Wings fight parity during free agency

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Milan Lucic

Detroit — About 15 years ago, free agency revolved between 6-8 teams.

With no salary cap, teams like the Red Wings, Stars, Avalanche, Rangers and Flyers spent non-stop in an effort to win a Stanley Cup — and faced little competition.

But since the 2004-05 lockout — and the advent of the salary cap — parity has been the winner in free agency.

And on Friday, teams like the Red Wings and Stars and Avalanche will have be plenty of competition for the services of players such as Steven Stamkos, Milan Lucic and Kyle Okposo.

“There are 30 teams all trying to win,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “It’s a competitive business. With the salary cap, everyone has a chance. Those days (pre-salary cap) are over.

“There are about 25 teams who believe they a chance to make the playoffs.”

But the Red Wings, with some $19 million — restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek still need to sign, along with unrestricted free agent Darren Helm — will take their best shot at the best players.

“We want to make to our team deeper, bigger, better,” Holland said. “We want to get better.”

In need of replacing Pavel Datsyuk, who returned to Russia t be near his daughter, the Red Wings are setting their sights on Stamkos.

And after trading Datsyuk’s $7.5 million contract last week, there seem to be no limitations for Holland.

Stamkos, who has yet to re-sign with Tampa Bay, is 26 years old and hasn’t reached the prime of his career in the eyes of many analysts — and he’s already one of the most prolific goal scorers in the game.

He has surpassed 60 goals once, and 40 goals four times, and is universally acknowledged as one of the few remaining pure goal scorers in the NHL.

But the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Sabres, Canadiens, Bruins, and Canucks — and possibly the Rangers and Flyers — are planning to make an aggressive run at Stamkos, who could return home to Toronto.

Then there’s Lucic, a physical presence (6-foot-3, 233 pounds) who plays with an edge that would be fill a huge hole fof the Red Wings.

Lucic, though, appears interested in returning home to Vancouver or reuniting with general manager Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton.

Skilled players such as Kyle Okposo and Loui Eriksson, grinder Matt Martin, or rugged forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer all are on the Red Wings radar as well — just in case Stamkos goes elsewhere.

But there will be a lot of competition — for everyone.

“Parity,” Holland said.