Trade gives Red Wings 'flexibility' to make free agent moves

(Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. – With one draft day trade, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland acknowledged he gave his team the ability to make a splash in free agency.

In the middle of the first-round the Red Wings traded Pavel Datsyuk’s dead $7.5 million salary cap weight as part of a package to the Arizona Coyotes. 

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

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The Red Wings may have become the team to watch in the next few days as the unrestricted free agent interview period starts Saturday. Teams cannot sign players until July 1.

“Obviously we’re going into free agency, we got a goalie, I don’t think there’s a defenseman out there – we have six NHL defensemen so I would assume we’re going to explore the forward market,” Holland said. “Obviously we have the flexibility now to do what we want to do.”

After Datsyuk decided to return to the KHL for family reasons, the Detroit Free Press said Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos could be an option for the Red Wings if the team could move Datsyuk’s salary cap hit. If the Red Wings want to make a move for Stamkos, they now certainly have the ability to do so with their salary cap structure.

Holland said he had some options to give himself some salary cap breathing room, but this trade gave him the most freedom to re-arm his organization.


“I knew on July 1 I could move the space if I needed to move the space but the price was going to be relatively high but I was prepared to pay a higher price if we got the things we wanted on July 1 whatever they might be,” Holland said. “Now we’re freed up to do what we want.”

The Red Wings used to make big splashes in unrestricted free agency. In that period they’ve brought in big names like Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull, and Marian Hossa. But since the Wings brought in Hossa for his one-year run with the team in 2008-09 the team hasn’t had near the same success with the marquee names. They made a run at Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2012, but lost out to the Minnesota Wild.

If the Red Wings can’t make move with the salary cap space, it means they’ll go into next season without Datsyuk who led the team in points per-game last season and has been arguably the team’s best forward since the 2004-05 lockout. This would be tough for Holland and the organization. 

But this is the first time in a while they may have the best chance to land the prime name and they wouldn’t be in this position if not for Friday’s trade.


“We’re thrilled we have Pav moved,” Holland said. “We have $7.5 million of space and tomorrow the interview period starts so we’ll try to reach out to some people.”


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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!