According to a team source, the Red Wings — at least for now — are no longer in the running for unrestricted free-agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
The source says that Ehrhoff has interest in Detroit, but he’s seeking a five-year deal while the Wings are willing to go only three years.
If Ehrhoff can’t secure a five-year contract, the source says that the Wings are more than willing to reopen negotiations with the 31-year-old power-play specialist.
The Wings will now aggressively pursue Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle, according to the source, who also said that the team believes the rest of the free-agent crop of defensemen doesn’t upgrade from what they already have.
Niskanen appears to be the Wings’ top target, and the source indicated that they’re prepared to sign him for seven years and will even overpay him if that’s what it takes to get the 27-year-old Minnesota native to commit to Detroit.
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.
Boyle apparently isn’t far behind Niskanen on the Wings’ wish list. The source says that the Wings would like to nail him down to a two-year deal for up to $11 million.
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 Wings seem to have some interest in a few free-agent forwards, but their main focus obviously is to upgrade on defense. The team source is convinced that they’re two good defensemen away from being an exceptional team.
The free-agency period all begins Tuesday at noon, and Wings GM Ken Holland feels that there could be a flurry of early signings.
"We’re making some calls today (Monday)," he said. "It’s been a busy day talking to lots of agents. I anticipate things will happen fast tomorrow, after the interview period (which is ongoing).
"I talked to four to five players personally, with Kris Draper and Mike Babcock, talked to a number of agents. You’re telling them about your program. At the end of the day, the agent gives you a feel of what’s out there.
"There should be lots of activity the first four to five hours."
Activity that Holland hopes includes the Red Wings.