37-Year-Old Defenseman – Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Kronwall Contract Information:
Signed a seven-year, $33.25 million contract with the Red Wings in October 2011.
Kronwall, whose left knee is permanently damaged, has played in 37 consecutive games.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
There aren’t many NHLers who play with such vigor that they’ve inspired an adverbial catchphrase. However, in Detroit, it’s common for fans to bang on the glass while shouting, “[Insert victim here] has just been Kronwalled.” It’s not so much about the volume – his 1.45 hits per game only ranked seventh on the team last season – but Kronwall has been known to pick spots on the ice to steamroll the opposition, and he fearlessly blocked 81 shots (1.27 per game) in 2015-16. Hockey fans have seen Kronwall face adversity of late, with a knee injury that he sustained last January erasing a month’s worth of contests. Whether it was due to his knee flaring up or a failure to build chemistry with defensive partner Jonathan Ericsson – possibly both reasons – Kronwall only managed 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) while posting a team-worst minus-21 rating in 2015-16. Expect improvement from Kronwall now that he’s had an offseason to recover and is more accustomed to Jeff Blashill as his head coach.
Kronwall eclipsed the 35-point mark for the sixth time in his career last season, finishing with nine goals and 35 assists across 80 games. At this point, the 34-year-old has firmly established himself as one of the more annually reliable fantasy defensemen out there, and his ability to deliver vicious hits makes him one of the top two-way players on the blue line. The Red Wings' trust in Kronwall as their top defenseman is reflected in his average ice time of 23:50, along with the duties he sees as the quarterback of their top power-play unit. The addition of Mike Green should only help Kronwall in upholding his production, as it gives him another top-notch offensive defenseman to work with on the other point of the man-advantage attack. Expect yet another steady season in 2015-16 from the Swedish rearguard.
While nobody can fill Nicklas Lidstrom's shoes, Kronwall has done a nice job taking up Lidstrom's scoring, collecting 49 points in 79 games last season. The heavy hitter is a stellar all-around defender, and is regularly one of the better fantasy defensemen in the NHL. He could use a more prolific power-play partner, but he still should end up with about 50 points for the upcoming season. Fantasy GMs should look to select him in the top-ten defenders taken; any later is a steal.
The bruising defenseman put on an offensive show in 2012-13, tying for fourth in scoring by defensemen. After Nicklas Lidstrom left, the onus was on Kronwall to carry the defense and he carry it he most certainly did. With a full season ahead of him, Kronwall could reach his career high of 51 points back in 2008-09, especially as he will be quarterbacking the power play.
Kronwall will enter the 2012-13 season as the Wings' top blueliner following the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom this summer. It's unclear who will skate in Kronwall's pairing, but he should have a larger role on the power play and see the heaviest share of minutes that he's been given in his entire career. Kronwall potted a career-high 15 goals while piling up 36 points over 82 games for the Wings last season, and might be in position to reach the 50-point threshold for the second time as an NHL player with the perfect storm of opportunity and health.
Kronwall fired a career-high 131 shots on goal last season and lit the lamp 11 times in the process. He's never finished an NHL season with a negative plus/minus, and considering that he piles up hits and blocked shots, Kronwall has added value in formats that reward those categories as well. With the retirement of Brian Rafalski, Kronwall could see an uptick in power-play time, which would also bring more chances to shoot. While 13 of Kronwall's 37 points last season came with the man advantage, an increase there should lead to better overall production.
Injuries once again derailed Kronwall last season, as a sprained MCL suffered in mid-November kept him out longer than expected and ultimately limited him to 48 games. If his 2008-09 is any indication, Kronwall has the tools to be a 50-point blueliner and a bruising physical presence in the back, but the concern here will continue to be durability until he proves capable of withstanding the full 82-game grind. The Wings will use him as a top-four defenseman, so he'll get plenty of ice time at even strength and on the power play. Kronwall had arthroscopic surgery to repair a lateral tear in the meniscus of his left knee at the end of August, so keep an eye on his health during training camp leading up to your draft. If his knee isn't limiting him, he's worth considering as a discounted option with a high ceiling.
For the second straight season, Kronwall made a significant leap in offensive production, this time hitting 51 points (6 G, 45 A) in 80 games. Staying healthy was a big part of his success, but time with the man advantage resulted in 22 of those points. Part of the second blue-line pairing with Brad Stuart, Kronwall is a capable big-hitter and shot-blocker. Repeating his 2008-09 numbers may be too much to ask, but he looks like a safe bet for another 40-plus as long as he's not derailed by injuries. Kronwall is expected to man the blue line opposite Jason Williams on the team's second power-play unit this season.
Kronwall is coming off of a career-best campaign, where he improved his offensive production for the third straight season while maintaining a plus-25 mark defensively. At the offensive end, he’s likely stuck in the 35-40 point range so long as Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski don the winged-wheel sweater and chew up the bulk of the ice time on the power play, but Kronwall will continue to be a strong fantasy blueliner given his contributions in the “defensive” categories. Kronwall’s highlight-reel hits and physical style of play can take a toll on his own health at times, as he’s missed 33 contests over the past two seasons due to various ailments.
Is this the year Kronwall makes the leap and becomes a legitimate option in fantasy pools? We'd certainly like him more on a shallower team, that's for sure. In short, he's probably a year or two away from being anything special. Someday he'll be scoring 40 points or more every year; for now, we can't expect more than 25.
It’s unfair to burden him with the "next Lidstrom" tag, but nonetheless Kronwall's game does have a lot of similarities; he's handy with the puck and sees the ice very well. A major point spike might have to wait because Lidstrom and Mathieu Schneider see so much power-play time, but Kronwall looks like a safe bet for 25 points, with 30-40 possible if things fall right. Kronwall's MVP at the World Championships gives him a boost of confidence entering the new season.
The 24-year-old blueliner took a nice step up in class last year, winning the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL's best defenseman. Kronwall has been called a Vladimir Konstantinov clone with better offensive skills, high praise indeed, but it remains to be seen how much the Red Wings need him to contribute on offense right away. Kronwall had 53 points in the AHL last season.