The Malik Report
The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings made a pair of educated guesses on July 1st.
Montreal bet on Alexander Radulov for 1 year, $5.75 million and what seem like a boatload of promises about Radulov having matured from the brash young player that was a problem child in both the NHL and KHL into a more adult version of big, mean and goal-scoring ornery;
The Red Wings made a lower-risk bet on a player with a different sort of checkered past in Thomas Vanek, placing a 1-year, $2.6 million bet on the concept that an elite goal-scorer turned player oft-maligned for his lack of motivating fire and tendency to float, to the point that the Minnesota Wild bought him out this past June.
Montreal is betting on Radulov keeping his notorious fire in check; the Red Wings are betting on Vanek's understanding that his career is on the line, and finding the motivation that has been lacking in his game since his 27-goal, 68-point campaign two seasons ago.
The Free Press's Helene St. James believes that the Red Wings' made a safer bet, monetarily and production-wise, in choosing Vanek over Radulov:
The Hockey News's Ken Campbell (via RedWingsFeed) listed 10 possible candidates to earn raises via salary arbitration, and two of them are Red Wings:
Petr Mrazek, G, Detroit ($737,500): In February, Mrazek had the best save percentage and goals-against average in the NHL. Even though he faded down the stretch and was not the Red Wings starting goalie in the playoffs, he finished the playoffs for them and is regarded as the Red Wings goalie of the future.
Dan DeKeyser, D, Detroit ($2.2 million): DeKeyser got off to a slow start, but his game and his numbers got better as the season went on. He led all Red Wings defensemen in blocked shots and shorthanded ice time and was behind only Niklas Kronwall in overall ice time among Red Wings. His possession numbers aren’t great, which might hurt his arbitration case.
It should be noted that Petr Mrazek told Hokej.cz's Vaclav Jachim that he's eying a 2 or 4-year contract, and Danny DeKeyser told MLive's Brendan Savage, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff and DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji that he doesn't expect any trouble coming to a contract agreement with the Wings...
It should also be noted that the Wings rarely if ever actually complete the arbitration process with a player who's filed, so tomorrow's deadline for player-elected arbitration cases and Wednesday's deadline for team-elected arbitration would yield nothing more than starting points for productive negotiations if history holds true regarding the team's belief that arbitration hearings should be avoided.
Of Red Wings-related note this morning:
1. Whether it's the Toronto Star's Damien Cox, the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons, the Buffalo News's Mike Harrington or the Traverse City Record-Eagle's James Cook and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, pundits both near and far find the Red Wings' free agency moves to be "perplexing," and the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo was nothing less than in full growl while speaking on Fox 2's SportsWorks on Sunday night (fast forward to the 6-minute mark):
Caputo reiterated his talking points in a column for the Oakland Press:
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
There is a lot to like about Fowler. He's 24, tremendously mobile, with decent size (6-1, 207). He can quarterback the power play and kill penalties. He's reasonably priced with two years remaining at a $4 million cap hit (he'll be unrestricted when it expires) and would probably like to stick around long-term since he grew up in Farmington Hills.
The Red Wings have also coveted Shattenkirk, who is a right-handed shot, unlike Fowler.
Shattenkirk, however, can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If you're going to move a valuable asset for Shattenkirk, you'd want to have him signed to an extension at the time of the deal. But Shattenkirk would have little motivation to sign, knowing he could headline the 2017 UFA class on defense.
Trouba, a Rochester native, but has been tossed around in trade rumors for some time. He's a big (6-3, 202), young (22) shutdown defender with a good right-handed shot and was taken ninth overall in 2012. That's not the kind of player a team usually trades.
But the Jets have three other highly paid defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers. They need help up front.
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
That’s why there’s been talk with Anaheim about Cam Fowler, a 24-year-old elite skater who already has played more than 400 NHL games. Given how hot a commodity good defensemen are, it would probably take Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist, plus a high second-round pick.
One reason to move Tatar rather than Nyquist is that Tatar will be a restricted free agent in another season and will cost in the $4.5-million annual range to re-sign. St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk is better on the power play than Fowler, but Shattenkirk is unrestricted next summer and he’ll command in the $6-7 million range. Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba is 6-foot-3 and shoots right, which is why the Jets want to keep him....
Asked about the defense, general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press in the aftermath of Friday’s start of free agency that he’d “let the dust settle, let people see what they got, and go from there.”
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
In a short span of time, the Detroit Red Wings changed optics from bleak to considerably better.
