Though NHL free agency technically does not begin until Friday afternoon, teams were allowed to negotiate with those about to hit the market as of Wednesday. And the Detroit Red Wings are on the hunt for some help, both at forward and on defense.
Where might GM Ken Holland turn? Here are five possibilities:
1. Vincent Lecavalier, C, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Red Wings are at least in the mix for Lecavalier, who was bought out by the Lightning last week and promptly met with upwards of a dozen interested teams.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported during Sunday’s draft coverage that Lecavalier was seeking somewhere around five years and $25 million for his next deal — a revelation that flies in the face of rumors of Lecavalier signing a one-year contract and then returning to Tampa Bay.
Valtteri Filppula’s also believed to be asking for around a $5 million-per-season average on a multi-year contract. The Wings have been unwilling to meet him on that asking price thus far. Would they consider a similar price tag for the more proven Lecavalier?
2. Nathan Horton, RW, Boston Bruins: Horton recently told the Bruins that he was going to test the market, and he’s reportedly ready to ask for around $6 million per year. While his gritty, productive game would be a boost for the Wings up front, they may not be willing to dip that deep into their wallets, especially with several restricted and unrestricted free agents of their own.
But Horton, still just 28, has six 20-goal seasons and a 30-goal season to his credit. He would be a clear upgrade to Detroit’s top six.
3. David Clarkson, RW, New Jersey Devils: The Devils tried to lock up the 29-year-old Clarkson before he hit free agency, but the two sides could not hammer out a deal. So, Clarkson hops into free agency after scoring scoring 30 goals in 2011-12 and 15 this past season.
Boston might be interested in Clarkson now that Horton’s leaving town, and the ex-Devil figures to find plenty of suitors for his services despite a career minus-32 mark. He can play on a top-two line and he is a power-play threat, as well.
4. Ryan Whitney, D, Edmonton Oilers: Whitney, 30, slumped the past couple of seasons — 13 points and a minus-7 in 2012-13 and 20 points with a minus-16 the year before. He does have 50 career goals and 259 career points, though, which are numbers that may speak to the Wings as they search for more punch along the blue line.
Whitney is coming off a contract that paid him $5.5 million last season. Unless he really cashes in on a light free-agent market, it’s hard to imagine him picking up that much money on a new deal. That’s good news for the Wings, who no doubt would want Whitney at a reduced price.
5. Andrew Ference, D, Boston Bruins: Would a 34-year-old Ference, who has all of 37 goals since entering the league in 1999, be enough of an upgrade over Detroit’s other defensemen to justify the Wings’ interest? He might, given how critical a piece he’s been over the past three seasons for the Bruins — a run that included a Stanley Cup title and this year’s runner-up finish.
Ference’s deal last season paid him a reasonable $2.25 million, or slightly less than what Carlo Colaiacovo and Jakub Kindl will make in 2013-14.