DETROIT – Ken Holland didn’t expect to get lucky enough in the NHL draft to select an instant-impact player.
In free agency, though, the Detroit general manager wants to add at least a couple standouts with enough talent and experience to help the franchise right away.
“We’re going to be active and very involved in free agency because we have cap space and holes we’d like to fill,” Holland said. “But to be successful, you have to draft and develop guys.”
Detroit didn’t have a first-round pick Friday—giving up No. 19 overall to Tampa Bay as part of a three-team trade for defenceman Kyle Quincey—then had several selections Saturday.
The Red Wings took Halifax Mooseheads forward Martin Frk in the second round, 49th overall, with their first pick.
Detroit drafted Saginaw Spirit goalie Jake Paterson in the third round; London Knights forward Andreas Athanasiou in the fourth; Lincoln Stars defenceman Mike McKee in the fifth; Toronto Lakeshore Patriots defenceman James De Haas in the sixth; and Swedish forward Rasmus Bodin in the seventh and final round.
“You hope you wake up in five years and one or two of the guys are Red Wings,” Holland said. “You’re drafting on projected potential, and that’s what makes it really tricky.”
While the draft picks will have time to develop, Detroit will need some free agents to attempt to make up for the departures of defencemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart along with the potential loss of 50-point forward Jiri Hudler in free agency.
The Red Wings have about $20 million in cap space and might be willing to use most of that to sign New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenceman Ryan Suter if they aren’t re-signed by their teams and are available on the market July 1.
Holland can’t talk about players he’s targeting, but knows the franchise will be in the spotlight when free agency begins.
“Everybody looks at the Red Wings and expects big splashes,” he said. “We have a lot of pieces in place and I like our team, but we need to make two or three moves through free agency or trades.”
Detroit didn’t plan to have Stuart back on the blue line next season because he wanted to live closer to his family in California, leading to the Red Wings trading the potential free agent to San Jose earlier this month.
The franchise was hoping Lidstrom would return for a 21st season until the day he officially announced his retirement last month. The four-time Stanley Cup champion, seven-time Norris Trophy winner and captain simply can’t be replaced.
Suter, though, would go a long way toward bolstering the team’s depleted defence. The 26-year-old All-Star has spent his seven-season career with the Predators.
The 27-year-old Parise would provide a big boost up front, where Detroit might be without Hudler, who might want to see what he can get on the open market instead of settling for what the Red Wings are offering.
Parise would give Detroit a third star forward to go along with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. He has been with the Devils during each of his seven seasons in the league, helping them reach the Stanley Cup finals with 15 points in 24 post-season games after scoring 31 goals during the regular season.
Detroit decided to keep 25-year-old forward Darren Helm with an $8.5 million, four-year contract in the hopes that he will develop from a role player to a standout. The Red Wings are also counting on younger players such as defenceman Brendan Smith and forward Gustav Nyquist to play key roles this season.
“There’s always talk about us being old, but we’re getting younger,” Holland said. “We’ve got a 27-year-old goalie in Jimmy Howard, entering his prime. Niklas Kronwall is 31 and the rest of our defencemen are in their 20s. And if we have a healthy Dan Cleary, I really like us up front with high-octane guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
“We may not have the star power we’ve had the last 10 years, but I don’t think the sky is falling for the Detroit Red Wings.”
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