TRAVERSE CITY – It’s becoming pretty obvious Daniel Cleary wants to return to the Detroit Red Wings.
Now it’s a matter of if it will work.
Wings general manager Ken Holland confirmed Thursday morning that they met with Cleary in Traverse City on Wednesday to continue discussions on him possibly returning to the organization.
“I think there’s lots happening but nothing has been decided,” Holland said. “I think he’s going to go wherever he gets a contract. I think he’s still in Detroit today.”
Asked whether is there’s a chance he could be back with the Wings, Holland said, “There’s always a chance.”
Cleary, 34, had reportedly accepted an offer to attend Philadelphia Flyers training camp on a professional tryout. When he was a no-show Wednesday for a photo shoot speculation began that he wasn’t going to report.
The contract with the Flyers he was reportedly set to sign was a three-year deal worth $2.75 million a season.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me if there are other teams in the mix,” Holland said. “We can do what we can do. I’m trying to do what we can do. If it’s enough great, if it’s not there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ve explained that to his agent and I’ve explained that to Dan.”
The sticking point continues to be if he returns to the Wings on a professional tryout or if he’s able to come to an agreement on a deal to take part in training camp that runs through Tuesday.
“I’ve been in conversation with the Cleary camp all summer, more so the last three or four days,” Holland said. “Obviously, it came out he had a deal with Philadelphia the other day, or an agreement on something. (Cleary’s camp) reached out to us yesterday. We’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours.”
Holland added that they would need to clear a roster spot and cap space if they do sign Cleary.
“He wants to be a Red Wing, he loves the Red Wings,” Holland said. “He knows the coach, he knows his role, he’s got teammates in there, he’s made a home in Detroit. He’s been here since ‘05, nine years. He’d like to be a Red Wing. At the end, we’ve got challenges. We’ve talked about some different things and we’re going to talk again today.”
When Cleary rejected the Wings’ two- and three-year offers prior to the opening of free agency they moved on and signed Daniel Alfredsson (one year, $5.5 million) and Stephen Weiss (five years, $24.5 million).
“I made him a contract offer prior to July 5 because obviously I wanted to retain him,” Holland said. “I like him on the team, the coach wants him back, I know all of the players want him back. He’s a leader in the locker room. He’s a good pro. He’s versatile. He can play either wing, up and down the lineup, third, second, first or fourth lines. He’s vocal. For all those reasons that’s why I wanted to re-sign him in July. We then signed Weiss, signed Alfredsson and along with the (Jimmy) Howard signing things got tight.
The Wings’ two-year offer to Cleary was just below what he got from Philadelphia. It was the addition of the third year that brought the number down even more, but all three years averaged around $2 million a season.
The Wings are already two over the roster limit of 23 as they head into training camp next week in Traverse City and $637,000 over the salary cap.
“We’re not far over the cap right now,” Holland said. “We met with him (Wednesday) because obviously we have interest and out of respect. He’s meant a lot to our franchise. Everybody here believes we’re a better team if he’s on our team, but we have to weigh if we can make it happen.”
Holland had extended Cleary an invitation to training camp on a pro tryout, but with no guarantee of a contract. Coincidently, that’s how he began his career in Detroit in 2005.
Cleary, who had nine goals and six assists in 48 games during the lockout-shortened season last year, has flourished since he joined the Wings for the 2005-06 season.
He’s spent eight seasons in Detroit and has reached the 20-goal plateau three times.
He was also the team’s second leading scorer in last year’s playoffs with four goals and six assists in 10 games.
Cleary was a first round draft pick, 13th overall, by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.