The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/25/12 at 06:21 AM ET
Over the past few days, we’ve engaged in an incredibly spirited discussion regarding whether the Red Wings should pay a $3.5-4 million premium to match the kinds of offers Jiri Hudler might garner on the open market, which, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James and MLive’s Ansar Khan suggest, might be a bit too steep for the Wings given that the Wings would probably prefer to add some skating speed and/or size, grit and tenacity to the lineup, which Hudler doesn’t necessarily bring on a nightly basis…
And it occurs to me that what St. James and the Wings’ beat writers are engaging in, as we wait for the Wings to sign Calle Jarnkrok, Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco to entry-level contracts, send their amateur scouts to the draft combine, and then engage in their organizational meetings from June 2nd-4th, is something of an examination of the parts of the team’s roster that can be adjusted without the kind of free agent dreaming that’s not necessarily rooted in reality (see: this morning’s suggestion from the Dallas News’s Tim Colishaw that the Dallas Stars pursue Ryan Suter).
Let’s face it, we don’t know what Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Alex Semin (who didn’t sleep through a make-up press conference in Krasnoyarsk), Matt Carle, Dennis Wideman, Jason Garrison or any other prospective Wings target might be thinking, nor do we really know whether, in an incredibly thin crop of free agents, the Ken Holland and the Wings can sell the few marquee or semi-marquee players on the market (assuming they test the free agent waters to begin with) to take a few less bucks because of the winning tradition and extremely player-friendly environment the Wings can offer.
Aside from stating that the Parise-to-Detroit rumors actually started last July 1st, and that I can at least tell you that the “insiders” who don’t tend to tread in rumors seem to believe that the Wings will be serious contenders for both Parise and Suter, and they’ve stuck to their guns…
It’s pretty easy to get you to read reporters’ columns and talk about factors that we can assume may or may not factor into certain free agents’ decision-making processes, like whether winning might keep Parise in New Jersey despite their financial difficulties, or whether the fact that Ryan Suter is from Madison means that he’s going to Minnesota, or whether the fact that Uncle Gary Suter and Chris Chelios played together might mean that Cheli can convince Suter to come to Detroit, blah blah blah—but that’s all it is right now, speculation and, in many cases, blather.
We know that the list of suitors for the top free agents is probably a dozen teams long, and we know that the Parises and Suters of the world can pretty much choose to play wherever the hell they want to, but after a while, it seems like reporters are shifting from reading tea leaves to trying to make predictions based on the shapes of bug splatters on their windshields.
St. James began her series by talking about Tomas Holmstrom’s future before moving onto Hudler, and she’s doing so for a simple reason: when you look at the Wings’ roster and contracts going forward via Capgeek.com’s master plan, and combine those contractual commitments with the concerns that popped up during the course of the regular season, you come to some pretty simple conclusions:
1. The Wings’ most important personnel decision isn’t up to them, and until Nicklas Lidstrom decides what he wants to do in mid-June, we can only guess at whether the Wings will make a hard push to replace him through free agency, or whether the Wings will significantly bolster their defense, given that the team seemed to miss Brian Rafalski’s puck movement so very badly, regardless of whether Lidstrom chooses to continue playing;
2. Despite Jiri Hudler’s status as at least a consistent 20-goal, 40-point player, he’s not big, he’s not fast, he doesn’t kill penalties, and given that this summer’s free agent class is so incredibly thin up front, it just seems to make sense that Hudler will pursue a $3.5-4 million salary on the open market. Add in the fact that the Wings may not land a Parise (the cream of the crop) or Semin (he may be inconsistent, but he skates fast and handles the puck better than Hudler), and we might be talking about a trade of some sort that may involve raiding the prospect cupboard to replace Hudler and/or add to the mix if the Wings don’t go after a more flawed potential goal-scorer (and we’ll get to that later);
