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The Malik Report

Brian Rafalski’s likely retirement leaves the Red Wings’ blueline in flux

At this point, the determination as to whether Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski is in fact retiring, as reported on Monday, comes down to a roll call:Sportsnet (Nick Kypreos broke the story), TSN, ESPN’s Scott Burnside, the Sporting News’s Craig Custance, USA Today’s Kevin Allen, and, this morning, MLive’s Ansar Khan Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness all saying that Rafalski will retire, citing “a source” or “sources,” with a press conference expected on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and the Free Press’s Helene St. James are sticking by Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s statement that Rafalski himself had not told Holland that he was going to retire…

Holland spoke with Rafalski last week during season-ending meetings and Rafalski told Holland he “had decisions to make.”

“I don’t really have much comment after that,” Holland said. “I haven’t talked to him since then. I know there are a lot of rumors out there, but he hasn’t told me he’s retiring. I expect to hear from him this week.”

Ditto for St. James, who noted that Holland was willing to at least suggest that the team understood that Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom might not return:

“I’m waiting to hear from Rafi,” Holland said. “I expect to hear from Nick before the draft (next month). They have to make their decisions. But every off-season is the same. Some off-seasons, there are more decisions than others. No matter what decision Rafi makes, we’ve got all summer to put our team together. If he comes back, we still have to do some things to put our team together. If he doesn’t, we’ll have bigger decisions.”

And Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji hedged her bets by confirming the team’s line...

The Red Wings told FOXSportDetroit.com they have not heard from Rafalski regarding any retirement announcement yet.

While noting that Rafalski may have let the press in on his decision-making process during the Red Wings’ locker room clean-out:

When the Wings cleaned out their lockers on May 14, Rafalski said he wouldn’t be shocked if captain Nick Lidstrom, who’s 41, retired. But he did not give any indication that he was considering it.

“Everyone makes their own choices, their own decisions,” Rafalski said. “I respect whatever choice he makes. It’s something that I think is an internal family decision. That’s the way it should be.”

The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, via Twitter, also weighed both sides of the story:

#redwings management quietly suggested Brendan Smith would likely make club next season, so maybe they knew Rafalski was leaving.
...
Noticed during locker clean out day that Rafalski was only guy to pack up everything from his stall and empty it. Thought this was odd.
...
A Rafalski retirement would certainly heat up the Bogosian to #redwings rumours.
...
Ken Holland on Rafalski: “I haven’t talked to him in more than a week. I’m not confirming that he’s retiring.’’ #redwings

Rafalski leaves quite the legacy, and if he’s retiring, he’s leaving $6 million on the table. Kypreos suggested that he missed games with an ACL issue, but if he’s talking about Rafalski’s right knee, it’s ACL blew up when he was 17, leaving Rafalski battling MCL issues and persistent back problems that limited him to 63 games and 48 points (that point-per-game total equals Lidstrom’s 62 if Rafalski played in all 82 games).

Rafalski was a trailblazer for the “smaller” defensemen who used to be too small to play in the NHL, and he took an unusual route to the NHL, as the Wisconsin State Journal notes of the former University of Wisconsin Badger:

Rafalski played in five NHL Finals, winning the Stanley Cup twice with New Jersey (2000 and 2003) and again with Detroit in 2008.

Rafalski teamed with another former UW athlete, Ryan Suter, as a formidable defensive pair that keyed Team USA’s thrilling run to a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The Dearborn, Mich., native—who played junior hockey with the Madison Capitols—competed in three Olympics, also winning silver in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

Rafalski was named the WCHA Defenseman of the Year at Wisconsin as a senior in 1994-95, when he tallied 45 points in 43 games, but he was considered undersized at 5-foot-10 and there were concerns about his defensive capabilities.

He honed his game for four seasons in European leagues, and in 1999 The Sporting News dubbed him the best player in the world not in the NHL.

