The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/22/11 at 01:42 AM ET
After agonizingly waiting for a month and then spending all of Monday and part of Tuesday listening to Nicklas Lidstrom explain to the press that he simply would not return to the Detroit Red Wings unless he felt that, at 41, he could continue to play at a Norris Trophy-finalist’s caliber of play, I kinda lost it and said some very stupid things about Justin Bourne’s suggestion that Lidstrom should retire lest age and a drop-off in play tarnish his legacy.
I’m very sorry for saying what I said and will readily admit that I acted like a moron, especially after asking my own audience to disagree with opinions but not call each other names, and I am sorry for being a moron myself. My vehement disagreement with Bourne’s position, however, will not change.
Lidstrom himself has stated that he does not plan on simply continuing to play because he wants to hang on for as long as possible. I believe him.
I’m also not going to deny that I’m approaching the situation very differently—I’m both an admitted Red Wings fan and have told Mr. Lidstrom, face-to-face, that he’s my favorite player—so yes, my feelings are clouding my judgment. In any case, however, what I said was inexcusable and unprofessional and I am sorry to both Bourne and you. I agree with his conclusion completely:
I just want to remember Lidstrom as near flawless, which he’s been for an unheard of length of time. I wanted it to be just that and nothing else.
It’s tough to know when you’ve pushed it too far in sports. It’s tough to know when the fall-off is going to come. For a man who’s been so classy and so unbelievable for so long, I hope he has one last great season in him. I’m sure he knows better than anyone if he does and clearly he believes he can still maintain that high level.
If anyone can do it, it’s Nick Lidstrom. Here’s hoping he’s got one more trick up his sleeve.
Moving on, the Wings are, from my point of view, anyway, in a bit of an uncomfortable spot with Jaromir Jagr. Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, spoke to the AP’s Larry Lage today, and he his client apparently wants to be wanted:
“Quite a few teams are in the picture, but I’ve been talking to Detroit and Pittsburgh the last couple of days,” Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “He is looking for a one-year deal and I think he will have one in the next week or so.”
Jagr, 39, was the NHL MVP in 1999, a five-time scoring champion and two-time Stanley Cup winner while he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He went on to play for the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
“They’ve contacted us and we’ve expressed an interest,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ll continue to stay in touch.”
Jagr hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2007-08 season with the Rangers. He left the league to play for Avangard Omsk in Russia, but he and his agent are working on getting a deal done with a team in North America. The six-foot-three, 245-pound forward had a hat trick last month in a 4-0 win over the United States in the quarter-finals of the ice hockey world championship, where the Czechs finished fourth.
As for Jagr’s other suitors, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun updated his Jagr story (in which Jagr says that he still owns a house in Pittsburgh and gushes about both the Penguins and Red Wings) with this:
While Svoboda said earlier Tuesday that the NHL was a stronger probability than Russia’s KHL, where Jagr has played the past three years, one cannot discount that possibility either.
The Red Wings have publicly confirmed their interest in Jagr while the Penguins have not. Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero did not return a message seeking comment from ESPN.com, but coach Dan Bylsma talked about the prospect of signing Jagr at the media session for NHL awards nominees Tuesday.
“Hypothetically, you’re talking about a guy who in his last year in the National Hockey League had 75 points,” Bylsma said. “That’s leading our team last year. That’s an intriguing thing to think about—a power-play guy, what you saw him do in the world championship against NHL-caliber players was nothing short of outstanding.
“Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically and it’s tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if that’s something you’re capable of doing,” he said.
Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier declined comment via email to ESPN.com on Tuesday when asked about his team’s rumored interest in Jagr.
On adding Jaromir Jagr: “Hypothetically, you’re talking about a guy in his last year in the National Hockey League had 75 points. That’s leading our team last year. That’s an intriguing thing to think about. He’s a power-play guy. What you saw him do in the World Championship against NHL-caliber players was nothing short of outstanding on a bigger ice surface. Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically. It’s tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if it’s something you’re capable of doing.”
On if he’ll lobby Shero to add Jagr: “We were having the coaches meetings and there was an article in the Russian paper about some interest on Jagr’s part in talking to the Penguins. That was about a month ago. We found that to be amusing since that wasn’t true. But it was intriguing to see that it was out there that the had said there was interest there.”
On if he’s spoken to Jagr: “I have not spoken to Jaromir.”
On if the organization has spoken to Jagr: “Not at this time, no.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari reports that the Penguins do plan on speaking to Jagr and Svoboda “soon”:
A planned conversation between Petr Svoboda, who represents free-agent right winger Jaromir Jagr, and Penguins general manager Ray Shero did not come off as scheduled this afternoon.
Svoboda, however, said he remained optimistic that it would at some point, even though it was past 10 p.m. in Prague, where Svoboda is based, and he still hadn’t gotten together on the phone with Shero.
