The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/22/12 at 01:59 PM ET
Annoyed, frustrated, irked by players declining invites to play here, and more than a little bit scared. That sentence pretty much sums up how the vast majority of Red Wings fans feel at the midpoint of a summer in which Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Mike Babcock and even Mike Ilitch have made pitches to and for Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Rick Nash, Shea Weber and possibly as many as a dozen free agents and/or trade targets who’ve gone elsewhere or remained with their current rights-holders.
We assumed that the Wings would leverage their “program” and what appears to be a disappearing competitive advantage in terms of the lure of playing for the Detroit Red Wings into a summer nearly equal to the 2001 coup of Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille signings for a team with almost an equal amount of money to spend on bringing prime talent to Detroit…
But instead, Red Wings fans can only boast about the team adding a reclamation project in Jonas Gustavsson, a retread—and an unpopular retread—in Mikael Samuelsson, a literal impact player in Jordin Tootoo and the team simply retaining the services of Darren Helm and Kyle Quincey.
Given that the Wings have lost the services of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler, and are likely to bid farewell to Tomas Holmstrom, it feels like Holland & company have simply slapped a couple of band-aids on a gaping maw of a wound that cuts through the chest of the Winged Wheel and digs right down to the heart of the team (and every fan), and while most of us haven’t exactly burned our Wings stuff in a giant bonfire, the bandwagon’s pretty empty and many Wings fans are nursing sore ankles from jumping off.
Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski ponders the Wings’ frustrating summer today…
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland is considered the best at what he does, which is maintaining a consistent contender in the Western Conference with legitimate designs on winning a Stanley Cup each season. Along with Coach Mike Babcock, Detroit’s recognized as having the “gold standard” for management.
Yet the Red Wings’ offseason has seen better talent depart than has been added the roster.
Nicklas Lidstrom retired. Brad Stuart left for the San Jose Sharks. Jiri Hudler signed a 4-year deal with the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, the Red Wings inked Maple Leafs backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, Nashville pot-stirrer Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson, for a second tour of duty after playing with Florida last season.
The real frustration for the Red Wings: They have $13 million in cap space, and were unable to land a premium upgrade to the defense. Ryan Suter of the Predators flirted with Detroit, who courted him heavily, only to sign with conference rival Minnesota.
Nashville captain Shea Weber, meanwhile, spoke with Detroit but Holland was never given the option to sign him to an offer sheet, as he did with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Predators didn’t engage in trade talks with Detroit, seeking to move Weber to the Eastern Conference.
In some ways, it’s inconceivable a team like the Red Wings would be on the outside looking in on these free-agent blockbusters. Which is why Holland is being criticized for Detroit’s lack of reloading this summer, as the power shifts in the Western Conference.
And while doing so, he also riffs of comments from Matt from “Ultimate Hockey Source” and some yutz from “The Malik Report” (???) while considering the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s suggestion that the Wings simply can’t afford to overpay for Shane Doan or Alex Semin’s services (and perhaps MLive’s Ansar Khan’s suggestion that the Wings can’t afford to sell the barn to buy defensive horses in Keith Yandle or Jay Bouwmeester) before coming to the following conclusion:
Seeing where Doan and Semin end up is essential to determining whether Holland’s in a rut or simply hasn’t landed his big fish yet. He’s been hindered by some forced beyond his control: Ryan Suter wanted to play with Zach Parise in Minnesota; Nashville wouldn’t let Weber slip to a division rival; and the same could be the case for Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But perhaps the greatest question: What does he do to fill the holes on the blue line? Keith Yandle, if available, would be a great start.
I’m with Khan regarding Yandle: he’s worth pursuing, but not at the cost of Valtteri Filppula’s 66 points, nor is he worth pursuing if he’s going to cost the Wings Gustav Nyquist or Brendan Smith—and just as we found out in terms of the Nash trade and Shea Weber’s preference to sign an offer sheet from an Eastern Conference team instead of the Wings, we’re learning the hard way that if there is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s that teams who deem the Red Wings to be their “arch-rivals” won’t do business with the Wings minus a huge markup in terms of asking prices.