The Devils signed him as a free agent that fall, and as a rookie at 26 he won his first Stanley Cup and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after finishing at plus-21 and with 32 points.

After a seven-season stint with New Jersey, Rafalski signed a five-year, $30 million free-agent deal with Detroit in July 2007. He was part of the Red Wings’ championship team in his first year with the franchise and helped Detroit to within a victory of another Cup in 2009.

Rafalski may be the smartest hockey player this side of Lidstrom, too—he may end up coaching after hockey, but he could very well run for political office, and I don’t think anyone would be surprised—and there simply is no way to replace his veteran savvy.

That is perhaps the most important thing to note. No matter what the Red Wings do (we’ll get to that in a minute) to help fill the void, you can’t replace Rafalski’s adaptability or calmness with anyone that’s out there. He could play the power play, penalty-kill, shut down big opposing forwards or pump out points galore regardless of whether he was playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom, Derek Meech or anybody in between.

He was, however, admittedly succumbing to a bit of a disease last season.

That disease? Take-a-hit-to-make-a-playism.

I saw it when Slava Fetisov was at the end of his career. It happened when Chris Chelios’s knees finally gave out on him. And despite the fact that Nicklas Lidstrom has never been particularly fast at getting up the ice, I’ve never seen him become particularly vulnerable to its occurrence.

Put simply, when you start seeing offensive defensemen take a hit every time they pass the puck, almost invariably, because they can’t turn out of the way of their opponent, and their opponents know it and begin to exploit that weakness by hitting them every single time that offensive defenseman turns to retrieve the puck from behind his net, well…The end is nigh.

Guys just get so banged-up over time that you see them starting to succumb to chronic injuries and either choose to walk away because they’re banged-up and tired or their effectiveness is reduced and their offense, leadership, veteran presence, etc. etc. can’t make up for their defensive gaffes. It becomes a risk-reward game, and eventually a team will choose to stick with younger and/or more mobile legs.

Rafalski remained incredibly offensively effective and pretty damn solid on a team where half the players, as Mike Babcock suggested, ended up as minus players, finishing at a +11, but he also got the snot beaten out of him by opposing forecheckers who knew that when you got Rafalski to turn, he wouldn’t be able to duck out of the hit or slink away like young players do, via speed, or savvy, like Lidstrom’s done since the big, sometimes plodding youngster started to man the Wings’ blueline 20 years ago. In the playoffs, the Coyotes’ and Sharks’ forecheckers obviously took their toll.

Rafalski looked a bit slow at times and that’s hard for a player who used a short stick and an almost soccer tackle style of closing in on opposing players and jabbing the puck from off their stick or out of their feet when they and Rafalski collided. He ended up taking hits to make plays and ended up starting to wear down and wear out. And then he let the cat out of the bag via reflecting on Nick’s situation.

If Rafalski retires—and it seems bloody likely at this point as the general rule in blogging life is to wait for three sources to confirm, and the score’s 7-2-and-2 (7 for, 2 officially against, and 2 wisely uncertain)—well, it leaves the Wings with several “Ifs.”

1. If the Red Wings choose to retain the services of Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Chris Osgood (presumably at a reduced salary), possibly Kris Draper (ditto), Nicklas Lidstrom (no cut necessary) and don’t trade away Jiri Hudler, they’ve got a certain amount of cap space to play with, depending on whether they:

1a. Trade Jiri Hudler;

1b. Can keep Ericsson at an affordable rate;

1c. Get a boost from the NHL and NHLPA in terms of the salary cap rising from $59.4 million to somewhere between $60.5-63.5 million, depending on the league’s eventual revenue numbers (which are released in mid-June) and whether the NHLPA chooses to exercise its 5% inflator and/or gets a bigger cut of revenues if they exceed $3 billion (and the NHL is very very close to that number, according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly).

