Gustav Nyquist, 24, celebrates a goal. 'We've worked hard to try to build up our pool of young players,' general manager Ken Holland said. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — The shift has been gradual but undeniable when you look around and see franchise players signed to long-term contracts.
In recent years, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles), to name a few, have signed long-term deals with teams that drafted them.
Some teams prefer the process of drafting a younger player, molding and knowing him and keeping him long-term rather than someone unknown at a steeper price.
And, for the most part, players prefer to stay in one city whenever possible.
That heightens the importance of this year’s NHL draft, which begins Friday in Philadelphia.
“When a player hits free agency, there’s 10 or 12 or 15 teams bidding for these players now,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Sometimes it’s not about money. There’s so many different things involved in these decisions now (families, cities, taxes).
“That’s what the (salary) cap is about. You have to have young players because they’re cheap. Everybody can’t be high-priced.”
The Red Wings pick 15th in the first round but don’t have a second-round pick, having traded it to the Predators for David Legwand.
The Red Wings also pick 76th (third round), 106th (fourth), 136th (fifth), 166th (sixth), 196th and 201st (seventh).
Having acquired prospects such as forwards Anthony Mantha, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, and defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet, the Red Wings have considerable depth to play with.
But it’s unlikely they will offer up any of those players.
“We’ve worked hard to try to build up our pool of young players,” Holland said.
“Our scouts have done a great job of selecting and (Grand Rapids coach) Jeff Blashill has done a great job in developing our young players.
“We do have a lot of young kids. We feel that we’ve got a pretty good nucleus to be competitive.”
Contact period open
Teams began contacting unrestricted free agents Wednesday, and can continue through Monday.
Holland likes this contact period to “kind of sell them on our program.”
Free agents can sign Tuesday.
Three players the Red Wings — and others — contacted were Dan Boyle, a top-four defenseman who could run the power play, and defensemen Matt Niskanen and Anton Stralman.
When: 7 p.m. Friday (first-round), 9 a.m. Saturday (rounds two-seven)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Red WIngs picks: 15, 76, 106, 136, 166, 196 and 201
Top players to watch
Aaron Ekblad, D: Likely the No. 1 pick by Florida; scouts insist Ekblad is the most NHL ready.
Sam Bennett, C: Needs to build his strength, but is a prolific offensive player.
Sam Reinhart, C: Has great vision and creates, though he’s not the fastest player.
Leon Draisaitl, C: Has good size (6-foot-1, 208 pounds) and does a nice job of holding the puck.
Michael Dal Colle, LW: Versatile player who can score goals.
a-Alex Tuch, F: He has the size (6-3, 225) and offensive ability scouts love.
b-Dylan Larkin, C: Headed to Michigan, likely first-round pick for potential.
c-Matt Mistele, F: Probable second-round selection.
d-Ryan Collins, D: Headed to Michigan, needs to gain strength.
c-Alex Peters, D: Another blue liner with size (6-4, 207).
a-Ann Arbor-based U.S. National Development Team; b-Waterford; c-Plymouth Whalers; d-Rochester Hills