Svoboda said the Penguins “communicated with (Jagr)” a bit earlier in the day, but did not elaborate on what was discussed, and said that he would not discuss the Jagr situation with reporters again until Wednesday.
Shero, through the team’s media-relations department, declined to speak with reporters for the second consecutive day.
Svoboda said that, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, “there are a few more than three” teams that have expressed interest in trying to sign Jagr, but added that “I don’t want to get into detail” about those potential suitors.
The only team to public acknowledge such an interest is Detroit. Although the Penguins have not, the fact that team officials apparently have had multiple conversations with Svoboda and/or Jagr suggests they have at least a mild interest in trying to add him to their roster.
“He loves that team, that city,” agent Petr Svoboda said Tuesday from the Czech Republic. “And he loves Mario (Lemieux), so that is all on his mind.”
The opportunity to win the Stanley Cup — and return to the NHL after three years of playing professionally in Russia — has positioned the perennial contender Penguins and Detroit Red Wings as frontrunners to land Jagr, Svoboda said. Svoboda said he was expecting a second conversation with Penguins general manager Ray Shero regarding Jagr on Tuesday.
“My (first) talk with Ray was wonderful,” Svoboda said. “Jaromir obviously is fond of Pittsburgh, but he likes the current situation there, too.”
The Penguins believe Jagr is asking for at least $2 million on a one-year deal. They are committed to $55.5 million against the salary cap for 17 players on guaranteed NHL contracts. The cap will be $64 million next season, according to Canada’s TSN.
Svoboda did not identify a timetable for a deal with Jagr, who can sign with an NHL team at any time because his last contract was with Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Svoboda said Jagr’s former Penguins teammate Robert Lang was trying to establish communication via phone between Jagr and Lemieux. Jagr has often cited Lemieux as “the best player ever” and his “idol.” They were teammates from 1990-97 and in 2000-01.
“We talked a lot about that (Monday), just Jaromir and I speaking about his days with the Penguins,” Svoboda said. “Playing again in Pittsburgh is obviously something that’s on Jaromir’s mind, but I wouldn’t say it’s the main factor. The main factor for him is having a chance to win again.”
Svoboda’s offering a slightly different take to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, said Tuesday Jagr, if he returns to the NHL, would like to play of the Red Wings, Pittsburgh, or “one or two” other teams.
Those teams are believed to be the New York Rangers and Montreal. Jagr, 39, has played the last three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental League.
“He’s leaning toward coming back to the NHL,” said Svoboda, who wouldn’t completely rule out a return to Russia. “There are three or four teams (that are interested in Jagr). We’ll see what happens. Jaromir is excited about returning to the NHL.”
Svoboda and Wings general manager Ken Holland have stayed in contact this week. Holland confirmed interest in Jagr if the salary fits into the Wings’ plans.
“We’ve been contacted by his (Jagr’s) agent and we continue to stay in contact,” said Holland from Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve told them we have some interest.”
The issue is likely to come down to money and how much of a pay cut Jagr would accept to return to the NHL.Jagr earned nearly $6 million in Russia last season. The Wings are expected to offer significantly less than that as a base salary, not including incentives. Reports out of Pittsburgh indicate the Penguins are offering less than the Wings would be willing to offer. Svoboda expects to meet with Jagr Wednesday but wouldn’t put on a time-frame on when Jagr will make a decision.
But Holland told MLive’s Ansar Khan that he feels no need to ask Jagr to make a decision instead of allowing himself to be wined, dined and have his agent wax poetic:
Holland said on Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken to Svoboda in a couple of days but doesn’t need a decision until the July 1 start of free agency.
“Once we hit July 1, we’ll try to make moves,’’ Holland said. “Sometimes you got to make a decision (on a free agent) in an hour. There’s the possibility of exploring trades this weekend (at the NHL entry draft in St. Paul, Minn.), but it’s not going to affect our (salary) cap situation.’‘
Instead, Holland told Khan that the team will not offer Ruslan Salei a contract before July 1st, and that they’ve accepted Joey MacDonald’s decision to leave the team to pursue a full-time NHL job:
Holland said he has informed the agent for Ruslan Salei that the veteran defenseman won’t be offered a contract prior to July 1. Holland didn’t rule out the possibility of signing Salei later in the summer if the club hasn’t filled his spot and he’s still available.
“We want to be positioned so we can be involved in the marketplace, we don’t want to tie up a roster spot,’’ Holland said. “Salei did a good job, did very well in the playoffs.’‘
Holland also told the agent for goaltender Joey MacDonald that he won’t be offered a contract. The Red Wings would have signed MacDonald to a two-way deal, with the purpose of sending him to the Grand Rapids Griffins as the organization’s No. 3 goalie. But MacDonald will seek a one-way deal from an NHL club on July 1 and has no interest in returning to the AHL, where he would make only $105,000. He has an offer to play in Russia for $1 million.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness also confirms Holland’s take on Salei and MacDonald...
