Detroit – The changes on the Red Wings roster are beginning.
General manager Ken Holland confirmed Thursday the Red Wings will not re-sign defenseman Kyle Quincey or forward Brad Richards prior to July 1, meaning both players will be unrestricted free agents free to test the market.
Holland will talk with prospective UFA forwards Darren Helm and Drew Miller in the next couple of weeks.
“One of the first orders of business is to see whether the player wants to remain here, or whether he wants to test the market on July 1,” Holland said.
Helm, specifically, could be difficult signing.
At 29, Helm is in the prime of his career and had 13 goals while also being a key penalty killer. He can also be a net-front presence on the power play. Further, Helm remains one of the best checkers on the team, so a player with that type of versatility is rare.
Helm’s salary cap hit was $2.125 million. That will increase substantially on the open market.
But Helm and Holland have a good relationship and Helm has expressed a desire to remain with the Red Wings if there’s a consistent role for him.
Miller, 32, had season-ending knee surgery in January and the Red Wings missed his penalty killing and defensive ability on the fourth line.
There’s a strong possibility the two sides could come to a new contract agreement.
The decisions regarding Quincey and Miller aren’t surprising.
Quincey, 30, likely will find a contract offer on the open market the Red Wings won’t be willing to match.
Plus, the team must make decisions on defensemen Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Nick Jensen, all of whom are out of minor-league options.
Ouellet is penciled to begin the season in the NHL, while a decision must be made on Sproul and Jensen.
“All three played very well in the Calder Cup playoffs,” said Holland, of the three young defensemen’s play for Grand Rapids in the American League playoffs.
The Red Wings also would like to upgrade the defense through trade or free agency, making Quincey – who re-signed with the Red Wings two years ago on a two-year deal worth $8.5 million – expendable.
As for Richards, 36, he had 10 goals and 18 assists in 68 games and had a one goal and a minus-4 rating in the playoffs.
Holland said the organization will begin meetings in mid-June, preparing for the draft and free agency, and making more decisions on personnel.
Holland also said he plans to speak with Pavel Datsyuk regarding Datsyuk’s future in the coming weeks.
“Probably late May or early June; I need a decision from him by mid-June,” said Holland, who expects Datsyuk to spend some time in Russia after the world championship before returning to Detroit.
Datsyuk, 37, is leaning toward staying in Russia and playing there while also being closer to his teen-age daughter.
But with one-year remaining on his NHL contract, the Red Wings would have $7 million of Datsyuk’s salary cap space that they would look to trade.