Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland had a bad day Tuesday, when he was snubbed by the unrestricted free agents he coveted most — among others, Matt Niskanen (who landed in Washington) and Dan Boyle (who signed with the New York Rangers).
But Holland understands the competition for free agents is fierce under the salary cap and he won’t always land his man.
"Our hope was to acquire a right-shot defenseman," Holland said. "We made offers to four or five. For a variety of reasons, they chose to go elsewhere. That’s the reality of the cap world.
"There are a lot of reasons why players go in different directions."
When asked if he was disappointed that the Wings were shut out in the open market, Holland replied, "No, not in the least. You’re talking about four to five players, and there’s 30 teams. It’s free agency. It’s wide open.
"Other teams are after these players, too. Last year, we got the guys we wanted (forwards Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson). This year, we didn’t."
Holland is well aware of the speculation that Detroit is no longer a destination for free agents, but doesn’t buy it. He believes that in a salary-cap world, every team is a potential destination because the money is the same.
The days of the six or seven big-money teams are over. Unlike in the pre-cap days, the Wings are now just one of 30 teams competing for top-end talent.
"The game has changed, players can go wherever they want," Holland said. "We all have the same money. We made some pitches. Those players chose to go elsewhere.
"I don’t know the reasons we weren’t able to get the players we targeted."
The Red Wings eventually did re-sign defenseman Kyle Quincey on Tuesday, but they’re also looking at trade possibilities or adding a veteran free-agent defenseman on a short-term deal.
Holland said that he’s spoken to several GMs and will continue to talk trade, but the Wings are reluctant to deal any of their young assets.
"There’s still lots of players out there that could be good one-year bargains," he said. "We’ll keep kicking tires."
Holland also scoffed at the notion that free agents won’t come to Detroit because they don’t want to play for head coach Mike Babcock.
"I think we got a fabulous coach," Holland said. "Steve Yzerman has picked him for two Olympic teams, and the results speak for themselves."
Despite not signing any of the players on their wish list, Holland was more matter-of-fact than anything else.
"All I can say is, we targeted right-handed shot defensemen," he said. "There were a few on the market. We didn’t land one."