DETROIT – Once the Wings got word that Nicklas Lidstrom was heading off to retirement and Brad Stuart didn’t want to play another season away from his family they got busy and hung out the ‘Help Wanted’ sign.
They haven’t had many applicants.
After bringing back Mikael Samuelsson (two years, $3 million per) and signing forwards Jordin Tootoo (three years, $1.9 million per) and Damien Brunner (two-way deal), along with goalie Jonas Gustavsson (two years, $1.5 million per) there hasn’t been anything else the Wings have been able to accomplish when the free agent market opened at noon July 1.
First, they made pitches to the top two unrestricted free agents on the market – defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise – when the bidding window opened.
Detroit seemed to be in serious contention for Suter, increasing its first offer to $88 million over 13 years. The Wings also got a sit-down meeting with the prized defenseman prior to him making a decision.
A day after the meeting, Suter, along with Parise, who was offered $73 million over 13 years from the Wings, chose the Minnesota Wild. Both got $98 million over 13 years.
With Suter off the board the Wings immediately turned their attention to pursuing restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber and also got in to running for unrestricted free agent forward Shane Doan.
Detroit had “numerous conversations” with Weber’s agent, but never was able to entice his camp into negotiating.
The two-time Norris Trophy finalist, who reportedly visited Detroit, Philadelphia, San Jose and the New York Rangers, wound up signing a 14-year offer sheet from the Flyers worth $110 million.
“If you’re not the No. 1 team, it doesn’t matter,” a source said Thursday. “We explored, but we could only get to a certain level.”
Now the Wings wait on Doan, who still hasn’t decided if he’ll return to Phoenix, a franchise he’s played his entire career for, or head to another team.
“We’ve been in contact,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said earlier this week. “We’ve talked about what we’re thinking of. They know we have interest.”
And Detroit, which did reach a two-year deal with a restricted free agent of its own in defenseman Kyle Quincey, appears to be on Doan’s short list of where he would like to play if he doesn’t return to Phoenix.
However, reports surfaced on Saturday that Doan was in Philadelphia visiting with Flyers representatives a day after he was meeting with the Rangers after spending time in New York for the NHLPA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
The Wings also need to get a deal down with restricted free agent Justin Abdelkader, who they’d like to sign to a four-year deal at just under $2 million a season.
That would leave Detroit with just over $11 million left under the $70.2 million salary cap and 24 players, one over the roster limit.
With a possible role back in the salary cap as the NHL and NHL Players Association begin to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, the Wings probably won’t come close to hitting the $70.2 million ceiling this season. Therefore they won’t have to trim payroll if that occurs.
The Wings still need a top-six forward and a top-four defensemen, which there are none left on the open market and therefore a trade may need to be made in order to fill that void.
If Doan decides to remain in Phoenix or chooses another destination to finish his career, Detroit could still make a pitch for Alexander Semin, who remains unsigned three weeks since free agency started.
Semin, who has averaged 31 goals over the past six season with the Washington Capitals, would like a long-team deal from a team, but may have to accept something short term, since there is a huge question mark about his commitment.
Former NHL coach Marc Crawford said Semin falls into a category of “complete loser” and has “no character,” while analyst Pierre McGuire continued to pile on, calling the Russian the “ultimate coach killer.”
But the line seems to be forming for Semin, starting with Carolina. Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told the News and Observer that they have expressed interest in Semin, but added they “wouldn’t want to get locked in to anything, because (they’ve) heard all the stories about him.”
Semin, who scored just seven more goals (21) last season than Detroit’s Drew Miller and $5 million more in salary, appears he wants to stay in the NHL or he would have probably taken a more lucrative deal to play in the KHL.
Once Doan finally makes his decision the offers for Semin should start rolling in no matter his reputation and it could begin a bidding war.
And if the past practices mean anything, the Wings won’t overpay for a player no matter what.