The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/21/12 at 01:53 PM ET
Updated 2x at 2:09 PM: As noted in the overnight report, one of the Red Wings’ main free agent targets was taking part in a charity hockey event (though he didn’t take part due to his UFA status) in Minneapolis on Wednesday, and as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Brian Stensaas noted, mum was the word for New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise when he faced inevitable questions about his future:
“I’ve got a lot of people asking what’s going on, and we’ll get things figured out pretty soon hopefully,” Parise said. “I haven’t really given much thought to anything. It’s been pretty nice.”
It likely won’t last. The New Jersey Devils captain can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He made $6 million this season, scored 31 goals and led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. He can expect to make a boatload more money going forward. But where?
The Devils have exclusive negotiating rights with Parise, but he said last week to reporters in New Jersey that to his knowledge his agents and Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello had no talks during the season. Asked Wednesday if there had been any talks since the Devils’ season ended in a six-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Parise smiled.
“We’ve kept everything pretty quiet, and we’re going to do the same thing for however long it takes,” said Parise, a former Shattuck-St. Mary’s and North Dakota standout who grew up in Bloomington.
The Wild cannot comment on specific players. But it’s no secret the team would love to get a player with local ties of Parise’s caliber locked in with a pricey, long-term deal. Minnesota is not alone. Several teams with ample salary cap space—like the Wild—will make a hard run at Parise, 27, if he’s not re-signed in New Jersey before July 1. And it remains a big “if.’‘
“As a player, [free agency is] something you work hard to try and take advantage of, but at the same time it might get a little stressful,” Parise said of the next 10 days.
About the only certainty so far is that Parise will not end up skating in a blue shirt at Madison Square Garden. Asked by New Jersey media last week about joining the New York Rangers, Parise gave an emphatic “no way.” He clarified the statement Wednesday.
“I was put on the spot there a little bit,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
In an insider-only blog entry, ESPN’s Craig Custance wondered aloud as to whether Parise may be able to hammer out a deal with the Devils before July 1st, especially given the team’s murky financial future:
While the Nashville Predators haven’t closed the door on signing Ryan Suter, they’re resigned to the fact that he’s all but certain to test free agency on July 1. When Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was asked following the Board of Governors meeting for a Parise contract update, he said Parise still hopes to stay with the Eastern Conference champs.
“We want him to be a Devil, he wants to be a Devil,” Lamoriello said. “Nothing [is] progressing until something’s done. Right now, we’ll continue to do what we’re doing.”
As loyal as Parise is, it’s still hard to imagine him getting this close to July 1 and then signing a contract with the Devils, especially considering the questions surrounding New Jersey ownership. Commissioner Gary Bettman provided the NHL owners with an update on the Devils’ finances this week and told reporters that the team is in the process of refinancing its debts with banks. So far, the franchise has avoided bankruptcy.
“I know that will take care of itself,” Lamoriello said of the ownership issues.
Whether it happens in time could be a big factor in Parise’s future with the team.
In terms of the Wings’ competitors for Parise and Suter, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted, the Philadelphia Flyers aren’t exactly swimming in cap space, but with Chris Pronger ($4.9 million cap hit) and Kimmo Timonen ($6.33 million cap hit, recovering from back surgery) possibly not playing for part of next season, that would boost the Flyers’ cap space from
a Capgeek-estimated $9 million to about $20 million, at least for a little while, and as such, the Philadelphia Daily News’s Frank Seravalli believes that, somehow, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren will be able to magically re-sign Matt Carle, possibly re-sign Jaromir Jagr, and go after Suter or a back-up plan:
“In a perfect world, [we’d have to reshape our defense],” Holmgren said. “But it’s easier said than done. Assuming Chris can’t play, those are big shoes to fill. It’s hard to find Chris Pronger; I don’t know if he’s out there. We’re still in decent shape there. Kimmo’s getting older, so we have to look toward the future here to make plans to improve that area. I think getting Nicklas Grossmann signed when we did was a positive step for us. If we can get Matt Carle signed, I think that will help us long term.”
