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Early St. James: Red Wings’ organizational meetings not team’s last pre-draft discussion

From the Detroit Free Press (early edition), Helene St. James reports that the Red Wings’ organizational meetings did indeed wrap up today at Joe Louis Arena…

But Wings GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, VP Jimmy Devellano, capologist Ryan Martin, the pro scouts (like Kirk Maltby and Mark Howe), coach Mike Babcock and executives Chris Chelios and Kris Draper have decided that the team’s simply got too much to lose—and too much can change between now and the draft on June 22nd, never mind free agency’s start on July 1st, based upon which free agents-to-be re-sign with their teams and based upon what the early CBA negotiations reveal regarding the rules the Wings will play under come September—for the front office to shake hands and say, “See you at the draft!”

“I would categorize it as a whole lot of philosophical conversation,” Holland said. “We talked about what the rules are going to be, our team, and what direction are we going to go in? “

Every player eligible to become an unrestricted free agent was rated and ranked, but that’ll be revisited later in June, because several of those players are expected to re-sign with their current teams.

The front office brass has these meetings every year, but this version was a little different. First and foremost, the Wings are faced with a future that, for the first time in 20 seasons, does not include elite defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired last week. Secondly, defenseman Brad Stuart is intent on playing closer to his family in California, so there’s another departure from the defense’s top four. Thirdly, with the collective bargaining agreement expiring, the Wings want to be careful that whatever they do, it will fit in under the new rules that will be in place when the next season begins.

“It was a good start,” Holland said. “We talked about a lot of players, including our own in Grand Rapids, and where some of those guys fit in. We talked about some players that we’ve heard might be available, through the rumor mill, and we looked at teams that might have cap issues.”

The Wings are willing to be aggressive, but this summer isn’t a buyer’s market for free agents - beyond defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise, there’s a quick drop-off in quality. Furthermore, a lot of teams are looking to make changes after disappointing playoffs, including San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Nashville. That adds up to a competitive field for few available assets.

As for improving via trades, it’s tricky. The Predators made a big splash at the trade deadline in February only to come away from the playoffs with all of five victories. Though superstar forward Rick Nash wants out of Columbus, it would cost the suitor four or five prime assets - losses that would then have to be addressed.

“We’re trying to rebuild our team, get back into the game,” Holland said. “We’ve had some very good discussions. We’re going to meet again, talk some more, see what we can do.”

When you’re trying to ensure that your team’s standards of excellence don’t drop off one iota despite the departures of Lidstrom and Stuart, as well as the probable retirement of Tomas Holmstrom and likely loss of Jiri Hudler to free agency, as Holland told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell and Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan yesterday, you simply cannot be “too thorough.”

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Hippy Dave's avatar

We’ve had some very good discussions.

Best news I’ve heard all day.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/06/12 at 02:51 AM 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.