The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/29/14 at 06:28 PM ET
Note: The title of this entry translated to, "One must do what one can do in order to improve his team," but nobody liked it.
I'm still attempting to recover from two days and 28 hours' worth of draft-related work, so I slept right through Paul's text message regarding the Sabres buying out Christian Ehrhoff to avoid cap recapture penalties way down the line (the Buffalo News's John Vogl reports that the news took Ehrhoff's camp by surprise; I'm not so sure that 38-year-old Ed Jovanovski getting bought out was such a surprise for the Windsor native).
Here's what I know: half the Gordie-Howe-damn-league is chasing 38-year-old Dan Boyle and 27-year-old Matt Niskanen, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo informed us that Niskanen got married in his home state of Minnesota on Saturday (the Wild are apparently going to sign everyone, or at least that's how their situation's being presented).
The Wings have apparently pushed very hard to wine and dine Boyle and Niskanen's respective representatives, but the odds are stacked against the Wings here--2 players, 12-15 teams interested--so I am perfectly happy to find that the soon-to-be-32-year-old Ehrhoff, who has eight 30+-point seasons to his credit, is available.
As far as I'm concerned, if the odds are 3-out-of-12 versus 2-out-of-12, any siutation which aids the Red Wings ability to employ their primary means of reinforcing their roste, a.k.a. free agency, the Wings' cause is good,
Even though Ehrhoff is a left-shooter, the market is incredibly thin, and the demand is incredibly high.
With a day left in the-wining-and-dining period, as far as I'm concerned, Ken Holland and company need to book a flight to Orr Hockey Group agent Rick Curran's office with a nice plate of pickles, cheese and wurst (a fine German appetizer), ready to sell Ehrhoff on the possibility of playing in Detroit--especially if Ehrhoff can be convinced to take a discounted and/or market value contract (see: $5-ish million; USA Today's Mike Brehm reports that the Sabres will pay Ehrhoff $850,000 a year for the next FOURTEEN years) because he'll be counting the Sabres' buy-out money for years to come.
Tell him that Southeastern Michigan is in fact a nice place to live, and a place where oodles of Wings alums choose to spend their post-hockey careers. Sell him on Mike Babcock's system and the team's need to fill that top-four defenseman's slot with someone who has a track record of producing points.
Inform him that the Wings know he isn't perfect, but that the Wings won't expect him to come in and be a savior, and instead, that he'll be part of the retooling Big Red Machine. Sell him on the same line that Niskanen and Boyle have probably been given, that the Red Wings' ownership treats its players fantastically well, that the locker room atmosphere is hard-working but supportive, and tell him that the Wings' players, coaches and management are dedicated to ensuring that their transitory period between a veteran-laden team to "the kids" (who remain the team's fall-back option should they strike out in the free agent marketplace) won't involve taking steps back in terms of making far deeper playoff pushes on a yearly basis.
Hell, him know that the Dakota Inn Rathskeller in Detroit and the Heidelberg in Ann Arbor serve German food that tastes just like real German food, tell Ehrhoff that Metro Detroit has a thriving German-American population if that kind of thing matters to him.
TSN's Bob McKenzie Tweeted a Fancystats note as to the reason why Ehrhoff's a safe pick, too:
Is Ehrhoff the perfect candidate? Hell no, but there isn't a perfect candidate at this point, and with the salary cap's $69 million ceiling squeezing everyone, including the Wings ($14.72 million of Capgeek-estimated space to re-sign RFA's Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan, to attempt to add a defenseman and to possibly hold open some space should Daniel Alfredsson's back feel better in September), should the team take a shot at landing a 6'2," 196-pound defenseman who finished at -27 last season?
The Sports Forecaster describes Ehrhoff as follows...
Assets: Owns good hockey sense, elite skating ability (highlighted by excellent acceleration) and the talent to log big minutes. Loves to move the puck and knows when to join the attack. Can quarterback a power play and also be used in defensive situations.
Flaws: Plays a chippier game than earlier in his career, but can still struggle against bigger NHL forwards. He can also make bad decisions under pressure from time to time, which will lead to weak zone coverage and bad penalties. His shot isn't always on target.
Career Potential: Big-minute offensive defenseman.
On Friday, a certain MIke Babcock told the press on Friday (thank you, Red Wings TV), regarding the concept of having the 3-left-shooter, 3-right-shooter combination that he could employ during the Olympics: "We've got seven left-hand D, like, I love it, but how are you gonna get it? How do you get it? It's great to have this fantasy, I'm gonna...Like Kenny Holland would tell you, there's no tree, I've been all over him, but there's no tree to grab 'em off of, so we'll get what we get."