The best option would be to re-sign Carle quickly, or maybe even work out an agreement in principle, so he doesn’t actually hit the open market. Holmgren said before that he thinks he can nab Carle at a price below market, which would be around $4.5 million per season. Carle, 27, probably could easily garner $5 million or more from a desperate team.
“I have kept in contact with both Matt and his agent [Denver-based Kurt Overhardt],” Holmgren said. “I am fairly certain we will get him signed.”
Without Carle in the mix, the Flyers would need to scramble. Braydon Coburn would be headlining a group that would include two players with injury concerns — Timonen and Andrej Meszaros — in addition to veterans Grossmann and Andreas Lilja and two green defensemen in Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson. Even guaranteeing a completely healthy season from all seven of those players (without Carle) — which is nearly impossible — that is not a Stanley Cup-contending blue line.
The free-agent options are expensive. Nashville’s Ryan Suter is the big-ticket item, who could command something in the range of $6.5 million to $7 million per season. But Suter has never really been counted on to be the big dog on a pairing, since he’s always played with Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber.
Florida’s Jason Garrison is a nice player, but he blew up overnight. Garrison, 27, netted a whopping 16 goals from the point, but was also paired with All-Star Brian Campbell. The Panthers reportedly made a firm offer to Garrison’s camp on Tuesday, but he could well be available on July 1. It would be interesting to see what kind of deals Garrison and Suter garner after taking on all the No. 1 defensemen responsibilities on their own for a season.
Washington’s Dennis Wideman (46 points) had an unbelievable contract year, and he will be due a big raise from his $3.94 million cap hit.
After that, the options on defense dwindle fast. That’s why Holmgren might need to go off the map and bring in an established player with a contract.
In the land of plain old crazy talk, despite Predators GM David Poile’s repeated, re-stated and also reiterated comments regarding the Predators not trading Ryan Suter’s rights as the team believes Suter will test the market and then circle back to Nashville, I can only shake my head at Comcast Sportsnet Phildelphia’s Tim Panaccio’s decision to not let reality get in his way of suggesting that the Flyers will snag Suter’s rights at the draft:
It’s impossible to imagine that Nashville GM David Poile will leave Pittsburgh without having solved at least one of his problems with unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter and restricted free agent Shea Weber. He can’t lose Suter to free agency for nothing, and admitted this week Suter is, indeed, headed for free agency. While Suter’s agent Neil Sheehy says he hasn’t eliminated having his client play for any club, sources say that Suter wants to remain in the Western Conference.
If Poile concedes on Suter, he has more dollars to retain Weber down the road. Keeping both on a club that draws help from revenue sharing would be very difficult with an uncertain CBA and salary cap that may go to $70 million on July 1 and then get sliced back with a new CBA next fall, assuming we don’t have a full lockout in 2012-13.
“There is always activity at the draft,” Holmgren said. “Everybody is together and it is easier to make deals this time of year than it is during the year, because of salary cap constraints. Right now, everybody has, I don’t want to say money to play with, but nothing is really set. You sort of know what the cap is being set at and we don’t know what it is going to be when the new CBA is set. You have a little more freedom to play with your roster at this time of year. I think that is why there is so much activity at the draft.”
And in terms of “going off the map,” we’ve already discussed the pluses and minuses of players like Suter, Garrison, Carle and Wideman, but if the Wings land “none of the above,” MLive’s Ansar Khan wonders what 35-year-old defenseman Filip Kuba, who played as the “stay-at-home” partner for Ottawa Senators phenom Erik Karlsson, might bring to the table. Kuba’s 6’4” and 225 pounds, and he could probably be had for less than $4 million:
Strengths: He’s a decent two-way defenseman with good size and mobility. He contributes offensively, is solid defensively and logs a lot of minutes. He led the Senators with 149 blocked shots. He went from a minus-26 rating in 2010-11 to a plus-26 rating in 2011-12 under first-year coach Paul MacLean, the former Red Wings assistant. It helped being paired with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
Weaknesses: For a big guy, he’s not physical at all and won’t record many hits. He doesn’t shoot the puck enough.
Notable: He has played for some bad teams, making the playoffs only three times in 11 full seasons (13 overall) and getting out of the first round only once (2003 with Minnesota, which advanced to the conference finals).
