The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/25/11 at 03:10 PM ET
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.”
Yes, there are major cap savings, but the Wings are losing a quality puck-mover in Rafalski.
“He was a tremendous signing for us,” said Holland. “He was major factor in us winning the Cup in 2008. He played 11 years in the National Hockey League and made the Cup finals five times. He’s been a real important player on good teams. He’s a big loss.”
So the Wings have to make a signing…
“We have lots of cap space,” said Holland. “We’ve got some decisions to make. Obviously, July 1 is a big day for us now. We’re going to explore the market. ... At the draft, we’ll also look to see if teams are looking to move defensemen, but usually teams aren’t looking to do that.”
And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger fired off some encouraging Twitter updates:
Tried to tweet this earlier from phone, but smartphone is acting dumb today. Lidstrom will let Holland know decision before NHL Entry Draft
Holland said he’s crossing his fingers and toes for “great news” regarding Lidstrom’s decision.
For those who like to read into things, Mike Babcock’s wife said she saw Lidstrom at the gym on Monday and he was working out hard.
Holland said the #Redwings will explore all options to fill the gap on defense, including trades and open free agent market on July 1
Ditto for the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Will Nicklas Lidstrom return to play a 20th season with the Red Wings? Coach Mike Babcock hopes this little piece of information, via Babcock’s wife, Maureen, is a clue. It seems Maureen was at a health club earlier this week and spotted Lidstrom, also working out.
“She said he was working out like crazy. His shirt was soaked,” Babcock said.
So what was Babcock’s view of that news?
“I was so excited to hear that you have no idea,” Babcock said.
Lidstrom is out of town on a mini-vacation with Tomas Holmstrom this weekend, according to Babcock. The Wings expect Lidstrom to give them a decision on whether he’ll retire by the NHL entry draft June 24. General manager Ken Holland said Lidstrom hasn’t given an indication which way he’s leaning. Most of Lidstrom’s teammates believe he will be back in 2011-12.
Update: Here’s Ansar Khan’s Lidstrom report:
“I’ll give you a good report, right from my wife,’’ Babcock said during Wednesday’s news conference announcing Brian Rafalski’s retirement. “She was at the gym yesterday and Nick was working out like crazy. She said his shirt was soaked, I was so excited to hear that, you have no idea.’‘
Babcock said Lidstrom right now is “on a flight to a have a little holiday with Homer (Tomas Holmstrom).’‘
Lidstrom has told general manager Ken Holland that he will have a decision prior to the NHL entry draft on June 24-25. Lidstrom will attend the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas on June 22, where he is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as best defenseman (he’s a six-time winner) and the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship.
Holland said he crosses his fingers and toes every night before going to bed, hoping to get good news. He said he doesn’t believe Rafalski’s decision to retire will have any bearing on Lidstrom’s decision.
“If Nick’s coming back, Nick’s coming back because he’s got the passion to play another year,’’ Holland said. “I don’t think Nick’s going to come back because the Detroit Red Wings have a big hole. The league is too tough, too fast, too competitive, you have to come back because you have an intense desire and determination to play hockey at the highest level. If you don’t have that burning desire you’re not going to be able to play at the level you want to play at.’‘
Update #2: Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ Lidstrom report:
“This is a good report,” Babcock said. “I’ll give it to you right from my wife. She was at the gym yesterday, and Nick was working out like crazy. She said his shirt was soaked. I was so excited to hear that, you have no idea. That’s insider reporting right there. That’s the scoop.”
Babcock also revealed that, as far as he knows, Lidstrom left today for a little holiday with forward Tomas Holmstrom.
The Wings are optimistic Lidstrom, 41, will come back and play another year. Currently, the only players signed on Detroit’s defense are Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Jakub Kindl and minor leaguer Doug Janik, who is on a one-way contract but most likely will stay in the minors. Brendan Smith is going to get a good look at training camp, but the Wings probably would rather he play 20 minutes per game in Grand Rapids than five or six minutes in Detroit. Jonathan Ericsson and Ruslan Salei are eligible to become unrestricted free agents, and it’s unlikely Salei will return.
General manager Ken Holland said he’ll convene with his scouting staff in mid-June to discuss how to fill the hole left by Rafalski; options include potential unrestricted free agents such as Kevin Bieksa, Ed Jovanovski, Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo, James Wisniewski, Eric Brewer, Tomas Kaberle, Christian Ehrhoff, Bryan McCabe and Roman Hamrlik.
“We’re going to explore the market,” Holland said. “We’re not going to blow our brains out.”
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