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Wings trade Datsyuk, draft defenseman Cholowski

June 25, 2016 GMT

Buffalo –The Red Wings were able to unload Pavel Datsyuk’s contract Friday at the NHL Entry Draft.

The Wings traded the $7.5 million of salary cap space, along with the No. 16 pick in the first-round, to the Arizona Coyotes.

In return, the Red Wings received forward Joe Vitale, the Coyotes’ first-round pick (20th overall – which the Red Wings turned into defenseman Dennis Cholowski - and the Coyotes second-round pick 53rd overall.

With the first-round pick, the Coyotes selected defenseman Jakob Chychrun, a highly-touted player who was ranked as one of the top two or three defensemen in the draft.

But for the Red Wings, the opportunity to free up the cap space, and yet remain in the first-round was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

The Red Wings were searching desperately to unload the cap room from Datsyuk’s contract to make a run at unrestricted free agents next week – notably Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning and Stamkos do not appear to be getting any closer, with Stamkos likely to test the free agent market July 1.

Stamkos and other prospective free agents are able to begin talking to interested teams Saturday.

In acquiring Vitale, the Red Wings picked up a depth center who has played in 234 games in the NHL with 11 goals and 33 assists.

Cholowski is a 6-foot-1, 165-pound offensive defenseman who had 12 goals and 28 assists (40 points) in 56 games with Chilliwick.

Most scouting services view Cholowski as an exceptional skater but still working on his defensive development.

Some mock drafts had Cholowski slipping because of the level of competition – the British Columb ua junior league is a level below the three major junior Canadian leagues.

Holland appeared to do quite well in the Datsyuk trade, but his work isn’t quite done.

Holland is also exploring the possibility of trading goaltender Jimmy Howard – but that task is beginning to look more grim by the day.

One team, maybe the only team, truly searching for a starting goalie – Calgary – traded for St .Louis goaltender Brian Elliott Friday in exchange for a 2016 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2018 second-round pick.

It appears Howard will start the season on the Red Wings roster backing up Petr Mrazek (a restricted free agent).

Saturday, teams can begin contacting prospective unrestricted free agents and Holland is expected to make phone calls.

First and foremost is Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos, who appears to be leaving the Lightning.

The Entry Draft concludes Saturday with rounds 2 through 7 in what Tyler Wright, the Red Wings director of amateur scouting, believes is one of the deeper drafts in recent years.

“There will be players, there always are, who’ll be picked in the fourth, fifth, sixth rounds in this draft and go on to have successful careers,” Wright said. “We have to find those players. That’s the challenge that’s been put on us.

“Having good, young players on your roster, finding and drafting players, it’s extremely important in this (salary) cap world. At the end of the day, you need that flow of talent in your organization.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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