DETROIT – “There are no quick fixes to winning a Stanley Cup.”
That’s what Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Saturday and it may be an insight to what the team plans to do this offseason.
“The plan is to explore the unrestricted free agent market on July 1,” Holland said. “If there is a player we think will make us better, we’ll be in the game.
“We’re trying everything we can to stay relevant, stay competitive,” Holland added. “It’s not like we weren’t involved in the market (before). You can’t just make two signings in the summer and go on a long playoff run. This is a team sport.”
How much Detroit can leap into free agency will depend what four of its own unrestricted free agents plan to do.
Defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, along with forwards Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom will all unrestricted free agents this summer if they’re not re-signed by July 1.
“If they all want to stay, we’ll look at our team,” Holland said. “We’ll explore free agency. If there is a player we think will make us better, we’ll be in the game. We’re trying everything we can to stay relevant, stay competitive.”
Backup goalie Ty Conklin is unrestricted. The Wings also have three restricted free agents –
Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey.
“I look at our nucleus,” Holland said. “We’ve got a team that can compete with any team, but it’s hard to be better than everybody.”
Lidstrom and Holmstrom, 39, seem to a package deal, if one comes back so will the other.
Holland said he hopes to have a decision on Lidstrom, who turns 42 at the end of April, by mid-June.
It’s been speculated all season that Stuart, 32, wants to sign with a team on the West Coast. His family has lived there all five seasons he has played in Detroit.
Hudler scored a career-high 25 goals this regular season, which was second highest on the team. He also shared the team lead, along with Henrik Zetterberg, with two goals in the playoffs.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get some of our depth back,” Holland said. “There are no magic wands and Stanley Cup dust you can sprinkle over a team. There is no magic dust, there are no shortcuts. It’s got to be slow, methodical.
“Even if you get one or two player in unrestricted free agency, you need four lines,” Holland continued. “We’re trying to replenish and rebuild. I believe we can be a playoff team and any playoff team has a chance. I believe we have good pieces.”
Holland feels forward Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Brendan Smith are ready to make the leap to the NHL, just from the time the two saw in Detroit.
And if they end up losing Lidstrom, Stuart, Holmstrom and even Hudler, New Jersey forward Zach Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, both unrestricted free agents, could be on the Wings’ wish list come July 1.
Detroit set an NHL record by winning 23 straight at home winning streak, but then went on to lose both home games in the postseason to Nashville.
“We played at a high level until the 60-game mark, then we were hit with injuries and never got going again as a team,” Holland said. “I think our team played hard, but the playoffs are a new season. We led the league in 5-on-5 scoring and our special teams weren’t as good in the regular season. In the series, our special teams won 4-2 and we couldn’t score 5-on-5.”
The Predators outscored the Wings 11-4 in 5-on-5 play.
“Sometimes you’ve got to win 2-1,” Holland said. “We kept giving up three. We felt if we could keep the special teams close we had a chance because of our five-on-five play. If you look back on the series, the turning point was the two games at home. If you can’t win a home game, you’re not going to win a series.”
The Wings seemed to have everything back in order with their four lines of forwards when Darren Helm returned from a sprained MCL for Game 1 of the series. However, in the first period he severed tendons in his arm and it sidelined the rest of the playoffs.”
“We weren’t deep enough to overcome injuries,” Holland said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get some of our depth back.”