Red Wings should go big in free agency

Gustav Nyquist is the cream of a bountiful crop of young talent for the Red Wings. Dave Reginek/NHLI/Getty Images

Their kids got them in, but they couldn’t get them out of the first round. Injuries, inexperience and running into the best team in the Eastern Conference means the Detroit Red Wings end their season in the first round for the second time in three years.

It’s hard to call it a disappointment, though, considering franchise players Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk weren’t healthy in the playoffs. This was a transition season in Detroit, which gives them hope for the future. Despite the playoff disappointment, guys such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco give Detroit a lot to build on for next season, especially if its stars return healthy.

With all the money coming off the books, general manager Ken Holland will have room to maneuver this summer, which makes Detroit a player in free agency. Here are some early summer priorities for Holland and his team:

1. Add an impact defenseman

The Red Wings have a lot of money coming off the books this summer, with unrestricted free agents David Legwand, Daniel Alfredsson, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Kyle Quincey, Jonas Gustavsson and Danny Cleary all playing on expiring contracts. That’s a good $20 million in additional cap space Holland gets to work with, plus the salary cap is going up to something in the $70 million range.

Detroit isn’t the automatic destination it was in the past, but considering the young talent and one of the most respected coaches in the game in Mike Babcock, Holland should target one of the best defensemen available.