In Yandle’s case, the Coyotes’ belief that the Wings are their biggest rival probably yields the kind of price for a top-tier defenseman that the Wings don’t want to pay in filling one hole on the roster at the expense of creating another on the depth chart, and as much as the Wings desperately need a top-pair blueliner, the team has no leverage with which to make a deal that doesn’t mortgage the present and future, so it makes logical sense to wait (emotionally speaking, however, it feels more like being covered in mosquito bites and being told not to scratch ‘em) for the free agent marketplace to settle, for the Wings to apply a Carlo Colaiacovo-style band-aid, and then to wait again for the new CBA to take effect and teams to go through training camp and the exhibition season with bloated roster…
So that, for example, the Flyers might find themselves in cap trouble with Weber and 7 other defensemen on one-way contracts on the roster, if we are to believe the Sharks’ media, the Sharks look at their starting seven and wonder whether Dan Boyle’s $6.67 million of redundancy, or whether, as I’ve been advocating of late, the Winnipeg Jets are worried enough about retaining Tobias Enstrom given his status as a UFA-to-be in line for a $5.5 million payday next summer that the Jets choose to move him while they can.
In a similar vein, MLive’s Ansar Khan’s third “Ask Ansar” column addresses fans’ belief that the Wings should simply go with the “kids” on their roster and either suck it up until the trade deadline or next summer given the number of players who might become free agents a year from now:
Q. What are the chances (general manager Ken) Holland stands pat, lets the young guys fill in the roster spots and saves the cap space for the trade deadline.—Zack.
Ansar Khan: They definitely will add a defenseman, whether it’s a top-four guy or a third-pair D. They will continue pursuing a top-six forward, but are prepared to start the season with what they have up front, if need be.
Q. What do you think if the Wings go into the season with the players they have signed and provide their younger players and rookies with quality minutes before the trade deadline? After all, they only have to get into the first playoff round to have a chance at the championship. The experience for the Wings who are coming up through the system will be valuable, and one or more might surprise the organization if they get an opportunity. If not, the Wings would have ample cap room to try to orchestrate a dramatic personnel exchange at the trade deadline. –Thomas.
Ansar Khan: I wouldn’t count on making any dramatic personnel changes at the trade deadline, regardless of how much salary-cap space you have. With so many teams still in the playoff hunt, there are fewer sellers and a lot of buyers. That increases the price for even mediocre players. I agree that anything can happen if you get into the playoffs, and that some players (Smith, Nyquist) should get expanded roles. But relying too much on younger players might cause them to miss the playoffs. It’s an organization that leans on veterans and likes to keep prospects in the system until they’re “overripe.’’ I don’t see that philosophy changing as long as they keep making the playoffs.
Q. Isn’t this off-season one of the “worst” in recent Wings history—factoring in player losses against signings? Don’t you think Holland should just hold fast now, let the youth have a shot, and make trade deadline deals as needed? You’d hate to see the Wings overpay for somebody. Even (Shea) Weber is not worth a maximum salary. –Pat.
Ansar Khan: Based on losses vs. gains (so far), I’d say it ranks up there with 2009, when they lost 82 goals (Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson, Jiri Hudler). But you could argue it’s worse losing Nicklas Lidstrom alone, and not being able top add a top-pair defenseman (yet). They might not have any choice but to overpay, considering the limited free-agent options and high cost for trades.
Q. Mr. (Mike) Ilitch is the best owner is sports. However, with the (Prince) Fielder move, he seems to have a real sense of urgency when it comes to the Tigers. Do you think he has that same sense of urgency with the Wings? In light of the disappointing (Ryan) Suter and (Zach) Parise results, can you see the Wings stepping out of character and giving up young pieces for a run at a big trade?—Misportfan.
Ansar Khan: I have no doubt Ilitch remains committed to doing what it takes to win with the Red Wings. He, along with team personnel, were prepared to fly to Toronto to meet with Parise and his agents on July 1 before the agents canceled meetings with all clubs that morning due to heavy demand. And he flew to Madison, Wis., on July 3 to make a personal pitch to Suter. I can’t recall Ilitch traveling to recruit free agents before. So the urgency is there. And I do think they’d give up young pieces in a big trade, with the exception of Smith.
