DETROIT – Kyle Quincey is prepared to face another long two months.
“Same as two years ago,” said Quincey, sensing a strong ambivalence to his hockey future.
As it was in 2015, the veteran defenseman will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. It’s not an ideal situation for the 30-year-old, but he understands that it’s part of the pro-sports landscape.
“A lot of people don’t know that side of the job,” Qunicey said. “Packing up a house and not knowing where you’re gonna be. You’ve got family that need to know where they’re gonna be, and when you have no answers for them it’s kind of the (dirty) part of the job I guess.”
Quincey, who was a fourth-round pick by the Red Wings in 2003, found a niche during his second tour with the franchise. More than a year and a half ago former coach Mike Babcock paired him on the right side with Danny DeKeyser. It was only then that Quincey began to feel comfortable in his reunited role with the team.
“Babs tried to put a few guys with (DeKeyser) on the right side for the first week or two and it didn’t work out,” Quincey recalled. “Then he came to me and he goes, ‘Can you play the right side?’ which he’s never let me play – ever. And I never looked back. I haven’t played on the left side since. I can obviously play both sides comfortably and it was a challenge that I ran with and kind of really take a lot of pride in. Danny’s a great player, so it’s very easy to play with him for sure.”
The Red Wings reacquired Quincey in a three-team deal with Colorado and Tampa Bay at the 2012 trade deadline. Detroit then re-signed him to back-to-back two-year contracts, with the most recent paying him $4.25 million per season.
Since returning to Detroit, Quincey – who was originally lost to the Los Angeles Kings on waivers at the start of the 2008-09 campaign – has produced 14 goals and 34 assists with a plus-9 rating in 256 regular-season games.
A strong skater and solid puck mover with good lateral movement, Quincey has logged heavy minutes when necessary, and when healthy. In the past two seasons, ankle injuries hampered his mobility and forced him to miss 44 regular-season games, including 35 contests when he underwent surgery on his right ankle last November. He also had similar repairs done to the left ankle following the 2014-15 season.
Despite their prior successes, Quincey and DeKeyser had to convince first-year head coach Jeff Blashill to keep the pair together. But Blashill had other ideas about the defense, which included pairing newly acquired right-shot defenseman Mike Green with DeKeyser.
“I had a meeting with Blash right away and it wasn’t what I really wanted to hear but I feel like I changed his mind with my play and moved up in his eyes,” Quincey said. “My goal was always to come back and play with Danny and shut down first lines. That was my goal. And at the end of the year when they needed it most that’s where I was. So for me, that’s a huge win in my book and for the most part I think we did a good job. We shut down some very good lines, and you know that’s really important for teams to do well – that’s a good shutdown D-pair.”
As they head into the offseason, the Red Wings have four NHL defensemen under contract for next season – Green, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith. In all likelihood, DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko – both restricted free agents on July 1 – will return to the club. But questions revolve around the direction of the team’s defensive corps.
“The D corps has to play better,” Blashill said. “Is that a fix from outside? Is that a fix from within? We’ll certainly look at both. Is there a fix from outside? I don’t know. What I do know is as a group we can certainly be better and that’s including in the D corps.”
Whether or not Blashill and general manager Ken Holland foresee Quincey in the team’s future only time will tell. In the meantime, Quincey’s last few times in the Red Wings’ dressing room were nostalgic moments, especially the final regular-season home game against Philadelphia on April 6.
“I’ve been thinking that for a while and just kind of soaking in,” he said. “Philly, that game, with the uncertainty of the playoffs, I was really soaking in that game.”
Quincey isn’t blind to the changes coming to the Wings’ roster. He knows they’re inevitable. But given the opportunity he’d prefer staying in Detroit.
“A veteran in Colorado told me ‘we’re in the business of winning,’ ” he said. “Teams that win stay together.
“If Kenny offers me something I’d love to come back. We love it here. But if not, July 1, and just see what happens.”