The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/23/12 at 04:34 AM ET
With the Red Wings having chosen to neither engage in any first-round-day trades at the draft, nor having chosen to deviate from their plans to engage in the art and science of attempting to snag 1 or 2 serviceable future Wings from today’s portion of the draft—the Wings possess the 49th overall pick in the 2nd round and then picks 80, 110, 140, 170 and 200 when the draft resumes at 10 AM EDT this morning (aired on TSN in Canada, the NHL Network in the U.S., and streamed on NHL.com as well)...
News came in fits and spurts over the course of Friday, from the high likelihood of the Wings’ signing of Damien Brunner to news about the prospects attending this summer’s development camp honoring Bryan Rufenach’s memory on July 10th, Wings assistant GM Jim Nill explaining the philosophy of waiting from the draft floor, the Penguins’ machinations to, if we are to believe the Penguin-friendly MSM, find the cap space to encourage Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to play with Malkin and Crosby on July 1st (Detroit? Chopped liver!), to, as the first round wrapped up (at just over four hours in duration), confirmation that Jiri Hudler’s heading elsewhere.
As I write this, the Wings’ press corps is resting up for what will be a long day for them and a long day for me, too: trying to “get to know” six prospects in a hurry ain’t easy, and while NHL.com’s draft tracker for all 30 teams, the Sports Forecaster’s similar page, the NHL and TSF’s respective Wings draft trackers, NHL.com’s draft section, and of course the Wings’ Twitter account, RedWingsFeed and obviously RedWingsCentral will help you and me both to learn about these players…
Put simply, because the Wings are drafting where they’re drafting, and tend to go off the board after the 3rd round, there’s gonna be a lot of legwork put in by the Wings’ press corps, the Wings’ media staff and stay-at-home pundits like myself today, but there wasn’t anything to save for an overnight report, so some of this morning’s stuff is going to be repetitious, and the rest will plain old be grating.
Let’s start with the grating part as I’m a “bad news first” person. The Suter scare that turned into a Zbynek Michalek salary dump to Phoenix allowed the draft-hosting Pittsburgh Penguins to milk a little more of the national spotlight after completing a played-up Jordan Staal trade that, maybe we could say seemed to unfurl in such a fashion as to give the Penguins the biggest possible PR bang for their internationally televised buck (I don’t buy this, “Oh, we started talking at 4 PM, and whaddya know, it came together” crap from Penguins GM Ray Shero or Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford for a second), and, well…
Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika spoke about Evgeni Malkin’s Hart Trophy signaling the possible beginning of a Penguins dynasty, and this morning, he buys into the tale I’m sure the MSM will turn into, “What’s going to happen” over the next eight-and-change days:
Staal escapes the shadows of Crosby and Malkin. He goes somewhere he can play a larger role. He reunites with his brother Eric. Must have been some wedding reception in Thunder Bay, Ont.
But Staal’s now-former Penguins teammates could celebrate there, too, toasting their buddy and their GM. Shero should have had little leverage in trade talks. The news had broken that Staal, a year away from unrestricted free agency, had turned down the offer of a 10-year contract and would consider an extension only with Carolina. Still, Shero finagled center Brandon Sutter, a good, young, two-way, third-line center who can fill Staal’s role, plus the No. 8 overall pick and a prospect.
Then he wasn’t done. He traded defenseman Zbynek Michalek to the Phoenix Coyotes for a third-round pick and two prospects. Staal was going to average about $6 million for the next decade, while Sutter has a cap hit of $2 million for two more seasons. Michalek has a cap hit for $4 million for three more seasons. Shero freed up a lot of money, which means he can make more trades or go after the biggest fish in free agency July 1 – winger Zach Parise or defenseman Ryan Suter.
Asked if he could add yet another impact player, Shero said: “Yeah, possibly. Possibly. We’ll look to do that.”
Mind you, even irrespective of the realities of teams’ room to wiggle under the salary cap, as well as their salary structures going forward (the Pens may have to pay Sidney Crosby more than $8.7 million when they sign him to a contract extension before July 1, 2013), a dozen teams believe that they’re serious contenders for Suter, Parise and every other free agent on the market, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Devils and Predators or teams like the Wild, Blackhawks, Flyers, Wings, Penguins and whoever the hell else wants to interject themselves into the narrative…And another dozen teams’ fans believe that the gems of a very thin UFA market are all headed to their city and only their city…
But even given that Suter’s rights are worthless because he’s going to test free agency, given the same situation for Semin, and the incredibly high likelhood that Parise will go the same route, testing the UFA waters, assessing the offers which come their way and then deciding the best “fits” for them—of their own volition as opposed to the wishes of fans, the press or anyone else—we’re gonna hear more of the kind of talk the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo espoused (albeit with a healthy dose of perspective), too:
While [Wild GM] Chuck Fletcher can’t talk about specific free agents the Wild hopes to pursue, the team’s general manager said he at least would investigate what it would take to trade for the exclusive rights of a big enough target before he becomes a free agent July 1.