Khan also states that he’s heard no news regarding Patrick Eaves’ health since the season ended (no news is good news?), he states that he expects Holland to start working on contract extensions for Valtteri Filppula, Jimmy Howard and Ian White when the new CBA’s inked, and…
Q. The probability of Hank (Zetterberg) getting the “C,” in your opinion? Who gets the “A” that he had? (Todd) Bertuzzi and (Danny) Cleary have some leadership. Brendan Smith shows some leadership qualities in his youth. Filppula shows a lot of on-ice promise while also being young. Howard could be a rare goalie with an “A.’’ –Patrick.
Ansar Khan: Zetterberg will be the next captain. I could see Filppula getting the third “A.’’ (Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall have the others).
And finally, this press release has reached its second go-round, and it worries the hell out of me because it seems to indicate that the only way the general public will be able to attend the Winter Classic or the Winter Classic Alumni Games will be the secondary market, with a preference of “releasing” tickets to a website called Ticket Process:
The National Hockey League has embraced change and taken advantage of opportunities since its inception in the 1920s and 30s. A chance to modify the scope of the Winter Classic recently popped up, and the proud and esteemed league took advantage of a chance to add two legends alumni games. TicketProcess.com is the best place to go to get in on the action for incredibly low prices. Winter Classic tickets and tickets to the alumni games are sure to be entirely sold out and completely unavailable by the time the game rolls around on January 1st of next year, so procuring 2013 Winter Classic tickets as soon as possible is a wise move.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently announced that the annual outdoor affair will take place at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the game will feature two teams form the original cluster of NHL squads. The Detroit Red Wings will be squaring off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at what will technically be called a neutral site, but what is actually pretty close to a home game for each team. Additionally, the event will feature two games with rosters comprised entirely of the stars of yesteryear.
The alumni games will take place on Monday, December 31st and will feature over 50 former standouts and legends from each of the two storied franchises. It will be played at Comerica Park in Detroit, which should give a slight advantage to the boys in red. Nonetheless, the action is likely to be heated and the tickets are selling out quickly. The initial plan was to have one alumni game the evening before the Winter Classic, but when the staffs of each team sat down to draft a list of ex-pros that would likely be interested in showing off their skills they have retained on a grand stage, they found it impossible to cap the rosters off at 25.
Both Toronto and Detroit have been in the league for nearly a century, and both teams have a huge list of former players that are currently between the ages of 40 and 65. The Maple Leafs have already made contact with players and are receiving many commitments, including Darryl Sittler, Darcy Tucker and Curtis Joseph. The Red Wings will also put a bevy of former legends and fan favorites out on the ice in Detroit, including Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Luc Robitaille. They will be led by former coach and all-time NHL wins leader Scotty Bowman.
In an entry with too much italicizing and bolding for its own good, I’m going to be blunt:
I can’t help but get the feeling that the NHL is purposefully pulling the same stunt that many concert promoters do in taking a couple thousand tickets that would go into whatever lottery process will supposedly be offered to the general public to offer a “first sale” on the secondary market, utilizing Ticket Process and likely Ticketmaster’s Ticket Exchange to effectively re-sell tickets that were never made available to anyone for the sake of gouging the “average fan.” And I think that’s disgusting…but typical and predictable.
Update: I decided to put this entry out before surveying Capgeek’s depth charts for all 30 teams, and in terms of the trade market, I’d imagine that free agent defensemen are feeling pretty good right now, because most teams need to add a blueliner or two to stabilize their defensive depth.
The Flyers have 8 defensemen on one-way deals and are already in cap trouble (though those eight defensemen include Chris Pronger and his $4.9 million cap hit), the Canucks have five defensemen earning $3 million or more and have only $3 million in cap space and the Sabres already have eight defensemen on one-way deals as well, and the same can be said for the Lightning (and Mattias Ohlund probably won’t start the season for the Bolts)...
But the Flyers and the Canucks are really the only teams that need to trade solid defensemen to avoid cap purgatory. The vast majority of NHL teams need to add to their defense, at least for the present moment, anyway, and find out whether their prospects and players on two-way deals can out-compete the one-way guys for jobs during training camp and the exhibition season. The Flyers and Canucks could very well ride out training camp and the exhibition season as well, so from a very practical, “Look at teams’ depth charts and try to be realistic about what’s out there” standpoint, I don’t imagine that the Wings will be making any substantial trades for defensemen until whenever the exhibition season ends (I sure hope it’s the end of September) at the earliest.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.