The Red Wings inquired about Ehrhoff at this year's trade deadline, but the Buffalo Sabres hung onto him. Now teams don't need to part with any assets to acquire Ehrhoff after the Sabres reportedly used a compliance buyout on him.
The Red Wings' top priority is a top-four defenseman. They would prefer a right-handed shooter, but options are limited.Ehrhoff shoots left but has many of the qualities the Red Wings desire: He's a tremendous skater who moves the puck well and likes to join the rush. He can quarterback the power play. He can log a lot of minutes and play in all situations. And he has decent size (6-2, 196), though he's not particularly physical.
The Red Wings would prefer to acquire a free agent due to the high cost of making a trade for a top-tier defenseman like the Arizona Coyotes' Keith Yandle or the Sabres' Tyler Myers, if he's even available anymore after this Ehrhoff move.
The Red Wings were among numerous teams that spoke to the representatives of Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle, the top two defensemen in a weak free-agent class. But Niskanen is sure to get a maximum length contract (seven years), possibly for upwards of $6 million a year (more than the Red Wings would like to spend), and Boyle turns 38 on July 12 and also would be costly on a short-term deal.
This morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James noted that the Wings' GM isn't sold on the concept of anybody out there--including Niskanen, never mind Bole, Tom Gilbert, Stephane Robidas or any other defenseman who will be available come July 1st--is a core building-block...
“I don’t think anybody is looking at July 1 as there is a No. 1 center or a No. 1 defenseman available,” Holland said. “Maybe there is one or two that are front-line players, but lots of teams are after those. Most of the players are going to be support players.”
But St. James leaned very, very hard on the suggestion that the Wings absolutely, positively, 100% cannot and will not improve their defense unless they add a right-shooter...
Wings GM Ken Holland said he has “talked to lots of players’ camps.” That includes Boyle, whom the Wings would love to add on a two-year deal, in the $10-million/$11-million ballpark. Niskanen is the marquee unrestricted free agent defenseman, but at 27 and coming off a breakout year, some team likely will offer him seven years and money in the mid-$40 million.
Boyle has more miles on him — he is 38 next month — but he’d be an ideal bridge for the Wings while they wait for prospects such as Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman and Alexey Marchenko to ripen. Boyle could help nurture Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith, both offensively gifted defensemen who’d benefit from having an experienced partner.
Boyle has played 431 of a possible 458 games over the past six seasons, and he’d undoubtedly boost the power play, where he has scored 66 of his 144 career goals.
The other way to add a defenseman — not necessarily one who shoots right — is trade. Arizona’s Keith Yandle is appealing, but the price would be a prize prospect and a high-end pick, at least. Buffalo wouldn’t give up 6-foot-8, 24-year-old Tyler Myers without a hefty cost, either.
And she was incredibly blunt:
Coach Mike Babcock harped on that No. 1 need — a right-shooting defenseman. He relayed a story during the weekend’s draft at Wells Fargo Center, noting that at a recent seminar, former Wings coach Scotty Bowman, now part of Chicago’s management team, poked a little fun at his younger colleague. “Mike Babcock, he loves those right- and left-handed shots,” Babcock said, quoting Bowman. It was funny, but also true, Babcock said. “It’s so much easier when you have a righty and lefty on every pair.”
Adding three isn’t going to happen, but over the coming week, the Wings will look to acquire one. It’s a need that must be filled if they’re again going to be a threat.
Today, in her appearance on WXYZ's 7 Sports Cave, she suggested that Dan Bolye's the man the team should target...
And this afternoon, she's dismissing the concept of going after Ehrhoff out-of-hand (while mentioning that Jovanovski is on the market, too, and my answer regarding the oft-injured Jovanovski is simple: GO WITH THE KIDS INSTEAD KENNY, NO JOVO NO):
Both Ehrhoff and Jovanovski are also left-handed shots, whereas the Wings desperately, eagerly, are looking to add what would be the only right-handed shot to their back end. The top two guys who match that description who will be available at noon Tuesday when the NHL free agent market bell sounds are Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle.
Because a top-four defenseman is on the wish-list for nearly every NHL team, watch someone offer Niskanen, 27, seven years and into the $40-million range, more than he is worth after one really good season. Boyle, 38 next month, is of more interest, if he’ll come for a two-year deal. He’s more of an offensive defenseman than a stay-at-home guy, but he’s big and durable and shoots right.
The other avenue to improvement is trade, but whether it’s Buffalo’s Tyler Myers (another righty) or Arizona’s Keith Yandle (who shoots left), it’s going to cost at least either Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Anthony Mantha, plus a draft pick, maybe more.
