DETROIT >> Mike Babcock’s options to coach next season are down to five.
A source confirmed Sunday that four teams have asked and signed the compensation letter to speak with Babcock about coaching next season – Buffalo, Toronto, San Jose and St. Louis.
If Babcock decides to sign with another team the Wings will get a third-round pick during the next three seasons from his new club.
Babcock has met Buffalo and Toronto at the World Championships in the Czech Republic and is expected to meet with the Sharks either Monday or Tuesday.
It’s believed he’s also meet with the Blues at the tournament.
Two other teams that were thought to be in the Babcock sweepstakes – Edmonton and Philadelphia – did not ask for permission to discuss employment.
The Wings’ last contract offer to Babcock was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season, which is a significant increase from the $2 million a year he made in his last contract.
Babcock could get close to $5 million a season from the Maple Leafs or Sabres.
An increased offer by the Wings seems unlikely to match that kind of money.
The Wings offered Babcock, who’s spent the last 10 seasons in Detroit, a contract last June that he didn’t accept.
They came back with that second offer in January, but Babcock wanted to wait until the playoffs were over to discuss matters.
A decision from Babcock will come this week sometime and could be as early as Wednesday.
If Babcock decides to sign with another team Detroit’s next coach will Jeff Blashill.
Three teams have asked the Wings permission to speak with Blashill, which they promptly denied.
Detroit gave Blashill a hefty last summer to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.
Blashill, who led the Grand Griffins to the Calder Cup title in 2013 and has them a win away from reach the conference finals this year, is making double of what the average American League Hockey coach gets paid.
Babcock has also focused on the Wings’ core group – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – being up there in age.
“Our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Three of our best players are 34, 35, 37, so any way you look at it, we’re a team that’s changed a bunch of players. We’re a team that’s added a lot of youth to the lineup. Right now on the outside they don’t pick us as a Stanley Cup contender.”
Both Toronto and Buffalo are rebuilding.
San Jose has a similar aging roster like the Wings.
St. Louis’ roster gives Babcock, who just finished his 10th season in Detroit, a much quicker path to winning a Stanley Cup.
The Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t made it out of the second round of the playoffs since losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final in the 2008-09 season, the year after Babcock won his only Cup in Detroit.
Babcock’s contract expires with the Wings on June 30.