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Wings will face plenty of competition for Stamkos

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings want to add Steven Stamkos to their team, if he’s available Friday on the open free-agency market.

But so do many other teams.

The Red Wings have been generally considered the favorites to land Stamkos, especially after trading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract Friday to the Arizona Coyotes at the Entry Draft.

“Hopefully spend it,” said general manager Ken Holland, as to what he plans to do with Datsyuk’s freed cap space. “For the most part, we’re looking at forwards. Pavel Datsyuk is gone, so we’ll be looking at forwards.

“Obviously we have the flexibility now to do what we want to do. We’ll see.”

The Red Wings went to the front of the line of favorites to get Stamkos after dumping the Datsyuk contract.

Unloading Datsyuk’s $7.5 million salary cap space gives the Red Wings approximately $19 million of cap space — though restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek need to be re-signed, as do UFAs Darren Helm and Drew Miller, whom the Red Wings want to keep.

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But they’ll go after Stamkos, knowing the competition to sign him will be difficult.

Stamkos’ hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, and nearby Buffalo Sabres (only 90 minutes from Toronto) are expected to be extremely aggressive in attempting to bring Stamkos back home.

“I assume on a player like that, the teams that have cap space that can fit him in will all be involved in this,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said Saturday at the Entry Draft. “It’s going to be a stiff competition, I’m sure. You’ve got to show them your blueprint. He’s certainly going to look at your roster, I’m sure.

“There’s going to be a lot of equals as far as money. There won’t be a lot of equals as far as geography. The one thing that can put a team over the top is teammates, who he gets to play with and who he doesn’t get to play with.”

Not be forgotten, Vancouver, Montreal, the New York Islanders and Boston are also expected to make a hard sell for Stamkos, with the New York Rangers doing so if they can be clear cap space.

And then, there’s Stamkos current team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman maintained a professional and measured tone throughout the weekend in Buffalo, insisting he wants to re-sign Stamkos.

“I haven’t ruled out anything just yet,” Yzerman told reporters in Buffalo during the Entry Draft. “The process hasn’t changed.”

But the Lightning’s chances of keeping Stamkos appear slim.

Tampa’s best offer reportedly is in the $8.5 million per-season range for eight years (the Lightning are the only team allowed under the CBA to offer eight years).

The Lightning have a long list of potential free agents coming up, and re-signing Stamkos will hamper their ability to keep most of their present roster.

Buffalo and Toronto both are expected to offer as much as $12 million per season to get Stamkos.

“We’re going to chase the big fish,” Murray said.

Buffalo and Toronto both have exciting, young rosters that might trump what the Red Wings have.

Both teams have stockpiled draft picks in recent years and might be a year or two from big payoffs.

Drafting first overall Friday, the Maple Leafs picked center Auston Matthews, strengthening their stable of young players.

If, or when, Stamkos becomes an unrestricted free agent this week, it’ll ignite one of the biggest spending sprees in recent years.

Stamkos, only 26, is the largest name to hit the free-agent market in some time, a one-time 60-goal scorer and four-time 40-goal scorer.

STEVEN STAMKOS 

Position: Center

Age: 26; born Feb. 7, 1990 in Markham, Ontario

Shoots: Right

Height / weight: 6-1 / 195

Drafted: First overall pick by Lightning in 2008

REGULAR SEASON

Games: 569

Goals: 312

Assists: 250

Shooting percentage: 17.2

PLAYOFFS

Games: 49

Goals: 15

Assists: 20

Shooting percentage: 11.8