3. The Wings love Tomas Holmstrom and Tomas Holmstrom loves being a Red Wing, but especially given the fact that Lidstrom stated his decision regarding his playing future will not be affected by the team’s plans regarding Holmstrom, we do have to wonder whether players like Gustav Nyquist might push Holmstrom out of the lineup, just as Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm eventually made Kris Draper expendable;
4. The Wings will presumably re-sign all of their restricted free agents, Abdelkader, Helm and Kyle Quincey included as the team expects to lose Brad Stuart’s services and hopes that Quincey can replace him as a sort of reclamation project at a similar or lesser salary—mostly because you look at the free agent marketplace and the Alex Volchenkovs of the world have earned $4-5 million, so unless, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan has suggested, the team might be interested in Barret Jackman (who takes a stupid penalty or two every time he plays against the Wings—let’s just say I’m not a fan), the team gave up its first-round pick to Tampa Bay because Quincey, ups and downs included, represented the most affordable replacement out there, though Quincey’s hiccups will at least merit an, “Okay, where do we go with him?” article from a beat writer sooner or later;
5. Danny Cleary’s knee issues are, to put things bluntly, worrisome;
6. And then there’s the team’s back-up goaltending situation. I’d argue that Jimmy Howard having to rush back from a broken index finger and eventual run-ins with chronic groin injuries were partially the result of some serious overplaying because Ty Conklin bombed, and while Joey MacDonald did impress like nobody’s business when he was given the opportunity to play, well…
The fact that he suffered from an inflamed disc in his previously operated-on back down the stretch raised a few red flags, and as St. James notes today, if the Wings’ brass doesn’t feel completely confident in going with Howard and MacDonald in the nets, this year’s free agent crop is deep in one and only one respect—at the goaltending position:
After the season, MacDonald said “my goal is to be the backup next season. I’ve got a contract for next year, and that’s my focus.”
MacDonald, 32, will make $550,000. Unlike 2011-12, when his contract had a two-way clause, next season is a one-way deal, meaning he makes the same whether in the NHL or AHL. However, relatively speaking, $550,000 is small money, and his salary alone isn’t going to make him the backup.
The Wings had the option of using MacDonald in that role last season, and still pursued other goaltenders. They went after Tomas Vokoun when free agency began July 1, but couldn’t compete with Washington’s offer of $1.5 million and a shot at the starting spot. Ultimately, the Wings signed Ty Conklin, whom they had in ‘08-09. There’s little chance Conklin will return after he went 5-6-1 with a 3.28 GAA and .884 save percentage.
The Wings will seek a veteran again this summer, someone to push MacDonald in his bid to back up Jimmy Howard. Vokoun, 35, is available again, as the Caps went with Braden Holtby in the playoffs and also have Michal Neuvirth under contract for next season.
Vokoun has nearly 700 games of NHL experience, and has appeared in 11 playoffs games. (MacDonald never has appeared in the NHL playoffs.) Other veteran goalies headed for unrestricted free agency this July include Martin Biron, Scott Clemmensen, Jonas Hedberg and Curtis Sanford.
Cue the, “Yeah, but…” from me: Vokoun still wants to be a starter, so I think that rules him out, and Biron seems very happy in New York. I could see Clemensen or Sanford coming here…
And if I truly am to play devil’s advocate, guess who’s considering one more shot at the NHL after a year off to tour the world? According to iSport.cz, one 47-year-old former Wings goaltender’s been visiting his old stomping grounds in Buffalo and Detroit of late, and while said player’s agent, Rich Winter, says that there’s nothing going on negotiation-wise, iSport believes that Dominik Hasek wants to see if he can earn one final NHL contract.
Does that make sense from a Wings standpoint? Probably not, but crazier things have happened with that crazy, crazy Czech, so I’m not willing to rule out anything (for the record, Slava Kozlov told F-Sport that he wants to continue playing, too, but the 40-year-old plans to continue playing in Russia).