2. So, realistically, it’s not safe for Ken Holland to play with anything more than Rafalski’s $6 million, which remains on the table as he signed his contract extension prior to age 35.  As many, many reporters reiterated on Monday evening, Ken Holland has never issued an offer sheet during his tenure as the Wings’ GM, making a play for a restricted free agent like Shea Weber, Keith Yandle or Drew Doughty particularly slim…

In no small part because of Holland’s record (he matched Carolina’s offer sheet for Sergei Fedorov), because of the cost in terms of draft picks (1st, 2nd and 3rd, and a second 1st if he goes over $6 million, and Holland simply does not give up those kinds of picks, period), and because we don’t know whether any of those players will reach restricted free agency to begin with.

3. Also, realistically speaking, if Holland chooses to spend that $6 million, his choices include, most realistically:

3a. James Wisniewski, 27, who posted 51 points but also finished a -14, and shoots right and is a local boy, but has bounced around like a ping pong ball of late, and earned $3.25 million (all figures from Capgeek.com) with the Montreal Canadiens, who may not want to let him leave;

3b. Christian Ehrhoff, 28, who posted 50 points and finished at a +14, and earned a real-world salary of $3.4 million with the Vancouver Canucks, who may not want to let him leave;

3c. Joni Pitkanen, 27, who posted 35 points and finished at a -2, and earned $4.5 million in real-world dollars while playing for the Carolina Hurricanes, who may not want to let him leave;

3d. Kevin Bieksa, 29, who posted 22 points and finished at a +32, but is more of a Brad Stuart type (with fangs), and had a cap hit of $3.75 million with the Vancouver Canucks, who really, really, really don’t want him to leave;

3e. And a cast of alternate characters which include Tomas Kaberle, 33, his $4.25 million salary, status as a playoff bust with Boston and unwillingness to shoot, ever; Bryan McCabe, 35, and his $5.75 million cap hit and tendency to get hurt and tendency to bounce around; Ed Jovanovski, 34, who made $6 million in real world dollars and seems to have slowed considerably; Roman Hamrlik, 37, who doesn’t post the points he used to and made $5.5 million; and a wild card in Andrei Markov, 32, who was an elite offensive defenseman before two consecutive ACL reconstructions in two years derailed him and his $5.75 million salary into a player who’s incredibly high-risk and possibly equally high in the reward department, but just scary to drop major cap dollars upon when you’re losing Brian Rafalski.

4. So we don’t know who’s going to be restricted and reach the market, we don’t know who’s going to be unrestricted and reach the market, we don’t know what the cap’s going to be, and oh yeah…

4a. It’s a lockout year, so it’s dangerous to make a long-term, big-dollar commitment to someone like Wisniewski or Ehrhoff if you’ve got a lockout and a salary rollback and/or a Lidstrom retirement coming;

4b. Because 2012 is a way better and way more populated free agent market than this one, which may mean that other teams will overpay to the extreme to out-bid each other for a very limited supply-and-demand scenario’s worth of players;

4c. And we don’t know whether the Wings want to spend $5-6 million on a top-flight defenseman or whether they’re planning on using some of that money to accommodate Jonathan Ericsson’s re-signing (which seems likely), or whether they want to spend $3-4 million on a second-tier guy, older guy or someone who comes with warning stickers (like Kaberle or Markov) so they can take the other $2 million and use that on a forward, especially if the team really does plan on bringing Brendan Smith onto the club as a #7 defenseman.

Which leaves us at…

5. The reality of the situation. Brian Rafalski’s unique combination of skill and smarts cannot possibly be “replaced” pound for pound, no pun intended, and at best, the Wings will find themselves either making trade-offs or making a lateral move. At worst, they end up having spent all their money on an under-performing player they’re married to for an extended period of time at a unwieldy salary, handcuffing the team’s ability to replace Lidstrom if he comes back…

6. And Lidstrom’s status, despite his, his teammates, coaches and GM’s suggestions to the positive included, remains biggest “if” of all. If Lidstrom retires, too, then yes, everything is on the table, offer sheets and trades (young offensively-minded defensemen are even more expensive to acquire via trade than they are to overpay) included.

