The NHL free agency period doesn’t officially open until July 5, but the Detroit Red Wings spent the better part of Wednesday getting their ducks in a row prior to the expected feeding frenzy.
Mlive’s Ansar Khan reports the team has put feelers out for plenty of free agent centers, such as Florida’s Stephen Weiss, Washington’s Mike Ribeiro and Minnesota’s Matt Cullen. Detroit also, reportedly, likes the game of veteran Jarome Iginla. Expected to lose Valtteri Filppula, who most experts believe will be seeking a higher dollar contract than Detroit wishes to give, the team will likely need to find a quality replacement to anchor the second line and replace some offensive punch.
Enter veterans Weiss, Ribeiro, Cullen and perhaps Iginla. Out of the four, Ribeiro was the most offensively adept in 2013, netting 13 goals and contributing 49 points. At 36 years-old, Cullen has the gritty experience element on his side, and 30 year-old Weiss is the youngest of the group, a consistent 20 goal scorer who likely has a solid six seasons ahead of him. Iginla was a flop with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but still offers the size and offensive ability the Red Wings could covet. Detroit also reportedly contacted a pair of defenseman, Boston’s Brad Ference and New Jersey’s Marek Zidlicky, to gauge their interest and name their price.
The most expensive of the group would likely be Weiss, who many view as an elite option. Ribiero, buoyed by last season’s showing, could follow suit expecting a big contract worth nearly $5 million dollars a year. Cullen could be just the player Detroit is searching for, as he’d likely only command a cheaper two year contract and is a veteran capable of quality leadership and toughness. With a logjam on defense in a weak crop, Ference or Zidlicky seem like long shots considering they may cash in.
Thus far, the market is developing slowly and quietly for Detroit, who will likely be patient as usual while trying to figure out what to do. Any scenario will also depend on what happens with the Red Wings’ own group of free agents. Danny Cleary and Damien Brunner have yet to re-sign, and Brunner may test the open market to see what he can get coming off a breakout season. Several of Detroit’s restricted free agents will also need to be inked, so it’s looking like the team will likely add only one major piece, if any, this offseason.
For those starved for some new blood, however, the day before the fast paced frenzy opens has at least brought several new names to ponder and dream about.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax