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The Malik Report

More Red Wings free agent-to-be remarks and roster talk

As noted in an update to the overnight report, MLive's Brendan Savage posted a few more comments from the Red Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be--Valtteri Filppula, Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary and Ian White--and White sounded exactly as disgruntled as you'd expect him to be.

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness spoke to White as well, and if Wings coach Mike Babcock's, "We wish him luck" is any indication, the Wings have as much desire to bring back a player who went straight to the media stating that he hadn't asked for a trade yet after being benched and then playing crappily when he did get a chance to proveh himself (okay, that was a very long and rambling "who/what-used-as-a-prepositional phrase" clause) has to remain a Wing:

“I don’t know (what happened),” White said. “I thought I was playing pretty well. I played seven games in a row the last time I played and I was on the ice for one goal against in seven games. I scored a goal too and thought I was playing pretty well. Obviously not letting goals in is what I’m paid to do, so for whatever reason I wasn’t in the mix and sometimes that’s how it goes.”

In 77 regular season games last year, White had seven goals and 25 assists. He was also a plus-22. He dipped to 25 games played in his lockout-shortened season, scoring two goals to go with two assists and was a plus-4.

“I spoke with them a few times,” White said. “The only thing I can think of is I’m a small defenseman and I’ve been hearing that my whole life, you’ve got to be big to play and all that. They decided to go with their big defensemen and that didn’t include me.”

...

“It’s extremely disappointing,” White said. “I know that I can help this team out and help it win. My game fits well with some of the guys here, the puck-possession game and we have some real skilled forwards who have to have the puck in their hands and I can deliver that.

“It’s real disappointing to have it end this way,” White continued. “When I came here, and after last year, I thought I might be able to have a long future here, but we’ll see how everything goes in the next month.”

White plain old struggled after Nicklas Lidstrom suffered what turned out to be a broken foot last on February 25th, 2012, and while White suffered a significant setback in the form of a lacerated quadriceps muscle in early February, his skating didn't abandon him when he recovered--his decision-making and puck-moving abilities vanished--and when he very bluntly told anyone with a digital voice recorder that he and his agent had been talking to both the coaches and management about his benching...

Open foot, insert mouth. Stating that much publicly is a no-no in Detroit (see: Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau and everyone since then), and following up those kinds of comments with poor play on a team that desperately needed its defensemen to step up yields, "Yeah, you haven't asked for a trade, but the team's decided that you've magically disappeared from the roster."

As Pleiness notes, White spent the season-and-a-half prior to joining the Wings bouncing around from Toronto to Calgary to Carolina and then San Jose, so the theory was that inking a two-year deal with the Wings would help White find a long-term home, but his play without Lidstrom by his side and his comments over the past season mean that he has to look for NHL employer #6 this summer:

“I have no idea,” White said when asked about his future. “You start having decisions with your agent and talk to Ken (Holland). I love it here. I love playing here and it’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to play this year. It’s probably somewhat doubtful that you bring back some guy that you’re not going to play. The most unfortunate part of our business is moving around all of the time and switching teams, but that’s the nature of the game. We’ll see how it plays out.”

White even growled about the fact that he was able to return from that lacerated quadriceps muscle:

“It could have been a lot worse,” White said at the time. “You have a tendon going right over your knee cap. It just missed it. I guess if I would have cut that I might have been the season. Lucky, if you will.”

The Wings' other UFA's-to-be were a wee bit more positive, even if they weren't sure whether they'd played in their last game for the Wings. Valtteri Filppula's all but certain to be gone if he's looking for $4 million a season, never mind what the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson and then MLive's Ansar Khan confirmed was $5 million a year as someone who's turned out to be a speedy but turnover-prone and inconsistent point-every-other-game player.

With the Wings possessing about $11.895 million of Capgeek-estimated cap space, needing to re-sign restricted free agents-to-be Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist for around or a little over $1 million apiece, the necessary accommodation of Tomas Tatar's $840,000 cap hit, the team hoping to re-sign Damien Brunner and possibly Drew Miller, and given that the Wings are also looking to add a big forward with goal-scoring ability and/or a top-four defenseman...

Well, even given the fact that the Wings can exceed the "summer cap" by 10%, and given that the team has both two cap-compliance buy-outs at their disposal and some salary-dump-tradeable assets in Carlo Colaiacovo, Kyle Quincey and Jordin Tootoo ($2.5 million cap hit, $3.775 million cap hit and $1.9 million cap hit, respectively)

Somebody else can pay Filppula $5 million a season, but the Wings aren't that team.

So Filppula gave Pleiness something of a, "We'll see" response when asked if he will return:

When asked if he thought he’d be back with the team Filppula said, “I don’t know. It’s too early to say right now. I just have to wait a little longer till summer and see what happens.”