“That’s the type of thing that has happened the last couple years,” Fletcher said. “Obviously, it’s something you’ve got to at least explore. Certainly, it’s something you have to consider, but it’s too early to say whether it’s even going to be a possibility.”
If New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter test free agency, the Wild will be one of the most aggressive suitors for both.
The Devils have never traded the rights to a free agent. The Predators have, dealing Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Dan Hamhuis to Philadelphia and Dan Ellis to Montreal.
Both the Devils and Predators want to re-sign the players even if they test free agency, so it’s uncertain if they’d be willing to trade their rights. Also, even if the Wild somehow could trade for either’s rights, another issue is what type of asset or assets would the Wild be willing to risk—especially if it’s unlikely Parise or Suter would sign and forgo their chance of testing the open market.
The objective in trading for a short window to talk exclusively would be to try to wine and dine each player so the Wild avoids a July 1 frenzy where it has to go up against other appealing options, such as Detroit.
The Wild traded Brian Rolston’s rights to Tampa Bay in 2008 when it couldn’t come to an agreement before free agency. Rolston wound up not signing with the Lightning, signed a four-year, $20.5 million deal with New Jersey on July 1 and the Wild still wound up with a draft pick. So any effort could prove fruitless.
I picked Cotsonika and Russo’s articles as they’re the cream of the crop, but trust me, I still do the legwork of visiting two dozen English-language sites and another forty Russian, Swedish, Czech, Slovak and Finnish sources, and the English-language press was rife with this kind of talk.
It happens when you’ve got 30 general managers, the vast majority of players’ agents and the vast majority of the NHL’s biggest media outlets’ journalists in the same room, and that’s the draft. Two days of rumors on top of rumors, speculation on top of speculation and elevendy twelve people writing the same narrative because it sounds like a “good story.”
For example? Well, given that Rob Rossi went ape trying to engineer a Yandle-to-Pittsburgh trade out of rumoriffic air, let’s try USA Today’s Kevin Allen’s conversation with Coyotes GM Don Maloney on for size:
There were rumors that the Coyotes might move Keith Yandle, but Maloney said he wasn’t interested in moving the All-Star defenseman.
So what are the Wings planning on doing? Drafting and waiting for their draftees to develop, and waiting until July 1st to make some fireworks happen, as Ken Holland told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“Once you get into the second round everybody’s four, five, six years away,’’ general manager Ken Holland said. “You take the player you think is going to be the best player down the road, bank him away and start the development process.’‘
There were only a few trades on Friday; the biggest saw Pittsburgh trade center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Brandon Sutter, the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft (defenseman Derrick Pouliot) and defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
Holland said he had no discussions with the Penguins about Staal and “nothing of significance’’ as far as other trade talk. The Red Wings, with nearly $20 million projected in salary-cap space, are looking to make a splash in the free-agent market on July 1, with defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise as their main targets.
Holland said no teams approached him about acquiring a potential unrestricted free agent’s negotiating rights.
Holland spoke briefly with Petr Svoboda, the agent for forward Jiri Hudler, and they will talk again on Saturday. But they are not close to a deal, and it still appears Hudler will explore the free-agent market.
He also is not close to signing restricted free agents Kyle Quincey and Justin Abdelkader, but those deals are inevitable, as RFA’s rarely move.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan doesn’t update his Twitter account too often, but he outlined Jiri Hudler’s situation perfectly over the course of two “Tweets”:
Holland and Petr Svoboda, Hudler’s agent, talked but not coming together on a deal….looking like Hudler will be available on July 1.
Strange as it is to fathom, Jiri Hudler could be a $4 or $4.5 million a year player…Yikes.
The Wings would rather spend their money on players like…well, you know by now.
Speaking of complimentary players, despite some mistranslations to the contrary, I find it interesting that the Wings’ brass is much more willing to suggest that they’ll land a long-shot prospect in Damien Brunner than even the Swiss media is willing to admit. Here, again, is Ken Holland’s conversation with the Free Press’s Helene St. James regarding Brunner, a 26-year-old sniper and unrestricted free agent who can’t sign with any team until July 1st (that pesky, “If you’ve played in a game in a league other than the NHL after the start of the Year X-Y season, you can’t sign with an NHL team until July 1st of year Y without being exposed to waivers):
Swiss media is reporting that Brunner will sign with the Wings, though he cannot officially do so until July 1. General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press the Wings have interest in Brunner, but “he’s under contract for ‘12-13, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Brunner might have an out negotiated with his Swiss team. However, there is no transfer agreement in place between the Swiss league and the NHL so, basically, there’s a lot of paperwork ahead for the Wings, provided Brunner does not change his mind. The Wings like Brunner and were one of many NHL teams—including Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington, Montreal and Philadelphia—who wooed him.
