DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings had high hopes of landing at least one and quite possibly two premier right-handed defensemen on the first day of free agency.
They wound up with neither.
Instead, they ended up having to turn to a familiar face, Kyle Quincey, who Tuesday returned to Detroit for two years at $4.25 million a season.
Quincey, who’s a left-handed shot, struggled in the first half of last season, but finished strong.
He was one of two players to play all 82 games a year ago, totaling four goals and nine assists.
Dan Boyle, their top priority, and Matt Niskanen both chose to sign with other teams within the Eastern Conference.
“We had hoped to sign a right-shooting D-man,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We made offers, but for a variety of reasons they chose elsewhere to go. That’s the reality of the cap world. There are a lot of reasons why players go in different directions.”
Boyle, who’ll turn 38 next month, signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers for $9 million instead of a better deal Detroit had on the table, three years at $12.5 million.
Niskanen informed the Wings a couple hours into free agency that they were not on the list of teams he was considering and he finally chose the Washington Capitals, getting a seven-year deal worth $40.25 million.
Detroit was in the ballpark with its offer, seven years at $38.5 million, for the 27-year old defenseman.
While their two main right-handed targets on the blue line decided to go elsewhere, the second tier also got deals done with other teams.
Tom Gilbert inked a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens at $5.6 million.
Stephane Robidas chose to take the three-year deal at $3 million offered by Toronto instead of a similar offer the Wings had structured for him, choosing the Maple Leafs for family reasons.
Finally, Anton Stralman was given a five-year deal worth $22.5 million by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The length of a deal turned off the Wings.
“It’s free agency, it’s wide open,” Holland said. “Other teams are after these players, too. Last year we got the guys wanted.”
Christian Ehrhoff was the head scratcher of the afternoon, signing a one-year deal worth $4 million with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Detroit was told by Ehrhoff’s agent that he was seeking a five-year deal at roughly $5 million a season.
The Wings were never given a second chance by Ehrhoff, who was bought out of the final seven years of a 10-year deal with Buffalo, to better the Penguins’ offer.
The Wings could now turn to trading for a right-handed defensemen – Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, Edmonton’s Jeff Petry or Toronto’s Cody Franson – but the asking price is quite steep – Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco.
Arizona’s Keith Yandle, who’s a left-handed shot, is also rumored to be on the trading block.
“There are still a lot of players out there that could be good one-year bargains,” Holland said. “We’ll keep kicking tires. I was hoping to get one or two right-shot defensemen, but they signed elsewhere, that’s their prerogative. That’s going to happen more and more with the cap ceiling and floor going up.”
Detroit did sign two of its own: Riley Sheahan and Petr Mrazek.
Sheahan, who was a restricted free agent, inked a two-year deal at an average salary cap hit of $950,000.
Mrazek got a one-year extension, taking his deal through the 2015-16 season, at a cap hit of $737,500.
With close to $60 million tied up in 20 players for next season and still need to sign restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser and Tomas Tatar, the Wings have close to $6 million to spend on other free agents.
Daniel Alfredsson and Daniel Cleary, who was promised a possible extension after signing a one-year deal on the first day of training camp, could also be back.
Detroit added depth at center signing Kevin Porter to a two-way deal.
Porter split time last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester of the American Hockey League.
Porter, who played four seasons at the University of Michigan, has also played parts of seasons with Colorado and Phoenix and had 29 goals and 26 assists in 206 games.
He won the Hobey Baker Award in 2008, awarded to the top collegiate player in the NCAA.