Friday could have been his last time in the locker room.

“I haven’t thought about that too much, but obviously it’s a possibly that could happen,” Filppula said. “It’d be tough. It’s been a really great place to be. I’ve been so happy here. We’ll see if we go … if that’s what’s going to happen.”

Wings GM Ken Holland said the Wings made Filppula an offer in August and September before talks broke down.

“I think during the season when you’re doing that, to be honest I wasn’t paying too much attention to it, I was just trying to focus on playing,” Filppula said. “Obviously when you negotiate you hope you get something done but that’s not always going to happen. That’s how it is.”

Filppula made $3 million last season and is believed to be asking for about a $2 million raise a year.

“I gotta go through the next month,” Holland said when asked specifically about Filppula. “He’s unrestricted and I gotta sit with the coaches, sit with the scouts.”

Drew Miller might be a casualty of the team's roster crunch--when add the injured Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson to the mix, even taking the 4 UFA forwards, 2 RFA forwards and Tatar out of the mix leaves the Wings with 10 forwards under contract for 2013-2014, so some players are going to have to be let go and/or waived or traded--but he told Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples that he wants to remain a Wing, and his versatility as a penalty-killer, strong defensive forward and somewhat who can play on the top two lines in a pinch all yield someone who the Wings probably want to bring back if he's willing to take a salary at or around his $837,000 earned during the 13 season:

“I would like to stay,” the East Lansing native said. “I’ve got to talk to [coach Mike Babcock] and to Kenny Holland, figure out what their approach is to coming back. I don’t have much more to say other than I’d like to come back. But being in a position to have options is something that could possibly be looked at but my first choice would be to stay and come back.”

Damien Brunner is highly likely to be retained after having an incredible first half as a 27-year-old rookie, tailing off in the second half and playing well in the playoffs despite possessing what coach Mike Babcock would state was "banged-up" status.

But as I said last night, in Europe, playoff runs end by mid-to-late March or early April, and players generally begin their tenures with their new employers via dry-land training and public appearances beginning as early as May, so being un-signed in the middle of June is pretty damn weird for Brunner. As such, he delivered an, "Um, uh" comment to MLive's Brendan Savage...

"I can't say anything bad about the Detroit Red Wings," said Brunner, whose base salary was $925,000 this season. "I guess I have to think about it in the next couple of weeks and talk to my agent and Kenny and then we'll see what's going on. It's hard for me to say (what will happen). We'll see what's coming. I'm exciting about talking to them about my future."

And then there is the difficult case that is Daniel Cleary. Cleary's 35 and has some hard, hard miles on his 34-year-old body (and he played through a separated shoulder and a broken finger during the playoffs), as well as a history of chronic groin and now-dengenerative knee injuries. He also earned $2.8 million this past season, which is a lot of money to be spending on a 30-point-per-season player, but he told Savage that leaving the Wings after 8 seasons would be devastating:

"My thoughts are I love Detroit, obviously," said Cleary 34. "That's an understatement. Got a great relationship with Kenny (Holland, the Red Wings' general manager). He said we have to get talking. So we'll figure it out pretty soon."

Cleary, a member of the Red Wings' 2008 Stanley Cup championship team, was Detroit's second-leading scorer in the playoffs with four goals and six assists in 14 games. He said leaving Detroit would be difficult.

"Yeah, it would be," said Cleary, who made $2.8 million this season. "Taking off the jersey in Chicago, I had to take a minute. I don't know. I don't want to get too emotional but certainly the relationship I have with Detroit is very special."

Can the Wings afford to bring Cleary back in terms of their roster crunch and cap space? Yes, but only if he takes a pay cut, and that's hard to sell...

And again, if you assume that the Wings' 4 RFA's will re-sign for about a million bucks apiece, you add Tatars salary to the mix, you add Brunner to the mix at $2.5-3 million (that's his market value, regrettably) and you even consider Miller returning, and the Wings are suddenly only $3-4 million under the cap, and the team's looking to get younger, bigger and faster.

I don't think Cleary fits into that matrix, even if the team uses one of its cap-compliance buy-outs, trades players, or uses its plain old ability to buy out players for 1/3rd of their cap hit counting against the team's salary cap picture for 2 years per every year of contract money owed.

The Free Press's Helene St. James just re-posted her article about the Wings' roster moves to come (she believes that Filppula's the only free agent likely to leave, that the team will attempt to cut ties with one or both of Samuelsson or Bertuzzi, and that the team will look for not a top-six forward who can put pucks in the back of the net, but, instead, a top-four defenseman to spell Niklas Kronwall, likely at the cost of the team bidding farewell to Carlo Colaiacovo and/or Brian Lashoff), and the Free Press also posted a video of comments she gleaned from Cleary, Brunner and Filppula:

As Ken Holland told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, the Wings' coaches and front office have some hard decisions to make over the next month:

"As we head into the off-season, we've got to figure out ways to get better," Holland said. "We have to find a way to figure out a way to get a little bit better and a little bit different. Is it getting tougher, bigger, younger or quicker? Those are the decisions we have to make."