“Mike Babcock and I saw him play at the World Championship, and we liked what we saw,” Holland said. “He’s very talented.”
Brunner is 26 and a star scorer in the Swiss league. He led the league in scoring with 24 goals and 36 assists in 45 games last season. He had 46 points in 40 games in 2010-11, and 23 goals among 58 points in 2009-10.
He isn’t a big guy—around 5-feet-10, 176 pounds—but he’s a good skater, stickhandler, has a good shot and shows grit around the net.
Otherwise, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood are in Pittsburgh as executives, with Draper a little more intermeshed with the front office as a special assistant to Ken Holland and Osgood serving as a goalie mentor and someone with a say in which goalie(s) the Wings might draft, but they’ve never attended the draft as anything other than players, so they shared their memories of being drafted in 1989 (Draper, by Winnipeg) and 1991 (Osgood, by Detroit) with the Free Press’s George Sipple (among others)...
“You’re rated, you’re ranked, and you don’t know how it is going to play out,” Draper said.
Draper said the draft was held at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., in 1989 and he was on edge. He was an underage player and had to be drafted in the first three rounds. He was sweating it out with two picks left in the third.
“Winnipeg had one and Calgary had one,” Draper said. “Two picks to go, otherwise I would have had to go back in the draft. I’m sitting there and just so nervous, kind of wondering is this the year. I hadn’t talked to either of those teams, so you figure it doesn’t look good.”
Osgood said he was at the Aud in Buffalo for his draft.
“It was a lot simpler,” Osgood said. “Back then a lot of kids came to it, so there would be kids that came that wouldn’t be drafted.”
Osgood said he knew Ken Holland then as a scout and had a good idea the Wings would select him.
“Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life,” Osgood said.
This time around, Osgood plans on shaking hands with someone he’s likely to engage in a professional relationship throughout the course of their development:
“I’ve never done this before,” Osgood said, standing near the team’s draft table. “If they draft a goalie I’ll talk to him.”
Draper also spoke to Sipple in an, “If you were the GM, what would you do?” conversation, suggesting that the Edmonton Oilers may have been better served in the long run to trade down instead of selecting Nail Yakupov:
The Oilers selected Yakupov, who was rated the top North American skater. The Columbus Blue Jackets selected defenseman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips with the second pick. Defenseman Jacob Trouba (Rochester) of the Ann Arbor-based U.S. National Team Development Program, was selected ninth by the Jets.
Because the Oilers already have a slew of talented young forwards in Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, Draper said: “I would trade the pick and then pick a defenseman, because some of the defensemen I’ve seen, there’s a lot of D-men that you can get, and obviously you’d have to see what you get for that first pick.”
The Red Wings traded their first-round pick, which ended up being 19th overall, to the Lightning in a deal that brought defenseman Kyle Quincey.
The Bolts picked Salavat Yulaev goalie Andrei Vasilevski with that pick, so keep that name in mind. Quincey’s going to have to out-play Vasilevski for the next ten years or so to make that deal worthwhile.
Regardless of who the Wings draft today—players picked after the first round really are anywhere from 3-7 years away from the NHL, if they develop at all—and who the Wings sign on and after July 1st, Ken Holland believes that he can sell the “program” that the Wings have, despite no Crosby or Malkin, the kind of lineup which provides a sound foundation with which to successfully pitch prime targets upon joining, and the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo believes that the Wings’ “foundational” players, or in plainer English, the guys who are already here, will determine whether the team succeeds or fails over the course of the 2012-2013 season:
[W]hile the Red Wings will have a different look next season, and regardless of which players they land in free agency, their key is going to be the players who will return.
Say the Red Wings do sign coveted Nashville free agent defenseman Ryan Suter. He, alone, is not going to solve the issues that led to the Red Wings early playoffs demise in the spring. Nor is Suter, alone, going to remotely replace Lidstrom and Stuart — and he is an excellent player. The Red Wings have a lot of salary cap space. Suter won’t be the only defenseman they would like to sign, either. Yet, the main factor will be the development of defensemen already in the fold. I thought Jonathan Ericsson played better last season after the Red Wings signed him to a long-term deal. He wasn’t nearly the turnover machine he used to be — but he isn’t nearly rugged enough for his size.
