The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/08/12 at 06:11 AM ET
On a very grumpy morning for a mildly aggravated blogger: Regardless of what you, I or Red Wings GM Ken Holland would like to believe as to whether Zach Parise, Ryan Suter or any other player might test the waters of unrestricted free agency, the plain and simple truth of the matter is that it’s the player’s decision. The player’s current rights-holders can do everything in their power to convince said players to stay, but in the case of “marquee” free agents, history tends to suggest that one might as well flip a coin when attempting to predict whether a player wishes to remain where he is, or whether the lure of having a Brinks truck backed up to their porch and being told they never have to worry about being taken care of for the foreseeable future, by multiple suitors, is simply too tempting to resist, even if that means making a decision regarding a long-term commitment to an unknown employer over the course of an hour, or often, fifteen or twenty minutes.
The only certainty in such situations involves the fact that when other teams’ fans catch wind of star players having the option to test the market, their ears perk up, and by the middle of June, they’ve probably at least looked at a jersey customizer or two to see what player X’s name would look like in their team’s home and away colors, which is bound to irritate that player’s current rights-holding team’s fans to no end.
I say this in part because, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns attempts to size up Parise’s measurements for a Blackhawks jersey, and KTSP Minneapolis’s Darren Wolfson tries to raise Wild fans’ eyebrows by noting that Ryan Suter’s wife is from Bloomington, MN, there’s another organization that’s coveting a certain player who won’t return to the Red Wings, and I’m not sure if it will stop you from forming a pool with your buddies to wonder what number Parise would choose given that #9 and #19 are unavailable in Detroit, or whether Mickey Redmond will be on hand to give Suter #20 on July 4th or 5th at the Joe, maybe this will at least remind you and me both that we’re not living in a vacuum here.
When the news came down that Johan Garpenlov would be stepping down as the Swedish National Team’s general manager on Thursday morning, Swedish fans started lusting after a certain recently-retired Red Wings captain, and and Swedish development program GM and national team executive Tommy Boustedt made sure to put two and two together while speaking to the Swedish equivalent of the Associated Press, TT:
Last week, Tre Kronor chairman Christer Englund spoke about the [Swedish Ice Hockey] Federation possibly hiring newly-retired hockey player Nicklas Lidstrom for themselves.
Englund did so suggesting that Listrom might serve as an amabassador, but Boustedt went further:
“He probably meant more as an ambassador around the time of the World Championship. Nicklas needs to wrap things up over there, but eventually, he absolutely has the profile we’re looking for,” says Boustedt.
The Tre Kronor lost in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic in the World Championships held at home, despite 16 NHL players on the team. Now head coach Par Marts’ job will be evaluated by Boustedt. Marts has a year left on his contract, and the evaluation will be completed in late June.
And the message boards go wild with suggestions that Lidstrom, who very plainly stated to the press that he wants to spend much more time around his wife and four hockey-playing children, will immediately step in as the Three Crowns’ coach/GM! Because the Wings couldn’t possibly convince him to be an ambassador, never mind some sort of part-time Swedish scout under Hakan Andersson’s guidance, perhaps, right?
I have little doubt that Lidstrom will probably agree to be an ambassador for both the Wings and the Swedish team, but that at least initially, he doesn’t want to do much more, and as you and I have read his quips in both Swedish and English about his future, he’s generally suggested that he wants to coach kids, so Vasteras IK, Lidstrom’s former team that now plays in the Allsvenskan, might want to slow down in terms of the understated speculation about Lidstrom immediately embarking upon a coaching career with “VIK,” too.
This seems like innocent talk by comparison, but you might recall where you and I were as fans three summers ago, when Marian Hossa had insisted since January of 2009 that he wanted to remain with the Wings if at all possible, but went out and tested the market, signed with one of the Wings’ many arch-rivals in the Chicago Blackhawks—for something like $9 million more than the Wings had offered him, all tacked onto the “lifetime” part of the 12-year, $62.8 million contract which he may or may not fulfill—and then won a Stanley Cup.
That contract still stings, as does our belief that the Wings had to choose Johan Franzen “over” Hossa despite evidence to the contrary (from all appearances in terms of the contracts the Wings were trying to hammer out with Rich Winter before the team traded Hossa’s rights to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2009 Entry Draft, Winter always wanted just a wee bit more than the team was willing to offer), and Hossa’s still booed every time he comes to the Joe.