Otherwise...

 

  • The Wings announced the signing of 2011 draft pick Alexei Marchenko on Thursday, and we knew that they'd pass on signing another 2011 pick (non-NCAA hockey-playing draft picks' rights expire after 2 years) in Phillipe Hudon, but there was no news as to whether the Wings had chosen to sign speedy but undersized Belleville Bulls center Alan Quine to a contract, and the Windsor Star's Bob Duff answered a question as to whether the Wings will sign the 2011 draft pick before they lose his rights via Twitter:

 

The Sports Forecaster's "Fantasy Inbox" mailbag feature posited an interesting take about the shape of the Wings' roster to come:

DETROIT DUO
Q: Do you think Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will play mostly together or on separate lines next season? Playing together adds fantasy value to both players, right?
Steve S. (Windsor, ON)

Fantasy Inbox: Another excellent question here. Thanks for this, Steve. It seems every year Datsyuk and Zetterberg play together for a while, but also center their own lines over the course of the season. Look for the same thing to continue in 2013-14. That said, Valtteri Filppula's future in Detroit could determine how coach Mike Babcock decides to use his top two players going forward. With Filppula on the team, Babcock can use him and his top two players interchangeably, as all three can play both center and wing. If Filppula leaves as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Babcock could decide on a more permanent look for his team's top two lines: either by pairing Datsyuk and Zetterberg together on a full-time basis or by finding a replacement for Filppula on the wing (possibly Tomas Tatar and keeping two strong scoring lines as the No. 1 option. Does playing together add value to Datsyuk and Zetterberg? If they were together for an entire season, yes. But Detroit may not have the depth, Steve.

 

  • Johan Franzen (yes, the Wings are keeping him, Holland said so on Friday), Justin "the Piano Man" Abdelkader and the possibly-retained Filppula and Cleary are all "top six" fowards, as is a healthy Todd Bertuzzi and as are Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner, and it must be mentioned that Ansar Khan and Pleiness's suggestions that the Wings will attempt to prey upon the Blackhawks' lack of cap space ($2 million going forward) by snagging Bryan Bickell, as well as the Windsor Star's Duff's mentioning thereof, probably isn't an, "Out of nowhere" rumor: if the Wings' front office is anything, it's too low-selling, straight-shooting and consistent for its own good, and suggesting that the team might target someone who played incredibly well against them isn't just a backhanded compliment;

 

  • For the record, the Detroit Free Press is holding a bracketed tournament attempting to name Michigan's best sports announcer, and the bracket's down to Mario Impemba vs. Ken Daniels;

 

  • And CBS Detroit posted what may or may not be a wallpaper-worthy wallpaper-sized image of Pavel Datsyuk sporting his playoff beard. Again, I don't know when the Wings' equipment sale might be, but their marquee items are playoff jerseys, and as tough as real NHL jerseys are made to be, it's remarkable to see the double-and-triple-stitching and plain old toughness of the numbers and letters that are used on pro playoff jerseys. They're heavy-heavy-duty stuff.

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Comments

Bugsy's avatar

I’d rather take the downsides of being “straight shooting” and “consistent” as a team (which is one of the reasons it’s attractive for players to come and, more importantly, stay here—including coaching/front office afterwards) for the upside. It’s one of the reasons this time is respected if not admired.

I know what you were saying about the offense, but I’m more optimistic that the younguns’ can develop and make up some of the offense that the present defensive corps developing—that top 3 or 4 defenseman (I know I was dreaming a bit about a Stuart or Murphy type of trade) I’d prefer. Now, I’ve improved to the queasy stage of seeing Bickell as Red Wing, so I guess I wouldn’t mind that either, over Stalberg, just try not to overpay (ha).

By the way, quieter today, isn’t it?

Posted by Bugsy on 06/01/13 at 07:07 PM ET

red_wings_49's avatar

I’m sorry, I think Babcock can shove it sometimes.  White had been playing just fine.  Why and how he got to the endless bench, and we were stuck with D-men that were making mistake after mistake after mistake? 

I’d rather take vetreans who have experience in the playoffs… not Quincey, not Kindl, not Smith.  Yet again, another great player that we could have used is getting sent away….

Posted by red_wings_49 from Mad Heights, MI on 06/02/13 at 02:57 PM ET

Avatar

White played like garbage without Lidstrom.

Posted by Garth on 06/02/13 at 04:47 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.