On the eve of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings have set up talks with the agents of soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle on Thursday in Philadelphia, according to Red Wings GM Ken Holland.
Niskanen and Boyle are both right-handed shooting defensemen who could fill the Wings’ top priority this offseason.
The Wings think so highly of Niskanen that a source close to the team says they’re willing to offer him a seven-year deal if that’s what it takes to sign the 27-year-old Minnesota native.
The 6-foot, 209-pound Niskanen had a breakout season last year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 81 games, he had 10 goals, 36 assists and was a plus-33. Six of his goals were game-winners.
By all accounts, Niskanen, who has a lethal shot from the point, is one of the most attractive UFA on the market, and there will be a bidding war for his services among many teams.
The Wings usually stay out of bidding wars, but Niskanen’s age, untapped potential and right-handed shot are just too appealing for them to pass up.
If Niskanen proves to be too rich for the Wings’ liking, they would likely turn to the 15-year veteran Boyle.
Boyle, 37, is a mobile and creative defenseman who can run the power play and is reliable in his own end. He has always put up numbers from the back end, but his lack of size (5-11, 190 pounds) causes problems for him in front of his own net.
In 75 games with the Sharks last season, Boyle had 12 goals, 24 assists and was a minus-8. The offensive defenseman is seeking a two-year deal, which is extremely enticing to the Wings and to many other NHL teams.
The Wings, according team sources, have also contacted the agents for some other UFA right-handed shooting defensemen — Anton Stralman, Derek Morris, Tom Gilbert, just to name a few — but they haven’t set up any face-to-face meetings.
As far as trades go, team sources say that the Wings are unwilling to part with any of their young forwards — Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco or Riley Sheahan — unless they get a proven goal-scorer in return.
At this point, it appears that if the Wings make a major splash, it will be through free agency, not by trade.
Team sources also say that it’s unlikely Kyle Quincey will return. Quincey reportedly will receive interest from several teams once he becomes a free agent and could be out of the Wings’ price range.
The team also confirmed that backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson signed his new deal on Wednesday, receiving a slight raise. Gustavsson will make $1.85 million this season. In his first two seasons with the Wings, he made $1.5 million a year.