Shifting gears in a big, big way, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford reminds us that the Red Wings’ captain doesn’t really need to pad his stats via a “By the Numbers” look at his 2011-2012 season…But it sure would be nice if he wanted to:
1,564: Surpassed both Steve Yzerman (on Nov. 25 at Boston) and Alex Delvecchio (on Jan. 12 vs Philadelphia) on Detroit’s all-time games-played list this season with 1,564 total games. Only Gordie Howe has played more games as a Wing (1,687).
1,131: Became one of the NHL’s top 50 all-time scorers when he recorded career-point No. 1,131 during 3-2 win over St Louis (Dec. 27). Accumulated 1,142 career points by the end of the season, joining Jaromir Jagr (1,653) and Teemu Selanne (1,406) as the only active players on the top 50 all-time scorers list.
23: Registered 23 assists during the regular-season, the eighth highest on the team. With 878 career assists, he trails Steve Yzerman and Gordie Howe for most assists in Red Wings’ history.
13: Lidstrom had 13 power play assists during the regular season, second only to Pavel Datsyuk, who finished with 19. The defenseman has registered 458 power play assists throughout his career.
1: More season, at least. Please?
Regarding one of the Wings’ prospects who’s about to start his professional career, at least in passing, Tomas Jurco’s Saint John Sea Dogs will face the Shawinigan Cataractes tonight in the Memorial Cup semifinal (at 7 PM EDT on Sportsnet in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.) because Shawinigan beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-1 in the “tiebreaker” game on Thursday night.
The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the Memorial Cup final on Sunday, and the good news for the defending champs in Saint John is simple: Shawinigan will be playing their third game in three nights, having dropped a 4-1 decision in a very scrappy game—to the point that the teams were fined $2,500 apiece to deter future shenanigans—to Saint John on Wednesday.
Ahem, per the Canadian Press:
There was old-time hockey action at the end of the game against Shawinigan. Three separate melees broke out in the final minute as frustration boiled over from the home team and its fans, some of whom threw beer cans onto the ice. Even [Sea Dogs coach Gerard] Gallant got hit in the back of the head with a can, although happily for the coach it was empty.
[Cataractes coach Eric] Veilleux got into a shouting match at the bench with Saint John’s coaches.
On Thursday, organizers fined each team $2,500 for “conduct prejudicial to the welfare of the game and the tournament.”
“We don’t do a lot of fighting, but we can respond any way you like,” said Gallant. “We’ve got big guys that play physical at times. Our game is about puck movement, speed and skill, but we never shy away from the other stuff.”
Heading back to the speculatory free agent department, again, the crop of forwards available is pretty damn thin, I’ve got to disagree with the Windsor Star’s Robbie Benneian on this one, as he believes that Dustin “Pancakes” Penner would be a perfect fit on the Wings’ roster:
Just two years removed from a career best 32-31-63 stat line, Penner hit the low-water mark of his professional life, registering a measly 17 points.
He would immediately become the Wings biggest forward at 6’4″ and 245 pounds, but he isn’t necessarily a guy that is going to bowl you over with his sheer size, a la Alexander Ovechkin. The big, mercurial winger actually reminds me a lot of one of the Wings more successful makeover jobs, and current top six forward, Todd Bertuzzi. Penner and Bertuzzi play more of a small man’s skilled finesse game in a big man’s body. When they want to be hard on the puck and take up space, though, they can create room for their linemates and bull their way to the net.
The comparisons aren’t just on the ice though. The oft-misunderstood Bertuzzi has come to be known as one of the better jokers on a team full of them. When asked about the attention the Kings will be getting from local fans with the Clippers and Lakers out of the playoffs, Penner dryly responded with “I guess we’ll need to get a bigger bandwagon.”
With the absolute dearth of talented free agents available, a guy like Penner could fill a void without costing an arm and a leg. Penner will almost certainly need to take a pay cut from the $4.25M Los Angeles is paying him to ride shotgun on the bromance line of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. I would think if Detroit agreed to give Penner a multi-year deal, something in the 3-4 year range, he could be had for about $3.5M per. At just 29-years-old, the deal would take Penner through the prime of his career and hopefully he could find the success he enjoyed in the first five years of his career, where he averaged nearly 48 points a year.
