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Draft-day trade gives Wings flexibility

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Matt Martin (17), a Windsor native, would give the Red Wings some much-needed grit in all three zones. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – With his clever draft-day trade of Pavel Datsyuk's cap space to the Arizona Coyotes, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland announced his team would be a player in free agency.

There's no bigger, more coveted fish in the free agency sea than Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos.

At 26, the Markham, Ontario native has amassed 312 goals and 250 assists in 569 games.

It's no secret the Wings struggled at times to score goals and an offensive player of Stamkos' ability could be just what the doctor ordered.

Only four Eastern Conference teams scored fewer than the Wings' 211 goals. Buffalo had 201, Toronto and Carolina had 198 each and New Jersey had 184.

Among Western Conference teams, only Arizona (209), Edmonton (203) and Vancouver (191) had fewer goals.

The Wings have the cap space to make a play for Stamkos, but they are far from alone in that regard.

In addition to his current team, the Lightning, the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens are also among those interested in Stamkos.

TSN's James Duthie tweeted Tuesday that 12-15 teams had already made overtures to Stamkos' camp.

Until this Friday, the Lightning can offer Stamkos a maximum eight-year contract, whereas the rest of the teams are limited to offering maximum seven-year deals.

Once Stamkos officially becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, the Lightning will only be able max out at seven years.

Although Stamkos is the top prize, there are other players available, including Milan Lucic, the former Boston Bruin who was traded to the Los Angeles Kings last summer.

Lucic is a 28-year-old forward who is 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, and his 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists) were five more than any Wing had last season.

Another free-agent forward is the New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo, also 28, who had 64 points (22 goals, 42 assists) in 79 games last season.

Another Islander, center Frans Nielsen, might also be appealing to the Wings.

Slightly older at 32, Nielsen had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 81 games last season. He is considered to be a two-way center who can kill penalties.

Also on the market is Loui Eriksson, who had 30 goals and 33 assists in 82 games last season.

Wings fans probably remember the success Eriksson has had against their team, scoring 17 goals and 15 assists in 39 games, tied for his third-highest total points against any team.

There's also St. Louis forward Troy Brouwer, 30, who had 18 goals and 21 assists and has played all 82 games for the last three seasons; Chicago forward Andrew Ladd, 30, who had 25 goals and 21 assists combined for the Winnipeg Jets and Blackhawks; Islanders forward Matt Martin, 27, a Windsor, Ontario native who had 10 goals and 9 assists in 80 games.

The Wings could also use some help on the blue line as top defenseman Niklas Kronwall is now 35 years old and has been plagued with knee injuries.

However, the free-agent crop is on the thin side, especially after Alex Goligoski and Keith Yandle signed with the Coyotes and Florida Panthers, respectively.

That leaves Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers, 28, Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis, 33, Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell, 37, Stars defenseman Kris Russell, 29 and Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey, 30.

It's more likely that the Wings will seek to upgrade their defense via a trade.

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