DETROIT >> The ability of teams to meet with pending free agents prior to the signing date helped the Wings land Daniel Alfredsson last season.
They’re hoping it does the same this time around.
“I like it,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview. “It’s excellent for the players.”
The time to “wine and dine” free agents began Wednesday. Teams can begin signing players on July 1.
“Before you’d get to signing day and the player and team would have to make a decision in like an hour or two,” Holland said. “Now teams have the opportunity to let players know they have interest and to tell them how they would fit in on our team.
“It’s an opportunity to see what’s out there, to talk to players we got some interest in, let them know what we’re thinking,” Holland added. “It’s an opportunity to sell your program.”
Last season the Wings’ pitch to Alfredsson convinced the long-time forward to leave Ottawa where he had spent his entire career and sign with Detroit.
They also did the same to sign Stephen Weiss, who had spent his entire career with the Florida Panthers.
This is the second year of this “meet and greet” period, which was written into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But unlike last year, teams can now discuss general parameters of a contract, but they still can’t make an offer or reach any agreement.
The Wings’ top priority this free agent period is landing a top-four defenseman, one that preferably is a right-handed shot. They would also like to acquire top-six forward if terms are right.
Defenseman Dan Boyle (New York Islanders) seems to be the perfect fit for the Wings.
Detroit has close to $54 million tied up in 18 players for next season, which includes the $3 million from bonuses for Daniel Alfredsson, Danny DeKeyser and Tomas Tatar that carry over from last season.
With the salary cap projected at nearly $70 million it’ll leave the Wings close to $16 million to spend some of which will go to resigning restricted free agents Riley Sheahan, DeKeyser and Tatar.
“Ideally, we’ll make a move on the back end and add one more forward,” Holland said. “We’re going to wait until June 30 to see if we’re going to do anything with our guys.”
Defenseman Kyle Quincey, who’s unrestricted, is expected to hit the open market.
Alfredsson and Daniel Cleary, who was promised a possible extension after signing a one-year deal on the first day of training camp, could both re-signed as well.
“Dan Cleary is a guy that when he signed here last year for a one-year deal, we had conversations beyond one year because he had contract offers or three years from a couple of teams,” Holland said.
Cleary, 35, struggled last season. In 52 games he totaled four goals, four assists and had a minus-11 rating.
Cleary tried to return from a knee injury he suffered before the Olympic break, but a bad reaction to an injection that he had no side effects two times earlier made his knee inflamed.
“He’s coming off a real tough season,” Holland said. “I know he’s working really hard to try and get some leg strength to give himself the best opportunity he can for a bounce back year.”
Cleary spurned a professional tryout from the Philadelphia Flyers and wound up signing a one-year deal to return to the Wings for $1.75 million on the eve of training camp.
He also shot down a report that he was offered a three-year deal worth $2.75 million a season to join the Flyers.
Signing Cleary put the Wings three players over the roster limit and just over $2 million over the salary cap.
Cleary had rejected the Wings’ two- and three-year offers prior to the opening of free agency they moved on and signed Alfredsson (one year, $5.5 million) and Weiss (five years, $24.5 million).