The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/27/11 at 07:18 PM ET
Updated 3x at 7:07 PM with Svoboda talking to Sipple and Kulfan, and ohyeahbytheway, Gerard Gallant isn’t leaving Saint John: As Kevin Bieksa’s contract extension with the Canucks sets the bar for free-agent defensemen (read: other players should expect around or less than $4.5 million on the open market) and the rather large number of players not receiving qualifying offers bolsters a thin free agent pool, the Pittsburgh Penguins might be telegraphing their likelihood of winning the Jaromir Jagr sweepstakes by not qualifying Tyler Kennedy...In any case, as Jagr’s decision-making process applies to the Detroit Red Wings, Jagr’s agent offered something of a teaser to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari:
Agent Petr Svoboda, who represents free-agent right winger Jaromir Jagr, seems confident that Jagr’s short-term future will be settled in the next few days. Possibly as early as Tuesday. He said that Jagr still hasn’t received a contract offer from the Penguins, but that “there is interest from both sides” and added that, “If you call me tomorrow, there will be much more happening.”
Penguins general manager Ray Shero could not immediately be reached for comment. Detroit had publicly expressed interest in trying to sign Jagr, but Svoboda said there is “nothing concrete” with any NHL team.
Jagr, who broke into the NHL with the Penguins in 1990, spent the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, but has publicly expressed an interest in again playing in North America. Per NHL rules, he cannot sign a contract until at least July 1, but it’s possible that he’d have a deal in place somewhere before then.
“We’ll make a decision in the next couple of days,” Svoboda said.
Okay, first, either Svoboda or Ken Holland are lying because Holland indicated that he’s made his offer to Jagr, and second, oh fun. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma spoke to the AP about Jagr, while Penguins GM Ray Shero offered a “no comment to the Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe…
And as for the free agent market and the Wings’ choices on defense, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan states the obvious—the Wings have a tough decision to make in terms of either going after top-flight defensemen or just sticking with the secondary market:
The Red Wings are banking on free agency as a route to strengthening their defense. But with Bieksa and Markov off the boards, the list of candidates gets considerably less attractive. The Wings may go after Canton native James Wiesniewski (Montreal), Christian Ehrhoff (Vancouver), Joni Pitkanen (Carolina) or Ed Jovanovski (Phoenix). But how many of those players hit the market Friday remains to be seen.
Also, with the salary cap being raised to $64 million, teams well below the cap could be more willing to spend aggressively on the available talent.
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, a potential unrestricted free agent, appears likely to re-sign with the Wings before Friday. That would negate the need somewhat of signing a top-four defenseman if the price becomes too high.
And the Hockey News’s Lyle “Spector” Richardson offers this on the Wings’ free agency plans, excluding the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson’s assessment that Wisniewski’s got a “60-to-40” chance of signing with Detroit:
The Montreal Canadiens recent re-signing of defenseman Andrei Markov has Habs followers wondering if James Wisniewski will also be re-signed before July 1.
Wisniewski joined the Canadiens midway through this past season after Markov was sidelined for the year with a knee injury and quickly became a fan favorite with his big shot and physical style.
The Montreal Gazette recently reported the increase of the salary cap to $64.3 million will give the Habs enough money to re-sign Wisniewski or Roman Hamrlik, but it’s believed the club had opened talks with the latter.
If Wisniewski hits the open market on July 1 he probably won’t be unsigned for long. The Detroit News recently suggested he will be a target for the Red Wings, who intend to use the free agent market to find a replacement for retired defenseman Brian Rafalski.
The Wings will probably have to pay someone over the $3 million that Niklas Kronwall earns and the $3.25 million that Brad Stuart earns to bring them here. Therein lies the, “Do we screw up our pay scale to attract a marquee player or do we sign some interim guys?” discussion.
In the “future Wings” category, the Wings’ Facebook page posted a YouTube clip of Tomas Jurco talking about video games…
And RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest posted his final prospect profile of the Wings’ nine picks (nine profiles in a sixty-hour period of time!) by discussing Xavier Ouellet’s status as the Wings’ real sleeper (maybe):
The 6-foot, 174-pounder put up eight goals and 35 assists for 43 points along with a plus-27 rating in 67 games with the QMJHL’s Montreal Juniors as a teammate of fellow Red Wings prospects Louis-Marc Aubry and Trevor Parkes. Mark Leach sums up Ouellet’s style of play succinctly, saying, “He plays our game.”
“We love the fact that he has very good skating ability and excellent mobility,” said Leach, the Red Wings QMJHL scout. “His puck-moving ability, vision, hockey sense and poise under pressure throughout the season were very good.”
Despite his impressive numbers as a 17-year-old, Ouellet shouldn’t be categorized as an offensive defenseman. He isn’t going to quarterback a No. 1 power-play unit in the NHL, but he could be an effective two-way rearguard who can log time with the man advantage.
Red Wings director of scouting Joe McDonnell compares Ouellet to Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, an effective veteran who has 640 games under his belt.
“He’s a good two-way guy who really moves the puck well,” McDonnell said. “He makes a great first pass and that’s something a lot of teams have trouble finding, and we think he’s really good at that. That first pass is so important.”
Ouellet and fellow second-rounder Ryan Sproul instantly become two of the best defense prospects in the Red Wings’ system, perhaps only behind top-ranked Brendan Smith, who will graduate soon, and Brian Lashoff, an American Hockey League farmhand.
“We wanted to get a nice stockpile of (defensemen) we can work with,” McDonnell said. “We think we added some real good ones.”
And this is “neat news,” via the Detroit News’s Ursula Watson:
Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios enjoyed a little late-night batting practice with a star-studded group of friends at Comerica Park on Sunday night.
In attendance was Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, who was in town for a Sunday night solo performance at the Fox Theatre, and actor John Cusack. But the event wasn’t just about male bonding. Chelios honored his wife, Tracee, with a sweet personal message, posted on the ballpark’s scoreboard, which read, “Happy 24th anniversary Tracee, love Chris.” After batting practice, Vedder took time to sign autographs for fans.
Earlier that evening, Chelios hosted a fundraiser for the Michigan Humane Society at his Cheli’s Chili Bar in Detroit.
Chelios and Vedder are apparently good pals, so much so that the Vedder show featured a poster of Chelios. Mark 5 created the poster, according to the insidetherockposterframe.blogspot.com
Maybe Wisniewski or Ehrhoff might like to know that the Wings have the run of Comerica Park whenever they feel like it…
Update #2: Per the Free Press’s George Sipple:
The Detroit Red Wings could find out by Tuesday whether they’ll land free-agent forward Jaromir Jagr. Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said today there remains “interest from both sides.”
“There’s nothing new to report today,” he said. “We’re going to know a bit more tomorrow.”
Asked whether the Wings were still in the mix, Svoboda said: “Absolutely.”
Jagr could end up signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, though. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that Svoboda said there was interest from both sides, but there is “nothing concrete” with any NHL team.
And on the defenseman’s front…
James Wisniewski, who grew up in Canton and played for the Plymouth Whalers, and Windsor native Ed Jovanovski could be at the top of the team’s list now. Wisniewski, 27, probably is looking for a long-term deal after bouncing around the league with the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. He scored three goals and 18 assists in 32 games for the Islanders before being dealt to Montreal. He scored seven goals and 23 assists in 43 games for the Canadiens this season.
Jovanovski turned 35 on Sunday. He had five goals and nine assists in 50 games for the Phoenix Coyotes this past season.
Update #3: Oh goody, part 2, per the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Jaromir Jagr’s agent believes his client will decide on a new team before Friday’s start of unrestricted free agency. Petr Svoboda, Jagr’s agent, said teams need to know where they stand in preparation for the beginning of free agency.
“We expect a decision in the next couple of days,” said Svoboda, who flew into Montreal Monday from the Czech Republic.
Svoboda said he’ll talk with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland Monday night or Tuesday morning.
The Red Wings and Pittsburgh are considered the favorites to sign Jagr, 39, who has played the last three seasons in Russia. Svoboda said no formal offers have been presented from any team. But he expects that to change in the next few days.
“We’ll know more,” Svoboda said.
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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.