DETROIT – There is indeed a method to the Detroit Red Wings’ line of thinking as free agency approaches.
Detroit seems to be in a holding pattern for now with the NHL Entry Draft taking place Sunday and free agency set to begin on July 5.
“I think there are always trade talks but more often than not they don’t lead to anything,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said earlier in the week. “There’s always a feeling out processes. This is the weekend that teams are motivated and we are motivated to make a move or two between now and unrestricted free agency that we think will make our team a little bit better.
“I think a lot of what’s going on with our team right now are kids,” Holland added. “You watched it during the season, you watched it in Grand Rapids, you watched it in the early 90s, you watched it in the early 2000s, if you’re going anywhere and building anything that’s going to have some sustainability to it it’s got to come through the draft.”
The Wings are set between the pipes with Jimmy Howard as the starter and Jonas Gustavsson serving as his backup.
On defense, seven are signed for next season and one, Brendan Smith is a restricted free agent, will get a deal done bringing the total to eight on the blue line heading to training camp.
Detroit would look at a possible upgrade on defense or it may trim one of its eight on the roster, but there is little depth on the blue line in Grand Rapids so that seems unlikely.
Forward is where things are bit more murky.
The Wings currently have 12 players under contract and two others that are restricted free agents – Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist – will be signed sometime in the near future to bring the numbers up front to 14.
There are still three unrestricted free agents – Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner – that could find their way back on the roster, but those deals may not happen until the hours leading up to the start of free agency.
If the Wings are unable to sign Filppula they may try and trade his rights to a team so they could try exclusively to negotiate a deal with the center before he hits the open market.
“I haven’t thought about (leaving Detroit), but obviously it’s possible that could happen,” Filppula said during the Wings’ end-of-season locker cleanout. “It’d be tough. It’s been a really great place to be. I’ve been so happy here. We’ll see if we go … if that’s what’s going to happen.”
The Wings did make offers to Filppula in August and September before talks broke down.
Filppula, who made $3 million last season, is believed to be asking for about a $2 million raise a year.
The Wings do have interest in new unrestricted free agent Vincent Lecavalier, who was bought out by Tampa Bay on Thursday.
There is some concern of the pace of Lecavalier’s game at this point of his career.
Detroit is in the midst of building a team that likes to get up-and-down the ice.
There would be interest in the 33-year-old center, who is still good down low around the net. They would jump at a one-year deal for the right price.
“(The Wings are) a team I grew up idolizing,” Lecavalier said during a conference call Thursday. “(Detroit) and Montreal were my favorite teams. Steve Yzerman was my favorite player.”
Yzerman, who spent his entire career with the Wings, is the Lightning’s general manager.
Centers Stephen Weiss, Matt Cullen and Patrik Elias could also garner some interest from Detroit along with wingers Jarome Iginla, David Clarkson and Nathan Horton.
There is also a chance the Wings could decide to use one or two of their allotted contract buyouts, but would need to do so by July 3 since that player or players has to go on waivers.
Teams are permitted two amnesty buyouts that can be used this summer or next summer. They would be able to buy out a player at two-thirds of their remaining value of the contract and not have any of the salary count against the salary cap.