The Malik Report
Updated 4x at 10:27 with a slick Rosenberg article: So Brian Rafalski chose to retire today, and while several comments made during his press conference ruffled some feathers (guessing by the 100 comments in my email inbox from the past three hours alone), it’s hard to begrudge someone for saying a little too much when he’s emotionally stressed, and, perhaps moreover, I admire the man for choosing to simply say goodbye when his priorities had changed instead of playing out the string and collecting an extra $6 million.
Now the Red Wings are eagerly awaiting news from Nicklas Lidstrom regarding his future, and they hope to at least re-sign Jonathan Ericsson. After that, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, the Wings are more likely than not to attempt to fill Rafalski’s skates via free agency:
“Free agency is a wonderful thing. That’s how we got Rafi,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Rafi said it himself, ‘That they’re going to have to fill the hole.’ And we plan on doing that. I don’t know how. But we’re going to do it.”
As of now, the Wings have Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Jakub Kindl and Doug Janik under contract for the 2011-12 season. They would also like to see how prospect Brendan Smith progresses in training camp.
“Certainly we need to overhaul our defense,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Either through trade (or) at the draft when there’s going to be trades. Not a lot of teams are trading defense, most teams are looking for defense. We’ll probably really have to set our sights on July 1.”
A relatively weak unrestricted free-agent class means general managers may have to get more creative this summer in how they spend money. One option is signing a restricted free agent and the new changes in compensation, obtained by Sporting News, may make that option more attractive.
“Find a team that is near the cap and you can really (mess) with them,” one NHL source said.
The numbers and compensation are tied to the average league salary, which is $2.3 million.
2011 restricted free agent compensation
Updated at 1:49 PM with Ansar Khan’s report: Via Paul and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Red Wings GM Ken Holland provides us with an update as to Nicklas Lidstrom’s status...
“He’s going to let me know before the draft,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com on Wednesday. “I think he wants to make sure that he feels comfortable about whatever decision he makes. Obviously, we’re hoping he wants to come back. We’re sitting here with our fingers crossed hoping he does come back.”
Most people in and around the Wings believe Lidstrom will return, but it will be interesting to see how the 41-year-old future Hall of Fame defenseman views losing his longtime defensive partner, Rafalski. Does Lidstrom see it as a step backward for the organization, or does he trust one of the game’s great GMs in Holland to fill that hole and keep the Wings’ powerhouse intact? While the hockey world awaits Lidstrom’s decision, the Red Wings must deal with the loss of Rafalski. The 37-year-old Rafalski walks away from another year left on his deal at $6 million.
“It took me totally by surprise,” Holland said. “He had 48 points in 63 games this year and was a plus-11. When you factor in how productive he was and had another year at $6 million, I was very surprised by his decision.”
Updated 11x at 2:32 PM: Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski made his retirement official this morning, choosing to speak from a lecturn at Joe Louis Arena’s Olympia Club and then exit with his wife instead of doing one-on-one interviews. Rafalski joked that there were no telepropters available until 2012, so he spoke via notes from his iPad, and he stated that he’d chosen to retire 2 months ago, but kept the decision to himself and his wife; he stated that he’s not sure whether he’s going to spend his post-retirement days in Detroit; he suggested that he was injured all year long, stating that he spent every day on the trainer’s table, meaning that a big part of his decision to retire involved injuries, but he also said that his oldest son becoming a high school freshman played into his decision…As did God. Lots and lots and lots of God.
Rafalski repeatedly thanked the Lord and said that his top priorities involved serving God, serving his family and serving others, and if hockey’s not in the top three, it’s time to go. Rafalski was clearly uncomfortable speaking to a big gathering of press corps, so he wrapped his retirement presser’s comments in religion, as if that was what he could lean upon to keep his poise and not tear up. After the presser, he left the talking to Ken Holland, Jim Nill and Mike Babcock.
