Red Wings recalibrate as Stamkos sticks with Lightning

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s off to Plan B or C for the Red Wings.

The organization will have to alter their plans for the start of Friday’s free agency after Steven Stamkos decided Wednesday to remain with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Stamkos, 26, agreed to an 8-year contract worth $68 million ($8.5 per season average), a move Stamkos confirmed on his Twitter, adding “Excited to be back for 8 more years. Here we go”.

Stamkos could have been, arguably, the most prized free agent in the salary cap era, but decided to stay in Tampa Bay with what looks like a hometown discount.

The Lightning were the only team that could offer him an eighth season and with no state tax in Florida, the total amount compared favorably to what Detroit, Toronto and Buffalo were expected to offer (approximately $10-$12 million per season).

Ted Kulfan's top 10 NHL free agents

General manager Ken Holland created ample salary cap space last weekend when he traded Pavel Datsyuk’s contract — which had one year left for a $7.5 million salary cap space —  to the Arizona Coyotes in what appeared to be a shrewd move.

The Red Wings have approximately $19 million of cap space (restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek need to be re-signed) heading into Friday and were expecting to use a large portion of it on Stamkos.

But, now, that won’t be possible or necessary.

What appealed to Stamkos regarding Tampa Bay, other than the finances?

* The Lightning made the Stanley Cup Finals and Eastern Conference Finals the past two seasons and will have a roster for the foreseeable future that will contend (though they will face difficult salary cap decisions regarding personnel soon).

* Stamkos is comfortable in Tampa, has the respect of the organization, and has said there’s a case of “unfinished business” after the team has been so close the past two seasons to a Stanley Cup.

This is a crushing blow for the Red Wings (and Toronto and Buffalo, two other teams to be heavily involved in the Stamkos sweepstakes).

In Stamkos, the Red Wings envisioned a player who could provide instant offense (four times has scored over 40 goals, once over 60), provide a big-name star as the Red Wings move into the new Little Caesars Arena in 2017, and be a future captain once Henrik Zetterberg retires.

Now, it’s off to alternative measures.

But even a possible second option Friday for Holland could be out of the equation.

Krupa: Wings left with slim pickings minus Stamkos

Milan Lucic, a power forward who could bring a physical presence the Red Wings don’t have, is reportedly close to signing a free agent contract Friday with Edmonton.

The Oilers traded winger Taylor Hall Wednesday to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson. The expectation of many analysts is the trade was completed with the expectation Lucic would replace Hall in the Oilers lineup.

So, who’s left after Stamkos and Lucic?

Forwards Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen (New York Islanders), Loui Eriksson (Boston), Eric Staal (New York Rangers), Andrew Ladd (Chicago), David Backes and Troy Brouwer (St. Louis) and Mikkel Boedker (Colorado) are players that will suddenly become very, very rich Friday, given the lack of proven, big-name offensive players available.

Players such as Backes, Brouwer, Staal, Eriksson and Nielsen are older, and would be somewhat risky on longer-term contracts.

Okposo and Boedker are somewhat unproven and would be a gamble to throw so much money at.

There will be options, and players who could help, given it could be on shorter-term contracts.

But, with no Stamkos available, the plan has been altered substantially.

Twitter: @tkulfan

With the news of Steven Stamkos re-signing with Tampa Bay, who will the Red Wings target next?

Here are five possible free agents the Red Wings will have interest in.

Milan Lucic, Los Angeles

Age on July 1: 28

Position: Left wing

Stats: 81 games, 20 goals, 35 assists

2015-16 cap hit: $6 million

Pro: Big, physical, nasty presence that would provide edge to the Red Wings lineup.

Con: Reports indicate he’s agreed to a deal with Edmonton.

Loui Eriksson, Boston

Age on July 1: 30

Position: Right wing

Stats: 82 games, 30 goals, 33 assists

2015-16 cap hit: $4.25 million

Pro: Consistent, proven goal scorer who would fit into the Red Wings’ system.

Con: There will be a lot of competition for his services, and isn’t considered a game-breaking sort of player.

Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders

Age on July 1: 28

Position: Right wing

Stats: 79 games, 22 goals, 42 assists

2015-16 cap hit: $2.8 million

Pro: Has shown the ability to score goals, plays an underrated all-around game, and is entering his prime.

Con: His financial demands could go sky-high with Stamkos off the market, and some scouts believe playing with John Tavares made Okposo.

Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders

Age on July 1: 32

Position: Center

Stats: 81 games, 20 goals, 32 assists

2015-16 cap hit: $2.75 million

Pro: Good, steady player who would slide neatly into a second-line role.

Con: Will likely get way overpaid and may not be much of an upgrade over what the Red Wings already have.

Troy Brouwer, St. Louis

Age on July 1: 30

Position: Right wing

Stats: 82 games, 18 goals, 21 assists

2015-16 cap hit: $3.6 million

Pro: Gritty player who would provide size and veteran leadership on a young team.

Con: Will be seeking a long-term deal after a strong playoffs, but that will scare many teams.