I hate to say it, but given the supply-versus-demand nature of the free agent marketplace, Penner could very well snag a similar salary to the one he’s earning now given his superb playoff run, but while Benneian argues that Wings coach Mike Babcock might adore Penner, I think that adding yet another big guy who’s inconsistent during the regular season might make Babcock apoplectic.
He already prods Bertuzzi and Franzen to lug the puck up ice like big men, go to the ice like big men and bang bodies like big men, and adding what is essentially a poor man’s Johan Franzen to the mix…
I’ll defer to the Sports Forecaster’s profile of Penner:
ASSETS: Is one of the biggest physical specimens in the game, but also possesses good hockey sense. Plays his best while standing in front of the net. Can score goals in bunches.
FLAWS: Could stand to use his size more in every game situation. Does not display enough game-to-game consistency. Gets in trouble when he stops moving his feet.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Inconsistent big scoring winger.
I’d rather see the Wings add a scoring forward with a little more pop, like Semin, and a fourth-liner with size and grit instead. Penner only scored 7 goals this past season, and his back is just as wonky as Bertuzzi’s.
And finally, this is a repeat, but it’s worth repeating, from Marketwire.com:
Chris Chelios “Assists” Megan’s Dreams Golf Outing to Benefit Homeless Animals and Young Veterinarians
In Memory of Megan Darr-Soroka, 6th Annual Outing Takes Place at Dearborn Hills
DEARBORN, MI—(Marketwire - May 24, 2012) - Helping to fulfill the dreams of Megan Darr-Soroka, a popular manager at Cheli’s Chili Bar in Detroit, the event contributes to an endowment fund for Michigan State University veterinary students and the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter. Celebrating her life and passion for animals and those who care for them, Megan’s Dreams Golf Outing takes place on Friday, June 8, at Dearborn Hills Golf Course, 1300 S. Telegraph Road. As one of Michigan’s best public golf courses, Dearborn Hills is perfect for all interested golfers, novice and serious alike.
“Former Detroit Red Wing great Chris Chelios serves as honorary co-chair of the event and is joining in the golf festivities with us this year to help round out the day,” comments Tim Keyes, Megan’s Dreams spokesperson. “We welcome all to join Chris and the rest of us to support these two great charities.”
“Collaboration between two nonprofits is key to Megan’s Dreams,” shares Friends Development Director Kelle Sisung. “We’ve come together to create a truly unique outing that stands apart from the rest.” Mr. Chelios provided one of the many unique auction items: a tour for four people of the Red Wings locker room and the opportunity to attend a morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. Golfers will have a chance to bid on this once-in-a-lifetime package throughout the day on the course.
$125 ticket per person includes:
12 noon: Registration
1 p.m.: Shotgun start
BBQ Wings wagon, ice cream stop, and hot dog station
Roving cigar bar sponsored by Le Cigar of Dearborn
Wine tent sponsored by Barefoot Wine & Bubbly
5 p.m.: Drinks, hors d’oeuvres; silent auction starts
6 p.m.: Dinner banquet (open to non-golfers for only $50 )
Megan’s Dreams is a 501(c)(3) organization supporting the health and care of animals. Purchase tickets online at http://www.MegansDreams.com or ca,ll (313) 943-2697 for more information.
The Dearborn Animal Shelter is located at 2661 Greenfield Road, Dearborn, and is operated by the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Main phone (313) 943-2697 and online http://www.DearbornAnimals.org.
Update: Expressen’s Mattias Ek is mistaking Jim Nill’s desire to let Dick Axelsson continue to mature at his own pace for the Wings “giving up” on him;
• And the Czech news agency CTK is confirming that Dominik Hasek at least wants to give playing professional hockey one more try.
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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.