Here’s a survey of the “Tweets” sent during the presser, with updates and stories to come:
Update: The presser won’t air till 11:10 AM due to inclement weather (seriously): Both the Detroit News and the Red Wings’ website have posted links to live feeds of Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski’s retirement presser. Here’s the Wings’ presser feed:
Via the Mississauga News’s Stuart McComish, Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay recalled his tenure with the St. Michael’s Majors—in 1944—while visiting the Memorial Cup on Tuesday:
“I was 17 when I left home to go play at St. Mike’s,” said Lindsay, who was honoured Tuesday night with a banner unveiling before the Memorial Cup round-robin game between the Kootenay Ice and the Saint John Sea Dogs. “You’re at an age then when you know more than anyone in the world. You know more than your parents. But they gave me good values. St. Mike’s wasn’t a long part of my life, but it was a very important part of my life. The Basilian fathers were great men and great teachers. I had wonderful parents, but when I went to St. Mike’s the fathers were my parents.”
Lindsay played the 1944 season with the Majors, but they lost to the Generals in the Ontario Hockey Association finals. The rules at that time allowed a team in the Memorial Cup to bring in four players as military replacements. The Generals did just that adding Lindsay, Johnny Marois, David Bauer and Gus Mortson for their series against the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“You know hockey people, they write all their rules in pencil so they can change them whenever they want,” said Lindsay, who turns 86 in July 25. “It was near the end of the war and teams were allowed to bring in military replacements at that time. We went and played for Oshawa against the Trail Smoke Eaters who were supposed to be the greatest team to come out of the west.”
Lindsay also offered a blunt assessment of the state of the NHL game:
At 11 AM this morning, the Red Wings will air a press conference announcing that Brian Rafalski is retiring at 36 years of age on DetroitRedWings.com (if their feed is wonky, the Detroit News and probably Fox 2, WDIV and several other outlets will stream the presser), and while Ken Holland and Brian Rafalski are supposed to make an “announcement” about Rafalski’s “future,” the fact that the Wings’ website has already posted a 62-image gallery stating, “Rafalski Retires, May 25, 2011.”
We know what’s going to happen today, but we don’t know what’s going to happen afterward as the Wings attempt to replace a 45-to-55-point producing, puck-moving defenseman who blazed the trail for every NHL defenseman with loads of talent but sub-5’10” size younger than Rafalski. Three Stanley Cups and two silver Olympic medals proved the mettle of a borderline HOF’er on his legacy alone, and it was writing a blurb about the Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup championship for KK’s Patrick Hoffman‘s other venture, the Red Light District Hockey Blog, that made me realize that the Red Wings will do one and only one thing with Rafalski’s $6 million in cap space:
In case Kukla’s Korner is getting too Red Wing-y, let’s condense talk about Brian Rafalski’s retirement, the Wings’ desire to move to the Eastern Conference and the Wings’ exhibition game in London, Ontario to one place while adding a few tidbits to the mix:
Guism’s Neil Bulson argues that Chris Osgood is the sixth-most-underrated athlete, ever, in any sport:
Well this is different, per Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio:
This time, it’s not going to be the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Ottawa Senators, but the Detroit Red Wings. The Flyers’ annual preseason visit north of the border to London, Ont., will see them face the Red Wings at John Labatt Centre on Sept. 22.
“London truly is our home away from home,” said Comcast-Spectacor President and Global Spectrum chairman Peter Luukko. “The fan support here in London for the Flyers is outstanding. The John Labatt Centre is a fantastic hockey arena that our players enjoy visiting. To be playing the Detroit Red Wings here in London is a dream match-up for hockey fans in Southwestern Ontario and Eastern Michigan. It’s going to be a terrific night of hockey in the City of London.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Red Wings continue to hope that the NHL will eventually allow them to move to the Eastern Conference:
The Atlanta Thrashers appear destined for Winnipeg, but the move won’t enable the Detroit Red Wings to shift to the Eastern Conference—at least for the 2011-12 season.
“We’re not moving anywhere next year, that’s a fact,” Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said Monday.
Could the Red Wings move to the East in 2012-13?
“We’ve got our fingers and toes crossed,” Devellano said.
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