Wings lean ‘right,’ but not at any cost as free agency set to open Wednesday

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings’ free agency shopping list hasn’t changed from a season ago.

The only thing different is that the pool of potential fits to fill those needs is much smaller, which should make the end result the same … the Wings re-signing the players within their organization.

“If we don’t do anything I’m satisfied heading into the season,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview. “We probably have interest on the market of guys that are shorter term rather than longer term, depending who they are.

“Our young players are going to be our future and are going to work their way into the lineup and allow us to be competitive,” Holland added.

The Wings are still looking to add a right-handed shot defenseman — there are only 28 unrestricted ones available — that can quarterback the power play.

The top one available is Mike Green (Capitals), but he’s most likely looking for a long-term deal worth at least $6 million a season.

Green, 29, can run a power play and pile up points, but he’s not air tight defensively, especially in the defensive zone.

Johnny Oduya (Blackhawks) is another option, but he’s a left-handed shot and is not a big point producer. He’s a mobile defensive defenseman which the Wings’ blue line is full of already.

Cody Franson (Predators) could also fit. He’s a right-handed shot and has an offensive upside. He’s also been on Detroit’s radar in the past.

In all likelihood the Wings’ blue line will be made up of Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith, with Jakub Kindl, Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Brian Lashoff fighting the final two spots.

The Wings are also deep at forward, but could have interest in two players out there – Joel Ward (Capitals) and Matt Beleskey (Ducks).

The knock on Ward is his age; he turns 35 in December.

Beleskey, 27, is going to have teams lined up to sign him after scoring a career-high 22 goals last season. With the Wings’ top six forwards pretty much set in stone – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist – they most likely aren’t willing to pay him top-six forward money if Beleskey is playing on the third line with Darren Helm and Luke Glendening.

Detroit also needs to slot Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco and Landon Ferraro in the lineup.

“I want to be able to have the flexibility that some of these kids can make our team or have an opportunity throughout the season to call them up if they’re playing well and we can wheel them up,” Holland said. “We’re going to explore free agency. It’s not a deep class. There’s lots of players there, but most of the players that are available we feel our young players can develop into that somewhat quickly.

“What we’ve been doing on the fly is develop some of our young players in Grand Rapids into NHL players, give them some opportunities and exposure for them so we know what they can do,” Holland added. “That’s the direction we’re going.”

Then there are prospects Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Tomas Nosek and Tyler Bertuzzi that could get a shot to show if they are NHL ready.

“We think, even if we don’t do anything, guys like Larkin, Athanasiou and Nosek are in the process of developing into Red Wings and some of them might be one more year and some of them may even be just 40 games,” Holland said. “Anthony Mantha had a year where he had some adversity. I think he’s still in our plans big time. Some of these guys are going to need two to three years in the American Hockey League. Dylan Larkin, we’re anxious to see what he can do in training camp.”

The one position Holland won’t be focused on during free agency is in goal where Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will battle for playing time.

“We’ve got eight or nine defensemen in our system that we think can play in the NHL,” Holland said. “A couple of them are going to go back to Grand Rapids and one of them might make Detroit. Would we like a right-shot defenseman? Yes I would, but if I can’t have a right-shot defenseman we have one in Marchenko and Jensen. We’ve got good depth. Are we looking to upgrade? Whether it’s on defense on forward, yeah, if you upgrade it fits in.”

The Wings also have to look towards next season when they’ll need to re-sign Helm, Abdelkader, Sheahan, DeKeyser and Mrazek.

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