DETROIT >> Mike Babcock has brought up numerous times that young, up-and-coming teams have been bad for so long that they’re able to build contending teams with high-end talent through the draft.
The Wings’ coach for the last 10 seasons could be heading to one of those teams, the Buffalo Sabres, as early as Wednesday.
The Associted Press is reporting Babcock is negotiating a deal by phone with Buffalo.
Babcock met with Wings general manager Ken Holland on Tuesday and was expected to talk to his family before revealing his decision Wednesday.
Four teams asked the Wings permission to speak with Babcock – Buffalo, Toronto, San Jose and St. Louis.
Three of those teams don’t appear as good fits for Babcock, who is under contract until June 30, for a few reasons.
The Leafs are in the midst of a long rebuilding process.
The Sharks have a similar aging core like Detroit has.
Despite the Blues having a roster that gives Babcock a much quicker path to winning a Stanley Cup, he’s reluctant to be the guy to replace his close friend, Ken Hitchcock, behind the bench.
The Sabres don’t have a roster that Babcock was looking for, a team that could contend immediately for a Stanley Cup, but they have a system loaded with talent because of drafting high for some time.
That’s a young core that Babcock doesn’t see the Wings have.
Babcock, 52, sees Detroit’s core – 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.”
Buffalo has the second and 21st overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
The Sabres are expected to select center Jack Eichel, who played for Team USA at the World Championships along with Wings prospect Dylan Larkin, with the second pick.
The Sabres have had high picks in each of the last four drafts.
Last year, Buffalo had the second pick and took center Sam Reinhart.
The year prior, the Sabres had two first round picks and nabbed two defensemen – Rasmus Ristolainen (eighth overall) and Nikita Zadorov (16th overall).
They also had two first round picks in 2012 taking a pair of centers – Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall) and Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall).
Buffalo owner Terry Pegula appears willing to pay more – $5 million a season that could increase by meeting incentives – than what the Wings have offered.
Pegula also whisked Babcock into Buffalo on a private jet on May 9 so he could tour their facilities.
Detroit’s 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.
There’s also a comfort level Babcock would have in working for general manager Tim Murray, who was the director of player personnel Anaheim where he coached for two seasons.
If Babcock decides to leave Detroit’s next coach will be Jeff Blashill.
Three teams have asked the Wings permission to speak with Blashill, which they promptly denied.
Detroit gave Blashill a hefty raise 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 in the conference finals this year, is making double of what the average American League Hockey coach gets paid.
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.