The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/22/12 at 05:38 PM ET
Updated 2x with some free agency scuttlebutt at 4:40 PM: Red Wings GM Ken Holland used the same terminology regarding the team’s take on Tomas Holmstrom’s future while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and MLive’s Ansar Khan—saying that #96’s future basically isn’t totally up to Holmstrom himself—and in light of that reality, the Free Press’s Helene St. James wonders aloud whether the Wings will ultimately bring back a player who is, in his coach and GM’s eyes, a fourth-line forward:
Holland was back at his office at Joe Louis Arena Monday after spending a week at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in Helsinki, where the difference between winning and losing was, much like the NHL playoffs, incredibly close. Holland chatted very briefly with Holmstrom on Monday, mostly just to say the two would meet soon. Holmstrom, Holland told the Free Press, “has to decide what his body is telling him, and if he wants to play, he and I need to sit down.”
Money isn’t an issue, as the Wings have more than $20 million in salary cap room. Fit is. They’ve been bumped in the playoffs now, over the past three years, twice in the second round and this year in the first round.
Speed is of an essence in today’s game. The Wings have young players knocking, guys like Gustav Nyquist, even Tomas Tatar, though the odds are against Tatar because he has a year left of waiver-exempt eligibility. But as it stands right now, the Wings already have 11 forwards under contract for next season, counting Nyquist, and counting Patrick Eaves, who is recovering from a concussion. And the Wings want very much to upgrade up front, to add a top-six forward via free agency.
Under coach Mike Babcock, there’s been an emphasis on expanding the team’s net-front presence to include guys like Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi, especially on power play units. Holmstrom keeps making the cut because he does it better than anyone, but his effectiveness has been limited as years of playing punishing hockey has taken its toll.
Holmstrom had 18 goals in 2010-11, but this past season he only popped in 11 (10 of which came on power plays), and he was a team-worst minus-9. He had one goal and one assist in the five-game series against Nashville.
It’s been nearly a month since the Wings cleaned out their lockers. At that time, Holmstrom said himself how hard it is to be effective as a fourth-line player and power play specialist; Babcock, on the same day, stated just as clearly that’s that what Holmstrom is now. Holmstrom may well decide that four Stanley Cups and a thousand NHL games is enough. But if he wants more, the Wings have a tough decision on their hands.
Complicating matters is the relationship between Holmstrom and captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
If Lidstrom wants to give Detroit a 21st season, it’s reasonable to assume Holmstrom would give it a go again. It’s also reasonable to assume that Lidstrom might, ahem, suggest bringing his close friend back next season would clear the runway for his own return to the Red Wings.
As Coach Mike Babcock said after the season: “Are they a pair? I don’t know the answer.”
Best scenario for the Wings? Holmstrom retires and Lidstrom returns. But is that realistic?
It has to be. Plain and simple, it has to be, and Lidstrom at least told the press that Holmstrom’s future with the team won’t decide his own. Kris Draper can tell us that one simply can’t decide to give it up because your linemates (Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty) hang ‘em up.
One doesn’t have anything to do with the other, part 2: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan doesn’t update his Twitter account that often, so this pair of quips comes as something of a surprise:
Those fans thinking Zach Parise is a lock for the Red Wings..the New York Rangers seem like an ideal fit, too. Wouldn’t have to move, too.
And if no Parise to the Wings…Datsyuk and Alex Semin played well together at Worlds…but I’m not sold on Semin playing under Babcock.
Update #2: Cue the opposite take from ESPN’s Craig Custance,via a chat with ESPN users:
Don (DC): It seems likely that Alexander Semin is leaving the Caps. While he will get offers from a lot of teams, who do you see as the front runners and major players most likely to get his service?:
Craig Custance: Semin wants to play in the NHL next season, although I’m sure the biggest offer of all will come from the KHL. Semin to me could be a small consolation prize for teams that need scoring but miss out on Zach Parise. So that could be a team like Detroit, if Pavel Datsyuk signs off on it and the Red Wings can’t lure Parise. He’d also be a good fit on a team that needs to take a bit of a risk in free agency to get an impact player, maybe a team like the Islanders who have struck out in the past on the UFA market.
Ralph (Arlington): Semin to the KHL makes more sense. Guy’s a sulking underachiever that lacks the heart to win a Cup with. So yeah, maybe perfect for the Isle.
Craig Custance: I would agree Ralph with your KHL opinion, but I was told under no uncertain terms that his strong preference is to play in the NHL next season.
Bob (Boston): Do you see the Bruins being serious players for Rich Nash or Zack Parise this summer?
Craig Custance: Bob - It’s an interesting thought but I’m not sure they have the cap room to add Parise. Peter Chiarelli would have to do some serious shuffling to make it happen. My three favorites for Parise, if he doesn’t sign in NJ, are Detroit, NYR and Wild. I wouldn’t completely rule them out for Nash if CBJ would take some salary the other way.
Dave (Detroit) Where do you think Suter ends up signing with?
Craig Custance: Detroit
Conor (Michigan): Hey Craig,While the Red Wings are very likely players for Suter and Parise, do you see the possibility of letting teams potentially overpay for their services and signing more role players? I.E Semin, Penner, and perhaps a Barret Jackman on the blue line? Given the success at the World Championships with Datsyuk, I think Semin would look great with a winged wheel.
Craig Custance: Conor - In my opinion, the Red Wings are more than capable of developing those kind of role players within their system. There’s good young talent on the way. But there’s not a Parise or Suter coming. Detroit has an ownership group willing to spend, might as well spend the money.
Kevin (Louisville, KY): Just to piggy back off Conor’s question, I think that it would be in the Wings best interest to stay low this off season as next year’s free agent market is so much better.. Thoughts?
Craig Custance: Here’s the problem with that Kevin. The following summer’s free agent class always looks much better. Then guys start signing with their teams and it slowly thins out. If I’m a team pursuing a high-end free agent this summer and I don’t get Parise or Suter, I’m not signing anybody and saving my money for next summer. But I’m definitely not passing on Parise or Suter in hopes that I can get somebody next summer.
Frank (Philly): What are the chances Suter and Parise even hit July 1st? Whether that’s re-signing with their current team or having their rights traded.
Craig Custance: Great point on their rights Frank. I think both New Jersey and Philly have to consider trading rights if they’ve exhausted all options of signing their guys. We saw Hamhuis’ rights traded a couple times and there’s no way Columbus signs Wisniewski without trading for his rights first. It’s an effective strategy and I’m curious to see what the rights to either player fetch around the draft.
KP (Tri-State): Almost as a follow-up question, does the success of the Deboer playing style in New Jersey serve as an incentive for Zach Parise to stick around? He exemplifies everything that makes that aggressive system so successful in New Jersey, I think for the first time in his career this is Zach’s team - do you think he recognizes that the nature of the Devils new playing style is tailor-made to his strengths?
Craig Custance: KP - This success under DeBoer certainly helps the cause but I think the biggest factor will be ownership. Parise should have to be completely and thoroughly convinced that the NJ ownership situation is settled and there won’t be any financial issues moving forward before signing a long-term deal.
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