DETROIT >> Steven Stamkos isn’t leaving Tampa Bay.
Now the Detroit Red Wings can move onto Plan B when unrestricted free agents can begin signing at noon Friday.
Stamkos signed a maximum eight-year deal for $8.5 million a season to remain with the Lightning. The max length any other team could offer him was seven years, but they could have thrown more money at him.
Neither Stamkos nor his representatives spoke with Wings about the possibility of coming to Detroit.
The next tier of forwards the Wings have interest in include Frans Nielsen, Milan Lucic, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Kyle Okposo, Loui Eriksson and Jeff Backes.
“How do I feel going into Friday, July 1, I feel good,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Wednesday prior to the Stamkos news being announced. “We’ve obviously created some cap space with the trading of (Pavel) Datsyuk.”
On Friday, Detroit traded its first round draft pick (16th overall) and Datsyuk, whose cap hit was $7.5 million, to Arizona for the Coyotes’ 20th and 53rd picks and center Joe Vitale, who will be placed on long-term injured reserve due to a broken orbital bone and concussion.
“If I look at our board we’ve probably got nine or 10 forwards ideally we’d like to sign a couple of forwards over the next week,” Holland said. “Do we get higher end forwards? There’s a star and then there’s probably another five or six good second tier forwards and then there’s a number of NHL forwards, different ages and that bring different things.”
The final tier of forwards includes Darren Helm, who’s expected to test free agency on Friday, Jason Chimera, Dale Weise and Matt Martin.
“Basically Jeff Blashill and I spent all day Monday on the phone in my office, lots of (Tuesday) and a little bit (Wednesday) and in between talking to agents we’re getting a sense for what their clients are thinking and kind of doing our due diligence working our way towards Friday,” Holland said.
The Wings were poised to offer Stamkos a seven-year deal worth $10 million a season or more. Toronto and Buffalo were also expected to aggressively pursue him.
Stamkos would have filled the void left by Datsyuk.
He’s a right-handed sniper that possesses an incredible one-timer and would have come in quite handy on the power play as well as five-on-five play.
In his eight NHL seasons, he has 312 goals – including 60 in 2011-12 – and 562 points in 569 games. Last season, Stamkos had 36 goals and 28 assists in 77 games.
A blood clot near his right collarbone, which required surgery, made him miss all but Tampa Bay’s final playoff game against the eventual Stanley Cup champ Pittsburgh Penguins.
At 26 years old, he would have filled Detroit’s No. 1 center spot and provided a nice one-two punch with Dylan Larkin, who Holland talked after the season about moving to center.
He would have been a perfect piece to add as Detroit readies to open Little Caesars Arena for the 2017-18 season and looks to extend its playoff streak to 26 consecutive seasons.
“We’re trying to work our way through the system,” Holland said. “We set up interviews with many of the players that were going to be on the open market and wanted to make sure we touched base with a lot of the players. We obviously have a priority list and some teams might not even be in this free agency sweepstakes because they’re capped out. We’ll find out through the weekend how it all turns out.”
The Wings have roughly $20 million in cap space with roughly half of that earmarked for resigning their restricted free agents which include Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko, Teemu Pulkkinen and Ryan Sproul, all of which got qualifying offers on Monday.