June 30, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Red Wings looking to bolster defense as free agency begins

Matt Niskanen, 27, just completed a career-best season with the Penguins and could be a target of the Red Wings in free agency. (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

Detroit — All the preparation and meetings are over.

At noon today, unrestricted free agency in the NHL begins.

And the Red Wings expect to be in the thick of the player movement.

“We’ll explore everything that’s out there,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ll see if there’s a fit. It has to make sense for both sides.”

Holland is looking to bolster his defense, primarily finding a right-hand shot to add to the current all-lefty corps.

Among the targets:

■Dan Boyle, who will be 38 on July 12, had 26 points (12 goals) in 75 games for the Sharks last season. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Boyle is expected to get a lot of attention.

■Matt Niskanen, 27, completed a career-best season with the Penguins. He finished with 46 points (10 goals) in 81 games, posting a plus-33 rating. Niskanen (6-0, 200) is likely to garner a seven-year contract worth nearly $7 million per season — or more.

■Christian Ehrhoff, who will be 32 on Sunday, was bought out by the Sabres last weekend.

The left-hander finished with 33 points (six goals) and a minus-27 in 79 games last season. Ehrhoff (6-2, 196) is a plus skater, power-play quarterback and passer.

Holland and coach Mike Babcock have been able to contact potential free agents and their representatives since last Wednesday. The hope was they could sell the organization with no urgency or deadlines staring at both sides.

“It’s an opportunity for players not to make a decision in 20 minutes with two or three teams offering long-term contracts and deciding what he wants to do,” said Holland, who has between $8 million and $10 million to work with.

Setting rights

The Red Wings made necessary qualifying offers Monday for seven restricted free agents: forwards Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and Andrej Nestrasil, and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Adam Almquist.

With the moves, the players were qualified, meaning the team retains their rights.

For example, Almquist, who didn’t want to play another season in the minors, signed a two-year deal with Severestal in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League. By qualifying him, the Red Wings retain his rights should he return to play in North America.

Those not qualified were: forwards Cory Emmerton, Willie Coetzee and Trevor Parkes, and defensemen Gleason Fournier and Max Nicastro.

Emmerton, who spent most of last season in Grand Rapids, also has signed to play in the KHL next season (Sochi).

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