I have to admit that it’s pretty disheartening to see all of the pictures coming out of the local papers showing former Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja still working out in his Wings gear with his former teammates. Lilja, a likable player who just caught some bad luck in terms of timing and the free agent market, is still without a team – NHL or abroad – as training camps prepares to open later this week across the league. That, combined with the two-way offer that Kirk Maltby took earlier this month, got me to thinking about whether or not Lilja might be willing to take a similar deal just to stay with the organization. Wishful thinking? Nostalgia? Bleeding heart? Maybe. But hey, if Kirk could do it, maybe Lilja could too.
I touched base with Lilja’s agent, Todd Diamond, earlier this afternoon and asked him about the possibility of Lilja taking one of those “Maltby/McCarty Special” two-way deals and serving some time in Grand Rapids in case of a call-up. “At this point, I don’t see us accepting any two-way offers,” said Diamond. “We are in discussions with a few NHL teams and we will see where it takes us.”
While it is disappointing to hear that Lilja is unlikely to stick around with the Wings organization in a reduced capacity in Grand Rapids (not that it was ever LIKELY, mind you), it is good to hear that there’s still some NHL doors that haven’t been closed yet for the gritty Swede, and he may yet find a way to stick around the league this season. If not, Europe is still an “option” said Diamond, although “we haven’t had any discussions with any clubs yet.”
While it’s an almost certainty that Lilja won’t be on an NHL club when training camps open, there’s the always real and certainly viable option of him getting inked if a club suffers a major injury or rash of minor injuries during the camp/preseason run. You may recall that estranged Wings defenseman Derek Meech is in a similar boat, except that he already signed a deal to stay with the organization and would have to be traded out of town. It’ll be interesting to see which one of these two finds gainful NHL employment first, with Lilja generally believed to be the all-around better defenseman while Meech brings the Red Wings “pedigree” at a much lower price tag.
At any rate, we’ll keep you updated on the future of both these guys as training camp progresses.