Is all of this Rafalski-like in its over-thoroughness and cautiousness? Yes. I figured he merits that much attention to detail. He’s a special player and person and while he’s not exactly Lidstrom, he’s close, and that’s pretty special for a short kid from Allen Park who went to Finland to play pro hockey and will probably wind up with three Stanley Cup rings to his credit and an enormous number of small but skilled defensemen and prospects, from Ryan Ellis to the Wings’ latest undersized defenseman signing in Adam Almqvist, all owing Rafalski a thank-you note for blazing a trail for them.

Now what? Where does that leave us?

With an exciting July 1st ahead of us for the first time in three summers, praying like mad to the Hockey Gods that Nicklas Lidstrom will return, bickering about whether the Wings should keep Jonathan Ericsson and which defenseman and/or defensemen and/or forwards and/or assistant coach the team should target depending on Lidstrom, Ericsson, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and maybe Jiri Hudler’s respective futures as Red Wings.

We don’t know which of those Wings will be re-signed, nor do we know who the Wings will be able to shop for on July 1st, nor do we really know what the salary cap’s going to be. Brad McCrimmon and Brian Rafalski’s recent decisions to make a change and leave the team, respectively—and even saying that is hedging my bets this morning—have turned what was supposed to be the usual summer’s worth of “minor tweaks” into a wholesale renovation of the Big Red Machine’s bench and blueline.

As Mike Babcock would say, in the negative sense of the term, that’s “Un-Red Wing-like.” Which, for most of you, means a little off-season excitement.*

All of that also leaves us glad that we’re not Ken Holland. We can encourage him, hope that he does the right thing and maybe have a little faith, even if it’s in expecting him to make a bang after having to shop in the bargain bin and not being surprised if he goes the, “I’ll put some money toward a player who’ll come to town on a hometown and/or Red Wings discount, some money on a forward and will make sure to not tie myself to a player or his contract for an undue period of time and undue salary to be safe” route, which he usually does….

And thankful for the fact that Raffy brought the Wings a Cup, a Cup final appearance, a Conference Finals appearance and the kind of leadership and example-setting, both on and off the ice, that will make Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, maybe Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and other Wings defensemen to come better because he was here to keep the standard set sky-high.

Also of Red Wings-related note: Dominik Hasek tells Dennik Sport that he’s taking a year off from hockey at 46, but will try to make a comeback for the 2012-2013 season.

No surprise there, and I’ve found that when you look at 30+ foreign-language newspapers in the summer, you’re bound to find something Wings-related most days;

• I really like Jake Duhaime’s pick as the seventh-best Wings game of the 2010-2011 season:

• And the Madison Capital-Times’ Andy Baggot says that the University of Wisconsin shouldn’t induct Chris Chelios into its Athletics Hall of Fame because he’s not as deserving as several other outstanding candidates.

*For the nervous persons like me, it means a summer’s worth of worrying about every time I take a nap or decide to have an “off-day” (I have friends. They haven’t seen me in months) or drive the mom to an appointment and am out of reach of my laptop for three hours and big news breaks. Which is your version of exciting and my version of, “I swear, I don’t get an off-season till August.” Especially if it’s just May and I’m transcribing the interviews given by Rafalski, who speaks as fast as he thinks—at a mile a minute.

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Comments

w2j2's avatar

With Rafalski’s retirement Ericsson’s asking price just went up.

With Nick definitely retiring in the next year or so, Holland cannot afford to wait to bring in a top 2 d-man.  I think he should do whatever it takes to get Weber.

Posted by w2j2 on 05/24/11 at 09:19 AM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

“A Rafalski retirement would certainly heat up the Bogosian to #redwings rumours.”

