While on the surface this seems like a case of simple "Oh, that's a shame, he's been a great player", it also throws a big potential monkey wrench into any plans Scott Howson had for this offseason.
With the Red Wings suddenly looking to fill a hole on their blue line, and with 6 million dollars against the cap suddenly freed up, it makes them instant competition for every free agent blueliner who might be on the agenda for the Blue Jackets (or any other NHL club), particularly since they'll be looking for someone who can fill Rafalski's shoes as a puck mover and PPQB....which is exactly what Howson has to be looking for to revitalize his own defense corps.
You'd like to hope that if Columbus and Detroit end up targeting some of the same players, Howson might be able to get a deal in under Ken Holland's nose, but you have to admit that a lot of players out there would think of pulling on a jersey with the Winged Wheel before considering how they'd appear in Union Blue.
If anything, I'd suggest it makes it more likely that Howson will have to get a move done on the trading block, either by acquiring the rights to negotiate with a potential free agent target before July 1st by using lower picks, or simply trading straight up.
Between this and the fact that Nicklas Lidstrom continues to come up as potentially hanging up his skates in the next season or two, perhaps this might be a sign that finally, the Joe Louis Juggernaut might be slowing down, losing steam, or even slightly sliding off the rails, but unfortunately, history has taught us that we're going to have to keep looking over our shoulders to see what the Wings manage to pull off next.