Now suggestions that the Wings might be interested in Parise and Suter haven’t appeared out of thin air. The Parise-to-Detroit rumor actually started last July 1st, when three or four of the higher-ranking reporters in terms of integrity dropped, “Wait until next summer, when the Wings make a push for Zach Parise” hints out of thin air, and the Darren Dregers, Bob McKenzies, Pierre LeBruns and Craig Custances of the world don’t really have anything to gain by simply furthering a rumor or two given that they produce more concrete insights and substantiated hints, usually from players, coaches and GM’s mouths, in a week than rumor-mongers make up scenarios that actually play out over the course of a full season, but they’ve continued that thrust, adding Suter’s name to the mix.
Plain old supply and demand also dictates that in an incredibly thin free agent marketplace, whoever the hell is available come July 1st will be pursued by over a dozen teams, with every team’s fan base believing that the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Wild, Blackhawks, Canadiens, etc. etc. will surely snag Parise, Alexander Semin, Ryan Suter, Matt Carle, Dennis Wideman, P.A. Parenteau and every other free agent out there, all in the same season, regardless of their teams’ cap space or managers’ factual statements to the contrary. The bottom line is that we have no control as to whether or if the players will “stay home” or test the market—with some of those players’ signing rights being traded at the draft, of course—and predicting their whims is at best an inexact endeavor.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the rumors of the morning, if you will, with me adding in what I know about certain situations:
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James wondered aloud whether the Red Wings would be interested in Nashville Predators forward Alexander Radulov. The Predators plan on trading his rights after a slightly less than successful playoff run:
Radulov will be 26 next month. He’s just entering what’s considered a hockey player’s prime age. He’s got nice size at 6-feet-1, 200 pounds. He was the Predators’ first-round pick, 15th overall, in 2004, and the organization brought him along believing he’d be an impact player, especially after he produced 152 points in 62 games in his last season of junior hockey in 2005-06. He had 18 goals and 19 assists as an NHL rookie, and reached 26 goals and 32 assists in ‘07-08.
Then he bolted for more money in his native Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, where he played for three seasons only to return this past spring. He was able to burn off the last year of his entry-level contract by suiting up for the Predators in late March, and accumulated seven points in nine regular-season games.
Radulov helped put away the Wings with five points in five games in the first round, including a goal and an assist in the closing match, but he was hard to notice in Round 2 against the Coyotes. He had one assist and was a minus-three after the first two games. Then he was scratched from Game 3 after violating curfew while in Phoenix, and when Nashville won that game, he was kept out for Game 4. He went back in for Game 5, when he played nearly 20 minutes and had had zero shots on goal and zero assists. The Predators lost the series that night.
So there are reasons for teams to be wary of adding Radulov. There’s no question he’s got hockey talent, and sure, he’d no doubt thrive next to Pavel Datsyuk. But there’s baggage in his past, and it speaks volumes that the Predators are, essentially, giving up on him. There’s no guarantee, either, that he won’t return to Russia—according to a report in SportExpress, CSKA Moscow of the KHL is after Radulov.
The Wings won’t be among Radulov’s pursuers. They don’t have interest in him, because the reward he might bring is offset by the risk and the cost of even acquiring his rights. They want to add a top-six forward, but would rather do so via unrestricted free agency.
• St. James’ note about CSKA is important because, as Sportsline’s Adam Gretz, Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien and The Score’s Justin Bourne noted, the Edmonton Journal’s Peter Adler dropped something of a bombshell for those of you who haven’t been reading Russian websites over the past few months:
Now that Rosneft, one of Russia’s oil giants, has taken over full sponsorship of CSKA Moscow, it gave general manager Sergei Fedorov a carte blanche to go after the best talent available.
According to Russian sources, Fedorov has expressed serious interest in the services of Alexander Radulov and Alexander Semin.
So far as Radulov is concerned, Nashville Predators’ general manager David Poille has already announced he’s perfectly willing to trade Radulov’s NHL rights to anyone who presents him the best offer, but it was obvious from his statements that he has no control (and neither does the potential future NHL club) to answer a simple question: will Radulov stay or return to Russia?