If we were to make a deal with Winne….I mean Atlanta, what if we were to skip on Bogosian and go for Byfuglien instead? I mean if we HAD to have someone off of that team.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/24/11 at 09:55 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

If we were to make a deal with Winne….I mean Atlanta, what if we were to skip on Bogosian and go for Byfuglien instead? I mean if we HAD to have someone off of that team.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from COLUMBIA, TENNESSEE on 05/24/11 at 07:55 AM ET

Because he regressed the latter half of the season to the player he most likely is. Still a good player—very good player—but kind of a guy without a specific trade. If you don’t have a gaping hole (which the Wings do with Rafalski retiring), Buff is the kind of guy I think you’d LOVE to add to your team for his versatility and offensive skills. But when you need a top four D-man, I think a guy like Buff looks less “versatile” and more like a man without a proper position.

And forget Shea Weber. Yeah, it’d be great, but it isn’t going to happen because it can’t realistically happen. Any offer the Wings could make where they wouldn’t lose their shirt would be matched by the Preds, and any offer that wouldn’t be matched would be devastating for this team’s depth going forward, especially when the Wings do best with more picks since the picks they have are usually lower.

I honestly like Markov if the price is right. It’s a boom or bust deal, and if we were talking $3 million or less for a one year trial, I’d just have to do it. If it’s a bust, the Wings really need to get Kindl and Smith ice time anyways.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 05/24/11 at 10:41 AM ET

Ajax19's avatar

Weber is not going to happen.  Well, definitely not going to happen this year (see more below).  Not only is going after a RFA not the Detroit way, there is no way I see Nashville letting him go.  I know they are on a limited, self-imposed budget, but he’s the cornerstone of that franchise.  They will match any offer.

I hate to see Rafalski go.  There is no way to replace him.  He was calm, poised, had a great outlet pass and was fantastic offensively.  He wasn’t big, but he was pretty effective. 

The upside to all of this is that it suddenly makes July 1st a little more interesting.  Instead of the usual tinkering around the edges with re-signings and minor deals in August, the Wings actually have some cap space to burn and a need for a Top 4 d-man.

Of the candidates George mentions about, the first four seem to be the best candidates for a possible Top 4 position. 

I thought Wisniewski was great in Anaheim in the 2009 playoffs.  He was a force out there.  I fear his play is a bit inconsistent.  He got shipped from Anaheim to the Isles and then to Montreal.  Always a bit concerning to see a guy moved around that much.  Still, he plays with an edge, has some offensive upside and is a local kid.

Ehrhoff has had a great year in Vancouver.  For some reason, though, I don’t like him.  I think it was because he had a goofy-ass picture in Eastside Hockey Manager and never played well for me there.

Joni Pitkanen always seemed like he should be a better player than he actually is, but I have to admit I’ve never focused on Pitkanen or really noticed him.  Sometimes the latter can be a good thing for a D-Man.

I’ve always loved Kevin Bieksa.  Has some offense, is tough, will hit.  He’s having a great playoffs which will up his asking price.  The biggest knock on him is that he’s injury prone.  I constantly draft him in fantasy hockey, since he’s a good source of both points and penalty minutes, but always seems to miss significant time with injury. 

As for the second group, none of them thrill me.  Kaberle’s a great passer and that would fit in well with Detroit’s puck possession style of play, but he’s looked like a bitch in the playoffs this year.  He’s wilting under pressure.  Not a good sign.

McCabe does nothing for me.

I’ve always loved Roman “The Hammer” Hammrlik, but he’s 37 and has lost a step.  I don’t see him as a viable Top 4 defensemen anymore.  Same with Jovocop.  Great player, love the passion, but not the guy he once was.

Markov is a great player, but too much of a risk coming off back to back ACLs. 

One of the biggest problems the Wings had last year was with larger forwards.  Teams were able to cycle down low almost constantly against them.  That would seem to indicate that getting a defensemen with a little size, strength and edge would fit the bill.  That would seem to make Wisneiwski or Bieksa a better fit.

