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Detroit — They likely would have done it in a year.

Knowing they'll be under a salary cap crunch next summer, and with plenty of young players looking for an opportunity, the Red Wings bought out the remaining three years of Stephen Weiss' contract Tuesday.

The decision, one day before the start of unrestricted free agency, gives the Red Wings some wiggle room financially.

"After a lot of deliberation, we decided we're going to go with young players," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "We decided if he (Weiss) wasn't part of the long-term solution, let's make this move now."

Weiss, 32, signed a five-year contract worth $24.5 million July 1, 2013, but never got going offensively, rarely was healthy, and last season was in and out of former coach Mike Babcock's lineup.

He played 52 games and finished with 25 points (nine goals) and a minus-2 rating in 11 minutes 20 seconds ice time. In two seasons with the Red Wings, Weiss had 29 points (11 goals) in 78 games.

Weiss' first season was derailed by sports hernia surgery, and it took into early this season for him to get healthy. He mainly played on the fourth line.

The Red Wings salary cap hit the next six years for Weiss is $1.066 million in each of the next two seasons, $2.56 million in 2017-18 and $1.67 million in the final three years.

Without Weiss, Teemu Pulkkinen, who is out of minor league options, and young players such as Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha will have a chance to make the roster.

The move also helps for next year's cap crunch.

Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm are unrestricted free agents, and Danny DeKeyser, Petr Mrazek and Riley Sheahan are restricted free agents.

"(The buyout) creates some space for us," Holland said.

The Red Wings have approximately $56 million committed to 18 players, with restricted free agents Tomas Jurco, Landon Ferraro, Gustav Nyquist and Pulkkinen unsigned.

But with the cap at $71.4 million, the buyout also gives Holland some room on the market.

"I have a short list of players we could have some interest in," he said. "We also have some room now in case we want to pursue someone in terms of a trade.

"If nothing works out, I'm prepared to go with the roster we have."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

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