Semin will be a free agent as of July 1. His agent, Mark Gandler, has repeatedly shot down news of Semin’s return to Russia but I wouldn’t take that to the bank if I were an NHL team.
The issue is simple: most European players employ different agents to handle their European affairs. More often than not, they choose not to share the details of the European dealings with their North American representatives.
Gandler has repeatedly said Semin would like to have better guarantees of regular playing time in all situations, something, he contends, the player has never got from the Washington Capitals. Gandler has gone so far as to suggest Semin will not be returning to the Capitals, period.
In any case, CSKA’s objective for next season is to make the Western Conference finals in the KHL, aiming for the Gagarin Cup in the process. With a hint of mystery, Russian sources say Fedorov might be after several other high-quality players, some of whom have had NHL experience. No more details are forthcoming at this moment.
Now here’s where following Sport-Express, Sovsport, Sportbox, etc. since Pavel Datsyuk joined Team Russia’s World Championship efforts comes in handy:
Despite the fact that Russian websites are notorious for spreading outlandish rumors minus substantiation, and despite the fact that they’re so damn wordy that someone as gabby as I am would be told that less professionalism and a few more pages’ worth of comments were absolutely necessary as Soviet-era sporting bombast and borderline propagandist message-sending remains an integral part of their sportswriting equation…
Here’s how things have broken down:
1. Rosneft signed on to be CSKA’s sponsor a few months ago, after Slava Fetisov quit the team in disgust, partially because Vladimir Putin suggested that what was once the most powerful and high-profile team in Russia (if you were to play for the national team at the Olympics or World Championships, you would inevitably be playing for CSKA, just as Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov and Vladimir Konstantinov did) needed to be brought up to the same standard as SKA St. Petersburg, which is sponsored by Russia’s largest oil and natural gas company, Gazprom (Rosneft is #2 as far as I know), with Alex Medvedev, one of Gazprom’s board of directors, working as the team’s president/GM.
2. Fedorov was brought in to replace Fetisov and help implement Rosneft/Putin’s strategy.
3. In theory, over the past few months, the Russian press assumed that Radulov was going to sign with CSKA or SKA, and that if Semin were to head to the KHL, he’d play for CSKA or SKA.
4. Mark Gandler has stated that his client, Semin, will test the market, and, in the Russian and North American press, Gandler stated that his client will be interested in both NHL and KHL teams’ offers. So yes, there’s smoke and fire there.
5. CSKA signed Alex Radulov’s brother, Igor, but when they asked his current rights-holder, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, to trade them Radulov’s rights, Salavat threw a wrench into the equation, asking for $7.2 million in compensation. That would be the highest fee ever paid for a player’s signing rights in the KHL’s history.
6. Since then, talk of Radulov being a slam-dunk signing for CSKA has slowed down, and Sport-Express’s Igor Larin went so far as to state on Wednesday that CSKA might be hampered because the price of oil has gone down, thus blunting Rosneft’s ability to throw unlimited bucks at acquiring Radulov.
So things aren’t as settled over there as one might believe, and while it’s bloody obvious that the Wings would be interested in Semin as a Parise back-up given his play with Pavel Datsyuk (assuming the team believes he won’t be a floating annoyance upon Mike Babcock’s nerves), Mark Gandler’s steered half his clients who’ve played in the NHL back to the KHL, including Alexei Yashin, so who the hell knows where Semin’s going to end up.
• Speaking of back-up plans, Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia noted that Hockeybuzz’s Mark Spizzirri suggested that Flyers defenseman Matt Carle, likely teams’ #1A plan if they can’t land Suter (with Dennis Wideman being #1B), might be a good “fit” in Detroit (no link to Hockeybuzz out of respect to Paul, not due to any disagreement with Spizzirri. My employer doesn’t get along with his employer).
Sure, yeah, I could see that, but just as Predators GM David Poile insists that Suter’s coming back to Nashville, as the Sporting News’s Sean Gentile pointed out, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told the Philadelphia Daily News’s Frank Seravalli that while his team can’t actually re-sign a free agent until July 1st because the team has no “tagging” space, they plan on retaining Carle’s services:
With tagging space limitations, Holmgren said Carle was in the same boat as [Jaromir] Jagr. Although other teams will surely be interested in Jagr when free agency opens on July 1, Carle could get an offer that may be too rich for the Flyers’ blood.