The one thing the Wings can’t do is over pay for a guy.  I think Holland has been excellent at this ever since the lockout.  Early on fans bitched and moaned while other teams snatched up free agents and Holland stood pat and waited.  One of the most important aspects of a team in the cap era is having players play up to or exceed their contract.  I don’t know if any of the abovementioned players are $6 million guys.  I think around $4-$4.5 million is about right.  The Wings can then save that money, perhaps invest it in an upgrade at forward (though I don’t think there’s much out there right now), or save it for the trade deadline or for next year when all signs indicate there will be a much deeper pool of UFAs.  Included in that UFA pool are Kronwall and Stuart.  So, the Wings have to consider where they want to go with those guys as well.

Let’s say, for example, Weber signs a 1 year deal this year and becomes a UFA next year.  Lidstrom retires and then the Wings are sitting pretty capwise to make a run at the guy.  It’s a pipe dream, sure, but a fun one.

Should be a fun summer!

Posted by Ajax19 on 05/24/11 at 12:12 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Wow, this was big news to me this morning because I was on the road and out of the loop yesterday.

It doesn’t surprise me, though.  Rafi struggled mightily with his knee this season and back issues the season or two before (maybe as a result of the knee).  I hated to see him bashed by Wings “fans” when he wasn’t playing his best, because the physical issues could not be helped.

He and Suter were just magic on the ice in the Olympics last year, and I actually thought Suter might be a great addition if Lidstrom retired, just because he and Rafi made such a great pair.

If Rafi does retire, a huge thanks from me for these years of smart, very effective play.  He will be damned hard to replace.

Not going to join the discussion about what Holland would do, but I think people should get over the Shea Weber fantasies.  Nashville will never let him go, and from what I’ve read, he doesn’t want to leave.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/24/11 at 12:28 PM ET

Slumpy's avatar

If Ericsson gets greedy like Lilja did then let him sign elsewhere. He doesn’t block enough shots or play physical enough for a player his size and makes far to many mental mistakes in his own end.
Don’t see what the big deal is about making offer sheet on RFA’s, it’s legal.  I know Burke doesn’t like it after losing Penner to Edmonton that way but GM’s that lose a player aren’t expected to be happy afterwards. Holland should make offers to Yandle if he can’t get Weber. Kings won’t let Doughty go.
Going to be hard to replace those 40+ pts from Rafalski. If they can’t they better get a stay at defenseman like Stuart that can hit and block shots.
Rafalski is a rare breed walking away now leaving so much money on the table is something few athletes do. Most athletes especially boxers never know when to hang it up.

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 05/24/11 at 12:36 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Rafalski is a rare breed walking away now leaving so much money on the table is something few athletes do. Most athletes especially boxers never know when to hang it up.

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 05/24/11 at 10:36 AM ET

Agreed.  That would be a mature and very unselfish decision on his part, putting the team first.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/24/11 at 12:50 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

4b. Because 2012 is a way better and way more populated free agent market than this one, which may mean that other teams will overpay to the extreme to out-bid each other for a very limited supply-and-demand scenario’s worth of players;

George, do you have any of these names for the 2012 off-season? 

I’m actually impressed by the amount of defensive options available to teams this summer but have no idea how that stacks up against 2012.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/24/11 at 12:51 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

For all the complaints about Rafalskis turnovers, however valid, he still finshed way in the plus side, and also with a big contribution on the PP which does not show up in the +/- stat.

40+ assists is crazy, hard to replace.

However, the single overriding improvement the Wings needed to make for next year already was to get better defensively… way in the bottom half defensively and the highest GAA of any playoff team. 

As I said before the playoffs, if you have to win “The race to 4 goals” to win a game that spells doom in the playoffs.  When the Wings didn’t make it to 4 goals I think their record was 1-4.  In their 7 playoff wins they scored 4 goals 6 of those 7 I think.