Late in the year Salei, who signed a one-year deal late last offseason, found himself competing for the sixth spot on the blue line with Jakub Kindl. He won the battle and played in all 11 games in the postseason and had one goal. However, if the Wings are unable to fill their need on defense Holland did not rule out bringing Salei back if he is still available.
“We want to be positioned so we can be involved in the marketplace,” Holland said. “We don’t want to tie up a roster spot.”
The Wings wanted to re-sign MacDonald to another two-way deal so they could send him to Grand Rapids if needed, but the journeyman goalie will seek a one-way deal from another club once free agency hits.
MacDonald, who also reportedly has an offer to play in Russia for $1 million, has no interest in returning to the AHL, where he would make only $105,000.
MacDonald was 4-4-1 in his second go-around with the Wings last season with a 2.21 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
And while Lidstrom offered this take on Jagr from the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“I know he’s been over in Russia two or three years,” Lidstrom said. “But I know how hard it was to play against him, and I don’t think he’s gotten any worse by playing over there.”
The Wings have told the free-agent forward’s camp they’re interested at the right price. They’re now waiting for Jagr to decide whether he really wants to return to the NHL after spending three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Jagr also is talking to one of his former teams, Pittsburgh, and might still find the $4 million to $5 million he could net in Russia more attractive than the NHL. If not, the dilemma for Jagr comes down to money, and whether he’d rather play with Pavel Datsyuk or Sidney Crosby. There is talk that he’s also interested in Washington and the New York Rangers.
Lidstrom hopes Jagr picks the Wings.
“I think he’s still a heck of a player,” Lidstrom said. “From talking to friends that watched the world championships, they said he played real well in that tournament, playing against the top players in the world. So we’ll see what happens. But I think he could help our team, especially his size. I know he’s got the skills, but I think his size is something a lot of teams would like.”
The Wings’ real business at hand over the next few days involves replacing Brian Rafalski’s output, as Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell—and the WIngs might do so at the draft, which is Nill’s primary responsibility to manage this weekend in Minneapolis…
Nill includes the Wings in the group of clubs that’ll be exploring its options, in Detroit’s case to fill the hole left by the retirement of defenceman Brian Rafalski.
“We’ll probably focus on that (defence),” Nill said of the trade possibilities for the Wings. “You just don’t replace Brian that easily. He was good for 50 points, was an all-star defenceman. We like our top six to nine forwards. We feel we’re as good as anyone there. Obviously, we have a hole to fill with Brian leaving. We’ll explore whether we fill it with one high-end guy or by committee with two guys.”
As for the Wings drafting needs, Nill said they won’t be looking at any particular position. It may sound like a boring cliche to claim you’ll take the best player available, but he said there’s a reason for that in the salary-cap era.
“The NHL has almost become like junior,” Nill said. “Because free agency comes sooner for players, you have about a four-year window and then you have to start to rebuild again. You don’t focus really on one position when you’re drafting where we are because you’re constantly replenishing. You can’t stockpile talent like you used to. “Given that, you can never have enough defencemen. Unless we move up, we’ll take the best player available. We have a list of about 30 guys we like that we’ll work off.”
And in that vein, Nill believes that the Wings do have a deep pool of prospects to pick from:
“There’s real good depth to this one,” Nill said. “After the top 12 to 15 players, there’s another group of 30 players that all teams will like. They all have some weaknesses, but they also have a high upside. Last year’s draft wasn’t as deep, but this year there aren’t the Taylor Halls and Tyler Seguins. There are still a lot of good players though.”
“There’s a number of good defenceman, but there’s more forwards,” Nill said. “It’s not a good year for goalies. They (forwards) cover the whole cross-section. There are potential power forwards, some small, high-skill guys and guys that can score but don’t necessarily skate great.”
As for Jagr, sometimes a more objective voice needs to be heard to wrap things up, so I’ll allow TSN’s Darren Dreger to take us out:
The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins are Jagr’s preference for the soft-landing NHL comeback he has in mind. However, reports indicate a mysterious third team is in the mix as well.
Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, has contacted both the Pens and Red Wings and both have acknowledged they are willing to listen and continue investigating the opportunity.
Detroit is in the market for a top-six forward and a backup goalie, but has placed a priority on picking up a defenceman in unrestricted free agency. Sources say the Red Wings have had a lot of internal discussions about Jagr and will soon decide whether or not to gamble on a one-year deal, somewhat similar to the risk they faced last year in signing Mike Modano.
Detroit may be intrigued by the vision of playing the 39-year-old former superstar with Pavel Datsyuk, or on the power play where Wings’ captain Nick Lidstrom will lead the charge for at least one more season.
Jagr remains a hot commodity in the Kontinental Hockey League as well and some believe he’s using the NHL as leverage to raise his value in the KHL. Neither Detroit nor Pittsburgh are interested in a bidding war, so Jagr may have to decide what’s most important to him - another crack at the Stanley Cup, or a league simply willing to pay him more.
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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.