BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Detroit Red Wings unloaded the contract of forward Pavel Datsyuk in draft day trade with the Arizona Coyotes, which could give them the necessary salary cap space to go after Tampa Bay Lightning pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos.
In the deal, the Red Wings sent the No. 16 overall pick and Datsyuk’s deal for Joe Vitale, the 20th overall selection and the 53rd overall pick. With the 16th pick in the draft the Coyotes selected Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
The move enabled the Red Wings to get rid of an unused asset and not have to deal one of the young players off their roster in order to make the trade happen.
Last Saturday, Datsyuk announced he would leave the NHL and head back to his native Russia for family reasons. If the Red Wings couldn’t find a team that needed his cap hit in order to get to the salary cap floor, they would have had to eat his $7.5 million salary for next season.
Even with Datsyuk's salary, the Coyotes are still about $7.7 million from the salary cap floor. They also have the unused contract of defenseman Chris Pronger.
Just a week ago, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he was “not overly optimistic” he could make such a trade.
“Teams are looking for lots of future assets. We understand and I understand there’s a price to be paid to try to free up the cap space, but if it’s going to be one of our top young players or a high draft pick I don’t know if it makes a whole lot of sense,” he said. “I’ll continue to work the phones and if we can find a deal that makes sense for a team to acquire his cap space that makes sense for us we’ll do a deal. If not we’ll work the best we can with Pav under contract with (our) cap space.”
According to General Fanager, the Red Wings have $53.943 million dedicated to 34 contracts. This puts them about $19 million under the salary cap with just two major restricted free agents to sign in Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek.
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun said that with this salary cap space, the Red Wings could make a “substantial offer” for Stamkos once he hits the open market on July 1.
Now they've moved it and created important cap room. The Red Wings are believed to have interest in pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos, like many teams do, and are expected to make him a substantial offer July 1 if the Tampa Bay captain hits the market and doesn't re-sign with the Lightning.
This idea was first noted in the Detroit Free Press shortly after Datsyuk announced he would head to the KHL.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie pointed out that the Red Wings used to own unrestricted free agency on July 1. The 26-year-old Stamkos would be considered an upgrade over the aging Datsyuk and give Detroit stability at center for many years to come. In 568 games, Stamkos has scored 312 goals including a 60-goal season in 2011-12.
The unrestricted free agent interview period starts Saturday, which means Stamkos could start to talk to other teams. An official contract cannot be signed until after the start of unrestricted free agency on July 1.
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