So they have to get better defensively, and if losing a banged up, slowing Rafalski is part of it that may have been necessary anyway, and we get his $6 Million to use.

B. Smith may have to learn to be responsible defensively very quickly, and I just don’t know if Big Error will ever get there, definitely do not overpay for him.

And now what if Lidstrom retires?  Don’t want to think about it!

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 05/24/11 at 01:07 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

This is a pretty impressive list of names that jumped out at me on the fly:

Weber (25)
Doughty (21)
Yandle (24)
Ehrhoff (29)
Wisniewski (27)
Bieska (30)
Pitaken (27)
Markov (32)
Kaberle (33)
McCabe (36)
Bogosian (20)
Ian White (27)
Schenn (21)
O’Brien (27)
Gorges (26)
Sopel (34)
Montador (31)
Erricson (27)

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/24/11 at 01:13 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Team defense should be the top priority, Bill is absolutely right about that.  More so because we should believe if TPH does not retire this season, he may very well at the end of next season.  That would leave two huge holes in an already porous “D”.

I’d move mountains to sign Weber.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 05/24/11 at 01:15 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Leo is that UFA for next summer?

Would love RFA Weber but just don’t see it happening for next/this coming season.

When he turns UFA, if the same CBA is in place, and especially if there is a realignment affecting/separating Nashville and Detroit, it becomes more of a possibility.  But he’s apparently happy there right now, if that doesn’t change he won’t leave anyway, not even for the Wings.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 05/24/11 at 01:28 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Bill, virtually every name (sans Doughty, Yandle, and Weber) are UFA’s this summer.

George mentioned that next years crop is even better, I’m curious to see how it stacks up.

I hear you regarding Weber, he’s certainly the brass prize of this class but his RFA label makes him near improbable to be signed by a team like Detroit.

Jeff, I agree about the priority of addressing team defense being more urgent than ever given this announcement and I’m not sure if the team has the luxury of waiting around another year to address that given that Stuart and Kronwall are also UFA’s at the end of next season.

Between this announcement and the coaching vacancy, Kenny and Babs have their collective hands full.  It’ll be fascinating to see how this all plays out.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/24/11 at 01:34 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Two-year plan for Detroit:

1) throw a big offer sheet at Shea Weber - If Nashville balks at it, then boo-hoo, I’m actually ok with the concept of giving up 2 first-rounders, a 2nd-rounder, and a 3rd-rounder for Shea Weber.  If Nashville matches, move to phase 2 of plan.

2) Sign somebody else, but sit back comfortably knowing that Nashville matching the offer sheet you just threw at Weber screws up their spending ability.  Then, come offseason 2012, sign unrestricted free agent (and arguably the better defenseman) Ryan Suter to a long-term deal.


I know the reality that Detroit doesn’t dabble in RFA offer sheets, but it may be worth the gamble for Weber.  I don’t think we have to throw one so big as to activate the four-first-rounders-as-compensation tier (will be adjusted as the Cap changes, but right now is about at $7.5M per season).

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/24/11 at 01:35 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/24/11 at 11:35 AM ET

Your the preacher, I’m the choir(!)  Sign me up to your newsletter.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 05/24/11 at 02:07 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

The other thing… Weber has to sign the offer sheet. What are the odds he wants to sign an offer sheet with the Red Wings, a team I have to believe he’s developed a healthy hate for?

Obviously, guys cross those lines all the time (Chelios, duh). But this is very different. Weber is in the driver’s seat, and I can’t imagine there won’t be at least a few other teams willing to throw equal (or better) offer sheets at him compared to what the Wings could maximally offer.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 05/24/11 at 02:07 PM ET

awould's avatar

The more I think about it, the more I hope it is Yandle. It will cost a bundle to get Weber from Nashville. Same with Doughty in LA. But Phoenix is in no position to match a large offer. Overpaying for Yandle now, in terms of draft picks and salary, isn’t a good idea if you’re replacing Rafalski. But I think they go after Yandle now to replace Lidstrom, who is gone either this year or next. I don’t think anyone believes Lidstrom will play for two more seasons.

