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For Red Wings GM Ken Holland, free agency should be quick and simple

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2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

With the NHL’s free agency period on the horizon, rumors are swirling around the Red Wings organization as to what general manager Ken Holland will do. Reports indicate that he’s going to try and address the defense with a veteran blue-liner.

The reactions from fans have been all but accepting. Ken Holland has continued to plug holes in a sinking ship for what seems like ages. Now that the Red Wings have been removed from their historic playoff streak, the organization is about to get a violent shove into reality. That reality — free agency is not a viable source to build your team. Free agency should be used for complimentary players. Rarely do superstars test free agency in this league, as we learned the hard way with the Steven Stamkos “sweepstakes” a year ago.

Thankfully, the Red Wings salary cap conundrum will hogtie their ability to further sink what’s already sunk. But that isn’t stopping the front office from making moves to alleviate their cap situation.

If we allocate about $8 million to re-sign Tomas Tatar, Xavier Ouellet, and Andreas Athanasiou, we’re left with $3.5 million in space — after Johan Franzen’s salary is buried by LTIR.

Go cheap, go effective

If I was Holland, I would simply try to acquire one or two veteran players on affordable one-year deals — essentially what they did with Thomas Vanek. These players can be utilized as useful depth and then traded at the NHL’s trade deadline if the team is in a position to do so. It’s really not rocket science. On the flip-side of things, the Wings could try to acquire younger free agents, like Brandon Pirri or Sam Gagner, and see how they fare with the team’s evolving core of young talent. Worst comes to worst, you trade them off, too.

Another interesting case is Mikhail Grigorenko. After Colorado cut ties with him, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Grigorenko is 23, and still has yet to hit his ceiling. He’s offensively creative, and could very well be a piece the Wings could use for seasons to come. It’s unclear what kind of demand he’ll get, but I can guarantee you he’s not going to be an expensive acquisition.

But I digress, that’s if *I* was Holland.

Warming up to a veteran defender

Reports indicate that the Red Wings are heavily pursuing veteran defenseman Trevor Daley. I’ve warmed up to the idea of bringing him here as a stopgap on the team’s evolving(?) blue line. We have no understanding as to what Daley is asking or demanding in contract terms, but I think that a two-year deal would be palatable as we begin to find out what we have in youngsters like Filip Hronek, Vili Saarijarvi, Joe Hicketts, and the umpteen other defensemen they’ve drafted over the last couple of years. I believe Daley could be a useful option as a 2nd-pair guy:

Obviously you’d like to see Daleys shot suppression improve, but he’d bring a bit of offense to an already anemic corps of defensemen. I’d say he could be a great option to have alongside a guy like Nick Jensen, who has proven to be a very active-skating defender.

Again, we don’t know what Daley is asking for in free agency, but I think the Red Wings would be fine to bring him aboard, so long as the term doesn’t add another contractual anchor to the organization’s depth chart.

As the headline of this article suggests, this Saturday should be quick and simple for the Red Wings. Sign a veteran defenseman as a stopgap if you must, and if you’re trying to bring on a forward, stick with the younger players, like Pirri or Grigorenko, who will come at a fair price. Players like Vanek seem enticing, but they’ll want big contract terms. That, is something the Red Wings simply cannot afford to dabble with any longer.