DETROIT – Mike Babcock insisted being a lame-duck coach next season for the Detroit Red Wings would not be a problem for him.
Babcock has one year left on his contract, and told reporters on Tuesday that getting a new deal this off-season is not a priority.
“When you’re at the stage of my career that I am, I’m real comfortable with whatever they want,” he said. “I want them to be happy. If they’re not happy, then I’m not happy.
“I can go year to year.”
Babcock finished his ninth season as Detroit’s coach on Saturday at Boston, where the Bruins eliminated the Red Wings in Game 5 of their first-round series. He has won a franchise-record 415 games, a Stanley Cup and a pair of conference championships. He led Canada to a second straight Olympic gold medal earlier this year.
“If you put down a list of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, he’s on that short list,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Holland said he has not begun talking to Babcock about negotiating a long-term deal.
The Red Wings have Holland under contract for one more year with a team option for another year, and he is “assuming” to have talks with ownership about his future with the franchise this summer. Detroit’s decision-makers will also have some other topics to ponder, heading into the NHL draft in June and free agency in July.
Daniel Alfredsson might be the only unrestricted free agent the team wants to re-sign. The 41-year-old forward chose to chase a Stanley Cup with a one-year deal after spending his entire career with the Ottawa Senators. Alfredsson, though, is not sure if he wants to return or retire.
“It’s going to be at least a few weeks,” he said. “You need time to get away from it. I’ll talk to Kenny and Babcock later this week. Both sides want to know what the other side is thinking.”
Unrestricted free agents David Legwand, Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Kyle Quincey and Todd Bertuzzi may have to continue their careers elsewhere. The 39-year-old Bertuzzi said he definitely does not want to retire if Detroit decides to let him hit the market.
“I’d like to keep playing,” he said. “I still feel like I can contribute.”
The Red Wings are counting on their two stars, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, to contribute more than they did during injury-shortened seasons. Zetterberg expects to return 100-per cent healthy after having back surgery two months ago. Datsyuk said he will soon find out if he needs to have surgery on his left knee.
“A healthy Pav and Z makes everyone else score more,” Babcock said. “Z came back for two games (in the playoffs) and suddenly we have a power play. We didn’t have a power play till that. To me those are the guys capable if healthy that can make everyone else around them better.”