The most naturally skilled defenseman the Red Wings have developed since Lidstrom is Brendan Smith. He is a tough kid, too, who is at the age where he should come into his own. Smith is 23 and will turn 24 in February; if he’s not ready now, he never will be. It will hardly matter who the Red Wings sign if they want to return to an elite level, and if Smith doesn’t develop. He was too mistake prone in regard to zone coverage and defending against rushing forwards during his brief stint with the Red Wings last season, but there are no lessons this kid is going to learn in Grand Rapids at this stage.
Goal scoring is an issue. Zach Parise would solve a lot of the Red Wings’ problems. But Parise is not, nor never will be, as good a player as Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk had knee surgery in the middle of the season. He didn’t seem to recover from it as quickly as the Red Wings’ seemed to think he would. He didn’t have much impact in the playoffs, and he was the best forward on either team by reputation. Zetterberg played better than Datsyuk, but like Datysuk, he must be more of a goal scoring threat. Last season, Zetterberg and Datsyuk combined to score 41 goals. Neither was among the top 75 goal scorers in the NHL during the regular season, and they didn’t exactly pick it up in the playoffs.
I also think there will be a lot put on the shoulders of goalie Jimmy Howard. His save percentage in the playoffs was .888. Jonathan Quick’s save percentage in the postseason was .946. Howard was widely outplayed by Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in the first round. The Red Wings can’t be that far off. An eighth seed that won eight less games than the Red Wings during the regular season, the Kings, behind Quick, won the Stanley Cup.
Sure, the Red Wings will attempt to do more than usual to improve this summer. But it won’t matter much if their top players already in place don’t perform better in 2012-13.
Sigh. Now that I’ve posted it and read it, that sure as hell sounds like a grossly oversimplified tale, doesn’t it? What about Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, the aforementioned Quincey, the recently re-signed Darren Helm and to-be-signed Justin Abdelkader, or players like Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, a hopefully healthy Patrick Eaves or Gustav Nyquist? The “foundation” consists of more than Smith, Zetterberg, Filppula and Howard, and while they’re definitely cornerstones going forward, there’s a balance to be found, and it also involves deciding whether Joey MacDonald is the team’s back-up goalie going forward, whether Tomas Holmstrom’s coming back, whether the team does indeed need to sign a Prust-like or Mike Knuble-like support player and whether Jakub Kindl, Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak have any futures in Detroit to begin with.
But maybe that’s the point.
There’s no doubt in mind that the Wings must, must sign a top-pair defenseman to go anywhere next season, and it wouldn’t hurt to add a second-pair defenseman as extra insurance now that Stuart’s headed to San Jose.
There’s little doubt that, especially with Hudler’s 25 goals going out the door, the Wings need to at least add a someone capable of scoring 30, if not a complimentary player who’s good for another 10.
One way or another, the Wings will have to address their lack of goaltending depth, even if they choose to stick with MacDonald as Howard’s back-up, because the team will only realistically have Thomas McCollum and Petr Mrazek in the fold after MacDonald (I’m assuming that Jordan Pearce will either head somewhere else or head to medical school), and the team needs some sort of veteran presence to both mentor McCollum/Mrazek and provide assistance if need be.
But without team-wide contributions from what the Wings believe is evolving into an ever-younger, ever-faster and perhaps even grittier version of what was a still a veteran-laden team in 2011, even adding Suter and Parise wouldn’t do much more than allow the Wings to tread water, and that’s not what the Wings want to do going forward. First and second-round defeats still aren’t acceptable in Detroit, and all hands have to be on deck for the team to reassert itself as a stronger and more consistent regular season team and a team that is more ready, willing and able to compete come playoff time.
We know the Wings have changed their draft strategy to account for the way the game’s going, but the players present and not always accounted for on its present roster have to adjust and challenge themselves to adapt and improve, too.
Anyway, it’s 3:30 here and I’m not gonna get to sleep till 4 and will be up by 9—to start a 14-to-16-hour workday—so here’s the button. If you can lend a hand in my attempts to head to Traverse City for the Wings’ summer prospect camp from July 7-14, I’d greatly appreciate anything you can give.
You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
See you later this morning.
The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame formally will enshrine the latest class of athletes and sports figures at the 56th Induction Event on Aug. 16 at the Gem Theatre in Detroit.
The MSHOF’s induction will begin at 5 p.m. with a private VIP reception. Festivities will include a strolling dinner reception beginning at 6 p.m. followed by the induction ceremony. More than 100 of the state’s Hall of Famers have been invited to honor this induction class.
This year’s class includes former Spartan and Piston Ralph Simpson, ex-Red Wing Marcel Pronovost and ex-Tiger Willie Hernandez.
Tickets are available by calling 248-473-0656 or by visiting http://www.michigansportshof.org.
A limited number of the private, VIP reception tickets are available at $225. General event tickets are $125, and a special youth ticket for those 15 and younger is priced at $75. Ticket packages and group rates also are available.
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About The Malik Report
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.