed bargains available at the moment. If he’s not asking for a huge raise there is good reason to keep him around as a stabilizing option while the team brings along younger defensemen like Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek. Niklas Kronwall is set to become an unrestricted free agent and is now 38, though Friedman also notes the respect the organization has for their long-time blue liner.
Jensen’s low salary though might bring about quite a few buyers at deadline time. A team pushed to the edge of the salary cap could still likely afford to add him to the mix as a depth option, and his play this season has shown that he can handle increased responsibility if an injury were to happen. The Red Wings will have to make a decision quickly, as the deadline is fewer than three weeks away and teams will be making decisions on their blue line sooner rather than later.