Why he would interest the Red Wings: If they don’t get Ryan Suter, Jason Garrison, Dennis Wideman or Matt Carle, Kuba might be one of the few remaining puck-moving defensemen available.
How he could fit in with the Red Wings: He plays in all situations, mans the point on the power play and kills penalties. He led the Senators in shorthanded ice time.
What it might take to get him: At his age, he probably can’t expect anything longer than a two-year deal.
Kuba would be more attractive as a sort of Brad Stuart replacement than someone tasked with helping to fill Nicklas Lidstrom’s skates, and here’s The Sports Forecaster’s assessment of Kuba’s pluses and minuses:
Assets: Has terrific size and mobility from the back end. Displays both decent offensive instincts and a sound defensive approach. Is also a low-maintenance defender.
Flaws: At 6-4, he doesn’t make good use of his imposing frame. Is still lacking in consistency and rarely raises his game to another level.
Career Potential: Savvy big-minute defenseman.
I’d be very happy if the Wings signed Kuba, or fellow countryman Pavel Kubina (assuming that he doesn’t return to Tampa Bay), but only after the Wings acquire an offensively-minded defenseman first.
“It’s been like a dream. A bad dream. A nightmare,” he replied. “I keep thinking I’ll see him again soon in [training camp], just like always. I keep telling myself this, thinking it will come true. I can’t believe this has happened.”
Datsyuk looked around the oak-paneled room of the restaurant formerly known as Alex that is now without a new assignation inside the cavernous Wynn. Lidstrom was not there, nor were any other Red Wings. This event was once known for having lots of red, and not just for the color of the carpet or the visitors’ before-after bank balances.
Now, however, Datsyuk and the Wings must ponder a future without the comforting sight of Lidstrom on their side. The legendary Swedish defenseman called it quits recently, after a 20-year career in which people sometimes questioned his mortality.
“I sometimes thought, like others, ‘when will he get old?’ I never saw this,” Datsyuk said. “I believe he would be one of the best defensemen in the NHL if he played this coming season.”
It’s possible that the Russian center could become the next captain of the Wings, which would make sense for a franchise that has long been a leader in the employment of his countrymen. Such a prospect seemed to bring forth a blush, however. Datsyuk has been a Red Wings mainstay for more than a decade, but a successor to Lidstrom wearing the C?
“I mean, I don’t know about that,” said Datsyuk, who would probably still win a player poll on the question of who is the NHL’s best two-way forward. “We had [Steve] Yzerman, and then Nick. Those are two great captains, for a long time. It will be very hard to be like them.”
With Dadoun positing the following observation:
Part of the reason Datsyuk is having a hard time accepting the fact that Lidstrom is gone is because of the defenseman’s ability to seemingly defy the aging process. Datsyuk believes that Lidstrom would have been one of the NHL’s top blueliners in 2012-13 if he had decided to extend his career.
All the same, Lidstrom has made his decision and now the Red Wings must move on. They need a new captain and it might be Datsyuk.
“I mean, I don’t know about that,” said Datsyuk. “We had [Steve] Yzerman, and then Nick. Those are two great captains, for a long time. It will be very hard to be like them.”
That’s a point worth dwelling on. The Detroit Red Wings did have Yzerman and, for that matter, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Brian Rafalski, and Dominik Hasek, to name a few other greats that have hanged up their skates. However, the Red Wings dynasty has survived because there’s always been another person to stand up.
This time around they might do part of their healing by acquiring Ryan Suter and/or Zach Parise if they hit the unrestricted free agent market. Either way, moving on without Lidstrom might not end up being a nightmare.
And finally, for the moment, anyway, in the future events category:
• And according to PR Newswire, we can expect to hear some quips from Mickey Redmond as he attended a news conference discussing the North American International Auto Show’s 25th anniversary in Detroit this morning. The auto show takes place every January.
Update #2: Via Expressen’s Oscar Brostrom, Frolunda Indians general manager Anderz Larqvist says that his team is not going to sign Dick Axelsson to a contract, with Larqvist confirming to GP.se’s Matti Wikstrom that the team’s not interested in Axelsson;
• And for what it’s worth, Sault This Week’s Randy Russon gabbed about the NAHL with Wings amateur scout David Kolb.
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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.