DETROIT – Daniel Cleary wore a Red Wings’ practice sweater Friday morning as he participated in the team’s informal skate at Joe Louis Arena. It may be the last time the 34-year-old dons the Winged Wheel.
Cleary, who played the last eight seasons in Detroit, remains an unrestricted free agent as NHL teams prepare to open training camps next week. Red Wings players and prospects will head to Traverse City in northern Michigan on Tuesday, however, Cleary likely won’t be among them.
“I want to stay in Detroit. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. I’ve been pretty patient,” said Cleary, who produced 160 goals in 869 games with the Wings. “I’ve had other opportunities to leave and just didn’t want to leave. I’ve just tried to wait as long as I could for Detroit to make the right moves, I guess. That’s all I can say right now.”
Cleary turned down a reported three-year contract offered by Detroit prior to the start of free agency on July 5. The Red Wings were active in the off-season, signing winger Daniel Alfredsson and center Stephen Weiss, thus expanding the team’s roster to 16 forwards.
The Wings are slightly over the $64.3 million salary cap and don’t have an open roster spot to add another player.
“We’ve been talking since July 5,” Cleary said. “We’ll see this weekend. I’ll make a decision Sunday. I’m talking to three other teams. It won’t be an easy decision to make. We’ll see how it goes.”
It’s been reported that Red Wings general manager Ken Holland invited Cleary to the Traverse City camp, but the veteran winger is looking for more of a guarantee.
“If I go to Traverse City it’s not going to be on a tryout like I did eight years ago,” Cleary said. “Whether it’s signed or something agreed on it’ll be something.”
Three other NHL teams supposedly have offered Cleary a deal, he said.
Asked if he’s optimistic that contract talks with those teams will have him in an NHL camp next week, Cleary said, “Pretty serious, enough to make me think. So that’s the hard part.
“I’ve got options. I just want to make the right call for my family. I’ve talked to Kenny and we all know what he’s trying to do. We’re all in agreement that I want to come back, they want me back, so we’ll see.”
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