Carle, 27, is coming off a 4-year, $13.7 million deal. His annual salary could jump to around $5 million on the open market. That doesn’t have Holmgren worried. Holmgren still thinks he can re-sign Carle for below market value.
“I have had enough conversations with Matt to know what he is about and know that he wants to stay in Philadelphia,” Holmgren said. “We’ll see how it all works out.”
You and I both know that Ken Holland has told the Wings’ press corps that he fully intends to be aggressive as possible in pursuing the best possible players the organization can pursue, we know that Holland will make trades at the draft to acquire the rights to players the team is interested in, and we know that they’re interested in the same names we are.
But in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t believe that you or I have any more control over Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Alex Semin, Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle or anyone else’s future than Holland does, and between now and July, we can certainly talk about the possibilities, how they’d fit in terms of money and the Wings’ current roster, and especially what those with the least to gain in terms of spreading unsubstantiated rumors can offer us regarding these players’ statuses with their current rights-holders, but other than that…
We’re pretty powerless here, and as much as it stinks, we have to sit, wait, talk, and hope. That and fiddle with jersey customizers.
In news that is much more concrete, the reminisces of the Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup win, captured some fifteen years ago last night, continued to roll in, in an almost surreal fashion, as the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech swiped control of the sports section’s Twitter feed to “live Tweet,” in retrospect, from Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
As it played out in “real time,” Fenech fired offimages from a taped ESPN broadcast of the game as well as the Free Press’s commemorative photo gallery, and offering a CBC clip of the last few seconds of the game…
Steve Yzerman stood motionless at the blue line while a packed Joe Louis Arena saluted him for a full 15 seconds. His name hadn’t even been announced. It didn’t have to be.
“Stevie, Stevie, Stevie.”
“It really gets your heart pumping,” Yzerman said. “It gave me the chills. . . . It’s a special feeling.”
He is Detroit. The Red Wings are his team. This was his moment. This is their year.
The Wings are closer than ever to the Stanley Cup they have sought for 42 years after Thursday night’s 6-1 thrashing of Philadelphia. They are 60 minutes from turning a dream into reality for their captain, the guy who blocks shots with a five-goal lead and five minutes to play, the guy brought to Detroit in 1983 when the team had few fans.
“When he raised his stick to the fans . . . that’s what it’s all about,” associate coach Dave Lewis said of Yzerman’s attempt to quell the cheers. That’s the bond between this city and Steve Yzerman.”
And then LaCaforna’s recap of Game 4...
The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, ending a 42-year curse, triggering the biggest, wildest party in Detroit. They finished their four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers late Saturday night with a 2-1 victory.
Scotty Bowman became the first coach to win Cups wit three different teams. Steve Yzerman, the team captain for the last 11 seasons, finally got to kiss the Cup and trot it around Joe Louis Arena as 19,983 tried unsuccessfully to hold back the tears.
The Wings won their first Cup since 1955 and recorded their first finals sweep since 1952. They held the Flyers to just six goals in the series, and goalie Mike Vernon capped his tremendous playoff run with the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the MVP of the postseason.
“I tell you, I’m just happy for everybody,” Vernon said. “The city, all these players today. It’s just a terrific feeling.”
The feeling was there all night. The pregame electricity was deafening, and it seemed the Red Wings were ripe for a heated start. Darren McCarty took the opening shift with Grind Liners Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby as he always does, and they did their thing in the corners and along the boards, but the Flyers were actually the better team in the first period.
“We knew that they weren’t going lay down,” Vernon said. “We didn’t come out with our best stuff in the first period, but we ended up even and we just kept battling after that.”
Including that absolutely lovely 10-minute clip of Game 4 that Ciccone39 uploaded from a tape of ESPN’s broadcast of the game…
And the Free Press wrapped up Fenech and their sports section’s night by digitally reprinting what might be the most famous hockey column Mitch Albom ever wrote. Stop me if you’ve read the introduction to this one before:
The crowd was thinning and the noise was dying down. The champagne showers had turned his hair into a sticky nest. Steve Yzerman glanced over the messy remains of the Red Wings’ locker room, then told a story.
