Red Wings really wanted Stumpy

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

DETROIT -- Steve Yzerman wanted him.

Mike Babcock wanted him.

Ken Holland wanted him.

The Detroit Red Wings were ready to roll out the welcome mat for a potential return to Hockeytown by Steve Thomas, who received a training-camp invitation early last month. But the veteran winger declined the offer, preferring to keep his sights set on the Maple Leafs.

Weeks later, Holland says there are no hard feelings.

"We would have liked to have done what the Leafs did," the Red Wings general manager said yesterday. "We would have loved to have brought Steve in. I talked with Steve Yzerman about it before training camp and (coach) Mike Babcock had talked to Steve Thomas, too.

"We were disappointed he didn't want to come here but we know he has a house in Toronto."

Holland feels Thomas, who denied reports yesterday that he had signed with Toronto, can be a valuable addition to the Leafs.

"Steve Thomas is a special athlete," he said. "He plays with a big heart, stands up for his teammates, competes hard and goes into the corners. At his age, having a couple of years off, you'd just like to see if he's where he was two years ago.

"He's a coach's dream. He's never going to complain about his role. He's a guy that can play up higher on your lineup chart, but you can also put him on the fourth line because he works so hard. He's a very versatile, valuable player."

Asked if the Wings would consider picking up Thomas if his audition with the Leafs does not work out, Holland paused for several seconds.

"Well, I never say never about anything," he said.


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