I still think giving up draft picks for a top flight young defenseman is a worthwhile investment. How many draft picks have they wasted on players who didn’t turn out to be Yandle? Unless they think they already got the next anchor defenseman in the pipeline, now is the time. Offer up $5-$6MM for Yandle over 3-4 years and then lock him down long-term on the next contract. Kronwall will step up and be the rock he’s turning out to be and our D will be in good hands for years to come.

Let Ericsson go play broomball with Lilja and Lebda. They can all talk about how underappreciated they are and awkardly avoid any mention of how often they get spun out of position.

Posted by awould on 05/24/11 at 02:13 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Yandle still pisses me off for the cheap wack on Hank during last year’s playoffs.

I still want a right shot to replace Rafi…I’d love Weber, but at some point he can’t be worth chasing….

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 05/24/11 at 02:27 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

Maybe Rafalski will hangout and fill the assistant coach role opened up by Brad McCrimmon leaving.

Posted by TheFreak on 05/24/11 at 02:40 PM ET

Behind_Enemy_Lines's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/24/11 at 11:35 AM ET

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes, and more yes. I couldn’t agree more.

Posted by Behind_Enemy_Lines from Evanston,IL on 05/24/11 at 03:18 PM ET

11B4PF7 in MN's avatar

The options in 3E should be considered non-options.  The franchises that are having self inflicted cap problems all seem to be facing those problems because of UFA signings in a group like 3E and/or because they were paid way too much by a desperate general manager. 

Action needs to be taken to fill one large hole on the Wings blue line, but Ken cannot—his history shows that he will not—make a poor, big dollar or long term commitment.  Ask Glen Sather how Drury, Gomez, and Redden are working out.  The amazing thing is that MTL actually traded for the Gomez contract!

To me, it looks like Weber is a Pronger type player—generational if you will.  So, if it takes a lot of assets to acquire that type of young talent, you execute.

As suggested by other fans, I would love to see the Wings attack the Coyotes’ bottom line to get Yandle.  Go for the large, front loaded RFA offer sheet.  If this happens, look for Buttman to step in and say that this cannot happen for the good of the league.

Posted by 11B4PF7 in MN on 05/24/11 at 03:26 PM ET

Avatar

What about going after a cheaper RFA like Marc-Andre Gragnani? Smaller guy, but looked dangerous for Buffalo in this year’s playoffs. A young Rafalski?

Posted by craig from vancouver on 05/24/11 at 03:32 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

FWIW - The Tennessean on Weber’s contract status.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 05/24/11 at 03:35 PM ET

ITDeuce's avatar

I’m thrilled that Rafi is leaving.  He turned into a turnover machine this year, and there is no reason to believe that next year would have been better.  No disrespect to Rafi, he obviously agreed that it was time to go, but his time was done.  Fair winds Rafi, you were a big part of the last cup, and I’ll forget about about your defensive gaffs of this past season by next year, because the good things you did here way outweighed those by a lot.

Ericsson on the other hand.  How does anyone believe that he is due much of a raise?  I would absolutely love to see the Wings just walk away from him, but no one believes that is going to happen.  Who cares that he is 6’5”?  He doesn’t play like he is that big at all, minus the inability to recover quickly.  Lilja will be a UFA next year.  I wouldn’t mind seeing him come back in exchange for Big Rig.  Actually he’d be a good linemate for Big Rig, if he (when he) comes back.  Maybe I’m just bitter.  I guess I shouldn’t expect that much from him on what he is making.  But damnit, Kindl is way better.

Posted by ITDeuce from The Sunny High Desert on 05/24/11 at 05:13 PM ET

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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.