He had been in Las Vegas a few years back. He was sitting at a craps table.
Two guys from Windsor recognized him and made the typical fuss. Hey, it’s Yzerman from the Red Wings! Then they looked at the gambling action, looked at The Captain, and one of them whispered, “We better get away from here. There’s no luck at this table.”
Yzerman “wanted to slug ‘em, ” he recalled.
He didn’t, of course. He suffered silently, which is how we do it around here, and the sting of that insult and all the others like it bore deep inside his stomach, churned around like a sleepless wasp, year after year—until Saturday night. Until that moment when the final horn sounded and Yzerman threw his stick into the crowd and his curses to the wind and he lifted off toward the open arms of goalie Mike Vernon as a thundering roar shook Joe Louis Arena and you know what? The heck with those guys from Windsor—the whole world wanted to be around Steve Yzerman now.
The column continues, of course, and something tells me that the Free Press, News, MLive and Fox Sports Detroit will help us relive the highs of the parade and the lows of the Konstantinov/Mnatsakanov crash over the next week or so, whetting our appetite, of course, for the fireworks we hope will restore the Wings to glory a year from now.
Just as 15 years ago is more than half a lifetime ago for most of you—I was a 19-year-old who’d just wrapped up his first year of college at U of M, growing out the hair on my face while not quite reaching awareness of the fact that the hair on the top of my head was all but disappearing, and I was oh-so-certain that I would become an engineer—but I dunno about you…
A year from now seems half a lifetime away, too, especially when your team was eliminated from the playoffs another half a lifetime ago. Hell, getting to the draft, never mind July 1st, seems like it’s going to take forever.
But that’s the way it is. Here’s hoping the Red Wings’ players and management feel similarly.
And yes, today is supposed to be the day that Ken Holland and Tomas Holmstrom finally speak about Holmstrom’s plans and possible future with the team.
Something tells me that, should Holmstrom make a final decision, or be told that there is a final decision, the news won’t remain quiet for long.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:
• White Cover Magazine notes that Dominik Hasek’s career began five years before the Wings won their first Cup, during an appearance in relief of Ed Belfour:
Thus far, there’s no news regarding Hasek’s future, either. The former Slovak league team HC Lev Poprad joined the KHL last year, and has moved to Prague in the Czech Republic this spring, but when iDnes’s Tomas Pavelicek asked the newly-rechristened “HC Lev Praha” team’s general manager, Normunds Sejejs, if they’re interested in signing Hasek or Petr Nedved, Sejejs suggested that the team would only be interested in Hasek as a goalie coach;
• You’ll have to let me know if you’re interested in this: Goals.by’s Andrei Stepanov spoke to Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser about his time spent as Belarus’s national team’s coach, and the translation from Championat is pretty decent even when spat out by Google, but the article’s a reminisce, not an in-depth discussion of his role with the Griffins or Wings;
• And I’m cringing in anticipation of your comments about DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford’s look at Johan Franzen’s 2011-2012 regular season “By the Numbers”:
29: Franzen led the team in scoring for the second consecutive season with 29 goals. Also picked up 27 assists, which gave him a total of 56 points by the season’s end—the fourth highest on the team. The only time he has scored more goals in a season was in 2008-09, when he accumulated a total of 34.
10: Number of game-winning goals that Franzen scored this season, the third-best in the league and the highest on the team.
11: Led the team with 11 power-play goals, and scored on the power play in three consecutive road games (against Buffalo, Colorado and St Louis) in December. Over the course of his seven-season career, the forward has scored 52 power-play goals.
13: Had 13 multi-point games this season, including three three-point performances in games against Columbus (Oct. 21), Anaheim (Nov. 5) and Colorado (Nov. 8).
With those underwhelming numbers out there, here comes the button. Again, if I could afford to pay my own way to Traverse City for this summer’s prospect camp, I would, but I can’t, so if you’re able to lend a hand in terms of affording my stay from July 7-14, during the dang Cherry Festival, anything you can give is greatly appreciated, and if you’re not interested, that’s fine, too. It isn’t exactly the All-Star Game (boy, that thread led me to believe that I’m not the only one who’s grumpy this morning!):
You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, and I don’t mind sharing the mailing address of my secret blogging lair via my other email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
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About The Malik Report
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.