DETROIT (AP) — Mike Babcock can start testing the open market.
The Detroit Red Wings have granted a request from the highly respected coach for permission to speak with other teams. Babcock’s contract is expiring this offseason, and his status is the main question facing the Red Wings as they try to figure out their plans for the future.
“He would like to explore the market,” general manager Ken Holland said. “I feel that this is the way to treat Mike with the respect that he’s earned.”
After the Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs, Holland said although the team had exclusive negotiating rights with Babcock until the end of June, it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest for the process to linger that long. He echoed that sentiment Friday.
“I’d like to know in the next couple of weeks,” Holland said.
Now Babcock can get a better sense of what his options are.
Babcock has coached Detroit for 10 seasons, guiding the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and another finals appearance the following year. But this season was Detroit’s third first-round exit in the last four years.
Toronto, Philadelphia, Buffalo and San Jose are all without coaches at the moment. Edmonton, which owns the No. 1 pick in the next draft, could also be an option if the Oilers decide to move on from interim coach Todd Nelson.
A person familiar with the Sabres’ coaching search told The Associated Press that the team is interested in talking to Babcock now that he is being made available for interviews. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres are not commenting during their search to replace Ted Nolan, who was fired last month.
The person didn’t have a timeline on when the Sabres might make a formal request to the Red Wings, but noted that a meeting could occur at the world hockey championships currently taking place in the Czech Republic.
Babcock has ties to Sabres general manager Tim Murray going back to Anaheim in 2002. Babcock coached the Ducks from 2002-04, when Murray served as the team’s player personnel director.
Other Sabres candidates include former Sharks coach Todd McLellan and former NHL defenseman Luke Richardson, who has spent the past three years coaching the Binghamton affiliate in the Ottawa Senators’ system.
Holland said teams can talk to Babcock now, but a compensation clause would net the Red Wings a third-round draft pick at some point over the next three seasons if the coach is hired by someone else.
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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