Crucial summer for Red Wings prospects

Updated: July 16, 2012, 4:01 PM ET
By Craig Custance

They missed out on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, and they're on Rick Nash's list of potential destinations, according to the Columbus Dispatch. But the Detroit Red Wings aren't overly eager to pay Scott Howson's asking price. It's a price that's probably higher for a division rival since the last thing the Columbus Blue Jackets want is to have their former captain terrorizing them for the next decade within the division.

When Red Wings GM Ken Holland met with local media last week, it came with warnings that the big addition fans hoped for this summer might not materialize immediately. In today's NHL, where teams are more likely to extend the contracts of their star players rather than trade them, it makes attracting elite talent in free agency all the more challenging.

It also makes talent development absolutely crucial.

"You have no choice in the new era of the NHL," said Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill when we chatted Monday morning. "We saw it this summer. We're all locking our guys up from four- to 10-year contracts. [There aren't] a lot of free agents on the market."

That combination makes this summer and the coming season the most important in recent memory for Red Wings prospects. The last time the organization lost key players to retirement, they replaced them with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Chances are, that's not happening in the wake of Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement.

"It's more quantity," Nill said of Detroit's pool of prospects. "You have to have a wave of players coming in."