Spending power was created last weekend at the draft, and then used Friday to add four forwards who will create the internal competition vital for a successful team. The Wings do not look like a Stanley Cup contender as is, but they are in much better shape than in the immediate aftermath of Pavel Datsyuk’s announcement that he’s returning to Russia.
Frans Nielsen, signed Friday from the New York Islanders, fills a need at center. And a one-year gamble on Thomas Vanek, signed from the Minnesota Wild, could pay off with 20-25 goals, which over the course of a season should translate to three-to-five more victories.
Steve Ott, signed from St. Louis, ideally turns out to be Dallas Drake 2.0, the type of boundlessly enthusiastic veteran who keeps opponents honest, and who at the very least serves as an effective penalty killer and insurance for Drew Miller as he attempts a comeback from a rebuilt knee.
Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
1. NHL.com's Nicholas J. Cotsonika weighed in on the Red Wings' free agent haul in the larger context of what took place during the balance of July 1st:
In a perfect world the Detroit Red Wings would have signed center Steven Stamkos when the NHL free-agent market opened Friday, giving them a No. 1 center and marquee attraction as they move from Joe Louis Arena this season to a new rink in 2017-18.
They would have signed Milan Lucic or Kyle Okposo or Andrew Ladd or Troy Brouwer, giving them more size, scoring and veteran presence on the wing. They would have signed forward Matt Martin for more bite on their fourth line too, and they would have signed them all to salary-cap friendly contracts.
But this isn't a perfect world, and free agency particularly is imperfect. In the end, the Red Wings signed center Frans Nielsen instead of Stamkos, left wing Thomas Vanek instead of Lucic or Okposo or Ladd or Brouwer or Alexander Radulov for that matter, and center Steve Ott instead of Martin. They also re-signed forward Darren Helm.
Nielsen is an excellent fit for his smart, skilled style and all-around game, and though the term of his six-year contract worth a reported $31.5 million presents some risk, it's reasonable risk. Vanek and Ott are low-risk, low-cost moves. Each signed for one year: Vanek for a reported $2.6 million, Ott for a reported $800,000. Helm received a lot of term to keep him off the market: five years for a reported $19.25 million.
2. And MLive's Ansar Khan penned an article about Frans Nielsen:
All 18 of them...
The Detroit Newss Bob Wojnowski and Gregg Krupa offer two late-night takes on the Red Wings' free agent machinations, and they seem to come to the same conclusion. Wojnowski feels that the Wings' moves must precede a trade for a defenseman...
Theoretically, Holland could’ve sat on his salary-cap dough and waited for, well, what? He didn’t waste the money with Nielsen and Vanek, but he didn’t have many options, either.
This is a vital, pressure-packed offseason for Holland, and whether he’s onto Plan B or C or D isn’t completely the point. Many teams didn’t get a shot at their Plan A after 26-year-old prize Steven Stamkos returned to Tampa Bay, where Steve Yzerman is proving to be the savvy general manager we all expected.
Holland’s adjustment to the Stamkos miss has been more obligatory than inspired, and he’s still lacking the big move that stirs things up. Detroit absolutely must find a top-four defenseman, and it’ll likely have to come in a bold trade for someone like Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, 24. If that means surrendering young players such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or others, the Wings are due to take risks in trades.
Holland does have impediments, some of his own making with past poor signings, and some the inevitable fallout of losing longtime stars. Nashville was able to take the big leap by dealing Shea Weber for P.K. Subban, but Holland didn’t have an extra Weber laying around to trump it.
And the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa feels that Holland's moves must, well, precede a trade for a defenseman:
The Red Wings' major moves today--the signing of Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, re-signings of Alexey Marchenko and Darren Helm--get a "C" grade from me, in no small part because of the comments Ken Holland and Nielsen made (a.k.a. the essay portion of the exam) after the moves were made.
I get that Nielsen was the Wings' "#1 choice" after Stamkos, which is a little suspect as the fleet-footed Dane happens to be 32 and signed until he's 38, so you and I were going to be stuck with the guy. That being said, every comment I've read about him from Islanders fans suggests that Nielsen's 20 goals and 51 points this past season belie a strong skating and an all-around game from a very consistent player. I do hope that the Wings were right on this one.
Vanek is simply a wild card. His point production has been in decline for some time, but he's been signed for a pretty reasonable salary at a 1-year term, and if the Wings can rekindle the competitive fires of the Vanek of old, they'll have a 20-goal-scoring sniper on their hands.
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