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Wings reach out to free agent players

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Valtteri Filppula had a disappointing season with 17 points in 41 games. It's believed that he is seeking a new 5-7 year contract worth $5 million per season. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – General manager Ken Holland spent Wednesday – the first day of the new free agency format – fielding calls from player agents, whose clients are free to sign new contracts beginning at noon on Friday.

“I like it,” Holland said. “It’s an opportunity to spend two days to feel out the market and it’s two days for the players to feel out the market and I’m sure by five o’clock on July 5 a lot of things will be done.”

The new collective bargaining agreement allows teams to actually start talking to players 48-hours prior to the start of the free agency frenzy at noon on Friday. If a team and a player reaches an agreement on a contract they can announce the new deal at any time, however, they can’t sign before noon on Friday.

It’s been reported that the Red Wings are interested in filling a need at second-line center, especially if Holland can’t reach an agreement with Valtteri Filppula. Holland has talked to representatives for Florida’s Stephen Weiss, Minnesota’s Matt Cullen and Washington’s Mike Ribeiro.

The 30-year-old Weiss is coming off a season that was cut short by wrist surgery in March. The former four-time 20-goal scorer has spent his entire NHL career with the Panthers, who drafted him fourth overall in 2001. Though on the small side (5-foot-11, 190 pounds), Weiss is a quality two-way center with great acceleration and an innate ability to make his linemates better.

Cullen is a 36-year-old journeyman who has logged more than 1,000 NHL games for seven different teams in 15 seasons. The Minnesota native has made it known that he would like to re-sign with the Wild, though the Western Conference team is up against the salary cap.

Ribeiro was an elite playmaker and the top scorer among the available free agents. He produced 13 goals and 36 assists in 48 games last season. According to reports, the Montreal native is seeking a four- or five-year deal. In March, he rejected a three-year offer from the Capitals worth $14 million.

Holland has also continued discussions with agents for his own UFAs – Filppula, Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner, though it seems all three are headed to the open market.

“I’m hoping to talk to Dan Cleary, our three guys, some time (Thursday) and at that point they’ll have a feeling for the market and we’ll decide if we want to be in the market or not,” Holland said. “To a degree these guys are free agents now. They’re free to talk to teams right now and they’re fielding offers. The one thing this two-day period does is it gives a player the opportunity to field offers and if he has interest in remaining in his own city to go back to his team. Normally, you get these offers and if you’re a player you jump at real good offers. This is an opportunity for a player to see what’s out there and go back to his team.”

MOVING TARGET: The Red Wings placed Carlo Colaiacovo on unconditional waivers on Wednesday for the purpose of using one of their two compliance buyouts on the veteran defenseman.

While Holland would like to sign veteran to shore up the Wings defensive unit, they have to be cognizant of the league’s limit of 50 player contracts, which is a moving target as the Wings will need to sign three restricted free agents (Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith).

Currently, Detroit has six defensemen under contract for next season. Holland has spoken to agents for veteran defensemen Marek Zidlicky or Andrew Ference.

“Do we have Dan Cleary signed, or not signed? Do we have Brunner signed or not signed? Do we have Stephen Weiss signed or not signed? I don’t know,” Holland said. “Are we going to sign someone in the open market or not sign anyone in the open market? We just know that we have to be at 50 contracts or less.”

ON THE FARM: Holland said Wednesday that the club made a qualifying offer to goalie Tom McCollum, the organization’s first-round draft pick in 2008. If accepted, it gives the franchise three minor-league goaltenders to go with Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau.

The Wings have selected a goalie in two of the last four amateur drafts, picking Petr Mrazek in the fifth round in 2010, and Jake Paterson in the third round two years later. Mrazek helped lead the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship last month. Paterson will spend a third year with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League.

In other news, the Wings released minor-league goalie Jordan Pearce, the former Notre Dame standout.


DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Seven of the Red Wings eight 2013 draft picks are expected to participate at this month’s development camp in Traverse City, Mich., which begins this Wednesday.

Besides the previously confirmed 21 players, including Red Wings center Darren Helm, who is rehabilitating a herniated disk in his lower back, the team has extended an invitation to Kurt Etchegary, an undrafted center who played the past two seasons with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Etchegary was expected to be selected in last Sunday’s NHL draft in New Jersey. However, the 18-year-old native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, missed three months of the season following arthroscopic hip surgery last fall.

“He will be at the camp, and should be coming into the fall camp also,” said Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings director of player development. “Right now he’s training in Montreal and really wants to prove everybody wrong that he should have been drafted.”

Etchegary finished with 25 points in 31 games, though, prior to his surgery, he produced 11 points in 13 games on a line with Adam Erne (No. 33 overall, Tamba Bay) and Nick Sorensen (No. 45 overall, Anaheim).

“He’s an in-your-face competitor, chases people down and really battles,” Fischer said. “He goes in the areas of pain and doesn’t mind going into the corners, doesn’t mind crashing the net. At the same time, he has decent skill and is a smart hockey player.”

According to some scouting reports, Etchegary is strong on faceoffs guy and his game is comparable to Los Angeles center Mike Richards.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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