190-hossa080223

Atlanta Thrashers' winger Marian Hossa will become a free agent on July 1. ((John Amis/Canadian Press))

Injured forward Dan Cleary would love to return to the NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings in five weeks and skate up and down the wing alongside Marian Hossa.

For that to happen, general manager Ken Holland would have to blow away his Atlanta Thrashers counterpart, Don Waddell, with a trade offer prior to the NHL's deadline at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Cleary, currently sidelined with a broken jaw, was a teammate of Hossa during the NHL lockout in 2004-05, with Mora of the Swedish Elite League.

"Any team that gets this guy … he's a real good person, a great team guy," Cleary told CBCSports.ca reporter Doug Harrison on Monday. "He's the most explosive player I've ever seen. Straight-away speed, no one touches him."

While adding Hossa would allow Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to split up the dynamic duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Cleary believes it's wishful thinking.

Detroit reportedly is among a growing list of teams interested in Hossa, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, San Jose, Dallas, Anaheim, Vancouver and the New York Rangers are also said to be in the mix.

"If there's a deal there that makes sense," Waddell told reporters on the weekend, "we'll do that. If the best deal for us is to do no deal, then we'll just keep Marian and finish off the season and go from there."

Hossa, who does not have a no-trade clause, is earning $7 million US this season. He is second in Thrashers scoring with 26 goals and 56 points in 60 games.

The Detroit News has reported that Holland would pull the trigger if the right deal comes around.

"If it fits what we're trying to do short term and the long term, we're prepared to pay a price," Holland told the News.

Cleary broke jaw Feb. 9 in Toronto

Holland is believed to be seeking a top-six forward and veteran defenceman, something Cleary endorsed whole-heartedly.

"I think depth on the blue-line is huge," said Cleary. "Last year we lost our No. 2 and No. 3 defencemen. We lost Niklas Kronwall before the playoffs [to a fractured sacrum]. We lose Mathieu Schneider [to a broken wrist] in the San Jose series.

"It really puts a burden on the other defencemen to pick up the slack. I think we've got good depth [up front] but who knows? Maybe we can add another forward who brings experience and maybe some offence."

Cleary was providing just that before taking a slapshot off the jaw Feb. 9 in Toronto. He underwent surgery the next day, with three plates and "15 or 16" screws used to repair a jaw fractured in three places.

Prior to the injury, Cleary had matched career highs (20) and points (40) in 57 games.

After having his jaw wired shut for two weeks, Cleary is off a liquid-only diet but will be forced to eat soft foods — "oatmeal and maybe scrambled eggs and soft fish" — for the next four weeks.

"It's the worst thing I've ever been through," he said. "In bed all the time on pain killers is just horrible.

"But I'll be back. My goal is to play the last two or three regular-season games."