The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/13/14 at 08:47 AM ET
This rumor popped up a few days ago, and it still has me scratching my head, so while I start to get up to half-speed (more on that in a little bit), let's take a gander at the Fourth Period's source-less and author-less rumor about the Red Wings' potential pursuit of a top-four defenseman--amidst an article regarding possible Vancouver Canucks facelifts:
Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler has been dangled as trade bait since the off-season, when Gillis tried to move him around the NHL Draft. Edler, however, now has a no-trade clause and must approve any deal the team tries to make.
With a $5 million annual salary cap hit, Edler isn't a major financial burden and several teams have expressed an interest in acquiring him.
The Detroit Red Wings have been long linked to Edler, and whispers around the NHL suggest the two teams continue to discuss a deal that could also involved Wings veteran Johan Franzen.
Franzen, 34, is in year five or an 11-year, $43.5 million contract, and carries a $3.954 cap hit. While he's making $5 million in actual salary this season through the 2015-16 campaign, his salary drops to $3.5 million in 2016-17, $2 million in 2017-18 and $1 million in the last two years of his contract.
I read this and thought, "Did you guys get the memo? The Wings wanted to draft Alex Edler with the 97th pick in the 2004 draft and then they planned on taking someone no one but Hakan Andersson had seen in Franzen with their next pick. Regrettably, the Canucks had spotted Edler, and they grabbed him with their fourth-round pick, 91st overall.
There's no doubt that the Red Wings' cap situation (Capgeek suggests that the Wings can add as much as $3.039 million in salary to the mix in a trade, and that number will increase a bit as the March 5th trade deadline nears) means that the Wings--assuming that they make any trade deadline move at all--would have to shed nearly equal salary to whatever or whoever they add.
Given Ken Holland's consistency of statements regarding the Wings' belief that Johan Franzen's salary cap hit delivers significant bang for the team's buck in a 25-goal-scorer for $3.95 million, and given that the "next wave" of Wings forward prospects (save Sheahan and Jurco) remain somewhat undersized (it's the "second wave," the players who are 3-5 years away as opposed to 1-3 years away, that are both big and skilled), I just don't see the Wings moving the frustrating Mule.
"And, and perhaps moreover," as I like to say, it is incredibly rare to see a team moving a top-four defenseman without demanding a defenseman in return. I simply can't fathom the Canucks subtracting Edler without receiving a defenseman as part of a compensatory package, and a defensive corps of Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Chris Tanev, Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber, minus Edler, isn't exactly stellar.
If there is any truth to this rumor, the Wings would have to move a defenseman or two Vancouver's way--think Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl or even Brendan Smith (given the growth of Adam Almquist, Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, etc. etc., Smith's no longer untouchable)--and would have to move a prospect as well, all assuming that the Canucks are willing to move Edler (the Canucks have a similar amount of deadline space to the Wings' cap-add status, and unlike the Wings, who have no cap space at present as they're up to the cap to spend LTIR space, the Canucks have $561,000 or so in free cap space).
The sticky wickets in any possible Wings deadline deal--and any deal for any defenseman--involve the fact that the Wings probably don't want to move a top prospect (try a second-tier guy as opposed to a Mantha or Jarnkrok) and the fact that a Wings team that's going to be battling for a wild card spot until the final days of the regular season is not going to move a 1st-round pick that might become a draft-lottery-eligible pick if the Wings miss the playoffs.
Those factors lead me to believe that, ultimately, the Wings may more realistically be considering swapping out one four-to-six-slot defenseman for another who they believe is a little more reliable, but I just can't see the Wings giving up a Jurco, Sheahan, Mantha or Jarnkrok as well as a roster player, never mind a combination of the two and a first-round pick (and that's apparently what the Canucks were asking for Edler last summer, according to TSN's Insiders) for someone to give some top-minute relief to the overburdened Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson while providing some secondary defensive scoring.
At this point, unless the Wings are particularly keen on adding a net-front presence like Steve Ott, I do not believe that the team has much interest in adding a forward.
Darren Helm's offensive flourish has given way to indications that he is in fact the Mike Babcock-deemed best third-line center in the league and not the best second-line center in the making, Joakim Andersson seems to be losing his spot to Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, and with Pavel Datsyuk looking like he does today for Russia, at 70% of skating capacity, the Wings need to figure out what Stephen Weiss can given them in the #2 center's slot before either keeping him or trying to move that $5 million salary this summer, when the cap goes back up to $70-ish million (again, he's not eligible for a compliance buy-out as he was signed after the third lockout).
Down the stretch, especially given that the Wings will be nuzzled right up against the cap when/if Weiss and Franzen return, I don't know how the hell the team keeps all of Sheahan, Jurco and Glendening up here while accommodating the 23-man roster limit and the bounds of the salary cap (demoting Daniel Cleary and his $1.75 million under-35 deal would provide negligible relief and I don't see the Wings waiving Bertuzzi), but we can all see that at least Sheahan (no longer waiver-exempt) and Glendening will be playing in Detroit next season, and Jurco won't be far behind...
And, as so many have stated, of all the Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be (Cleary, Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Kyle Quincey, Patrick Eaves, Jonas Gustavsson and Daniel Alfredsson), it's incredibly likely that only Alfredsson and/or Gustavsson will be invited back given the displays made by Sheahan, Jurco and Glendening, as well as the fact that defenseman Adam Almquist is no longer waiver-exempt next season.
I'm just glad that I'm not the person who has to decide what the hell to do in terms of being cap-handcuffed, 23-man-roster handcuffed, and having to worry about Pavel Datsyuk's health as well as the Wings' status as well as the 4 non-roster-emergency call-up limit after the trade deadline and prior to whenever the Grand Rapids Griffins' playoff run ends, all while more likely than not having to tell Sheahan, Jurco and Glendening, "You'll be here next year."
That's a "long story long" spiel, but I'm curious as to what you believe the Wings will do at the trade deadline, if anything.
Given the Wings' tenuous playoff footing and the fact that the team's 1st-round pick isn't going anywhere, I believe that the Wings will perhaps pursue a depth defenseman, but unless they can engineer a deal that strengthens their blueline without giving up a near-untouchable prospect, I don't see them adding a top-four guy until the summer.
The pool of prospective unrestricted free agent defensemen isn't pretty, but the buyout market could change that, and the Wings will have the kind of cap space necessary to pull off a meaningful-addition trade this summer, too.
As for me?
This is my first day back after missing a month and a half thanks to the concussion I sustained during my Winter Classic-day accident (and the damn car, which was supposed to be fixed yesterday, is making a weird rumble, so I have to take it back to the repair shop this morning), and I feel much better but still not like myself. Headaches and fatigue persist and writing isn't coming easily, so...
I'll give 'er my best, but for the present moment, TMR at half-speed on all fronts--Olympic, prospect-related and "at home"--is what's going to have to suffice. I'm just glad to be able to contribute in some sort of meaningful way again. It's been too long and it's been a really shitty "vacation."
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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.