Wings in spending mood, chase Stamkos

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Steven Stamkos

Buffalo – The chase for Steven Stamkos has begun.

And the Red Wings will be right in it.

The Red Wings put themselves in excellent position to sign the prospective unrestricted free agent Friday when they traded Pavel Datstyuk’s $7.5 million salary cap space to the Arizona Coyotes.

A five-day window for teams to able to begin contacting free agents and their representatives began at midnight Friday. Teams aren’t allowed to talk money, but can gauge interest and try to sell the organization on them.

General manager Ken Holland left no doubt he wants to make an impact in free agency.

“Hopefully spend it,” said Holland, of what he intends to do with the newfound cap space after trading Datsyuk. “For the most part we’re looking at forwards. Pavel Datsyuk is gone. Obviously, we’ll be looking at forwards.”

The Red Wings will hardly be alone in their pursuit of Stamkos, who is 26 and in the prime of his career. Toronto, Buffalo, Boston, the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Montreal and Vancouver are expected to make spirited pitches.

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Most analysts believe the bidding for Stamkos will begin at $10 million per season, with a seven-year term.

Stamkos and Tampa Bay have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract. The Lightning reportedly have offered $8.5 million per year over eight years (the Lightning have the right to offer one more year than other teams).

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hasn’t ruled out signing Stamkos, who just completed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with Tampa Bay.

“I have no control over what other teams do,” Yzerman said. “It’s all part of the business, we all have decisions to make. (Players) have the right to make their own decisions and I don’t judge anybody on that.”

Holland will have other options if things don’t work out with Stamkos, who has 562 points (312 goals) in 569 NHL regular-season games.

Forwards Kyle Okposo (N.Y. Islanders), Milan Lucic (Los Angeles) and Troy Brouwer and David Backes (St. Louis) are players who will interest the Red Wings.

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