July 1 was supposed to be the biggest day of the summer for Hockeytown and the Detroit Red Wings.
After finally clearing the roster of aging veterans and underachievers, Detroit had close to $14 million in cap space when the clock struck high noon.
It desperately wanted a right-handed shooting defenseman and made a push for the best available. Detroit offered Dan Boyle a three-year, $12.5 million deal, per MLive.com’s Ansar Khan.
That’s unfortunate, but at least the Red Wings were still in the running for Matt Niskanen, the top blueliner on the market.
Khan tweeted that a source in Detroit’s camp revealed it was willing to go as high as $42 million over seven years:
Wings felt they made competitive offer for Niskanen and one team source said they would have given 7 years at $42 million.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) July 1, 2014
Where does Detroit go from here?
After missing out on the two biggest free-agent defensemen, perhaps Anton Stralman was a viable option.
Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Stralman committed to the Tampa Bay Lightning on a five-year, $22.5 million pact. Detroit was not willing to offer a deal of that length, as reported by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.
Former Red Wing Brad Stuart became available via trade, and San Jose contacted Detroit as one of the eight teams he’d waive his no-trade clause to join. Detroit missed again, as it was not willing to part with the requested draft picks, as tweeted by St. James:
SJS had tried for a couple days to move D Brad Stuart. DET was on his 8-team list to waive NTC. #RedWings didn't want to trade 2&6 rd picks.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 2, 2014
It was a situation reminiscent of the summer of 2012, when the Red Wings missed on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Coming out empty-handed could not possibly happen twice, could it?
Well, Hockeytown got snubbed.
Money was not the issue. As noted previously, Detroit was ready to pay Boyle and Niskanen more than each settled for with another club. Why did they pass on Detroit?
General manager Ken Holland told reporters: “Our hope was to acquire a right-shot defenseman. We made offers to four or five. For a variety of reasons, they chose to go elsewhere. That’s the reality of the cap world.”
What could be wrong with Detroit?
It has been the premier destination for free agents in the past, and with ample cap space it should have been the perfect landing spot.
The city is developing plans for a new arena, while the team is in the midst of a historic playoff streak and boasts two of the league’s best players in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Head coach Mike Babcock’s Olympic exploits speak for themselves.
Out of desperation, Holland resorted to re-signing Kyle Quincey, per WXYZ.com.
Quincey showed improvement in the second half of last season but still does not mend Detroit’s situation in any way. He’s another left-handed shot with little offensive upside.
At this point in time, Detroit looks nearly identical to the team it was last season. This was a team that earned a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance—despite a club-record 421 man games lost to injury—but visibly needed to upgrade on the back end.
The Red Wings can ill afford to stand pat while teams in the division continue to improve around them. Their best option, should they still desire a top-four defenseman, is via the trade market.
Unfortunately, players like Keith Yandle and Tyler Myers, both of whom TSN's Darren Dreger (h/t The Malik Report's George Malik) has linked to Detroit, will require a package containing the likes of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco or Anthony Mantha. Holland has been clear he’s disinclined to move any of the club’s young players.
With a little over $9.5 million in cap space remaining, per CapGeek.com, the Red Wings have plenty of wiggle room to swing a deal or two. Nothing appears imminent, but it is still just the first week of free agency.