The Wings need to improve on defense, of that there is no doubt. The challenge for them is how to do so in the best way possible, in a way that won’t lead to the kind of regret Buffalo and Florida displayed today.
I respect St. James' opinions to no end. .She's a fantastic writer and incredibly passionate journalist who works incredibly hard.
On this point, however, I have to vehemently disagree with the thrust of her argument. Bolstering the blueline "in the best way possible," in this summer's market, cannot involve choosing to not sign one of the best players to suddenly become available on the free agent marketplace simply because he's a left-shooting defenseman.
If there is a tree, it's got three solid branches with three good apples and a couple of apples that are kind of small and funky-looking but are at least palatable. One of those apples spins the wrong way, but the alternative isn't pretty...
And the Wings' too-honest GM keeps on telling the media the truth about the trade route--that the "pieces" the Wings are asked to include in possible trades always include the Manthas, Pulkkinens, Sprouls, Ouellets and Marchenkos, 100% of the damn time.
It's the Red Wings management's responsibility to avail itself of each and every possible option to improve the team come July 1st. Christian Ehrhoff "shoots the wrong way," but he is also a viable option, and it would be downright dim for the Red Wings' management to discount pursuing Herr Ehrhoff because he's a lefty.
This is free agency in the "cap world," where the money and term that teams can offer are usually very similar, and the players are the ones doing the choosing. You don't deny one of the best-available players the opportunity of choosing you.
Quickie update: The truth of the matter?
Otherwise...DRW Prospects on Twitter reported the first prospect camp invite via a Retweet...
Hodgson's a 6'2," 204-pound right wing who played for the Erie Otters and Sarnia Sting this past season, posting 9 goals, 9 assists and accumulating 64 penalty minutes over the course of 52 games played, and the former baseball player was suspended for 10 games for charging in January
RedWingsCentral keeps on churning out content...
Hockey's Future's Ken McKenna gave the Wings a no-grade-draft-grade...
Detroit Red Wings: Given the fact that five of the Red Wings seven selections at this draft were used in the fourth through seventh rounds, it is tempting to think that this crop could be a lesser one for the Red Wings. But never underestimate this club's ability to pull a diamond or two out of the rough, quite probably from Sweden.
But the Red Wings did pretty good with their first pick in the draft, taking center Dylan Larkin from the U.S. NTDP squad. The solidly-built forward was a force at times for the NTDP team, but like any young player, Larkin must polish some of the rough edges in his two-way power game.
Center Dominic Turgeon was the Red Wings second round pick. Turgeon is the son of former NHL forward Pierre Turgeon, but appears to lack the high-end skill for which his father was known. But the younger Turgeon is likely to receive a bigger role with the Portland Winterhawks, so he'll have a chance to show his own talents in 2014-15.
And in the Twitter department:
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness weighs in:
Even though the Wings would like to land a right-hand defenseman, the left-handed Ehrhoff (6-2, 196) has the offensive abilities they’re looking for. He’s a premier skater, who logs a ton of minutes, can move the puck and likes to join the rush. He can also quarterback the power play.
“We’ve got seven left-hand D,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I love it but how do you get (a righty)? It’s great to have this fantasy, like Kenny Holland would tell you, there’s no tree. I’ve been all over him but there’s no tree to grab them off of, so we’ll get what we get.”
“I just think it’s so much easier when you have a right and lefty on every pair,” Babcock added. “All you’ve got to do is look at LA, a right and lefty on every pair. It makes it easier to get through the neutral zone. It’s easier off D-zone faceoffs to execute, you have the puck more. You can get it off the wall and shoot it ion the offensive zone. To me it just makes sense.”
The free agent pool for right-handed defensemen is thin and the asking price via a trade – Buffalo’s Tyler Myers or Arizona’s Keith Yandle – is quite steep – Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco.
The Wings, along with numerous other teams, met with the agents for right-handed defensemen Dan Boyle (New York Islanders) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) Thursday in Philadelphia.
Niskanen, 27, is most likely looking for a lengthy deal, probably a maximum seven years and possibly upwards of $6 million a season to sign. The Wings would be OK with the length, but they’re not going to break the bank to get him. They may not want to pay him much more annually than what Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million) is making. Boyle, who’ll turn 38 next month, and could be had for a two-deal at around $5.5 million a season.
Detroit, which wants its young right-handed defensemen to start the season in Grand Rapids, also could settle on Anton Stralman (Rangers), Stephane Robidas (Anaheim) or Tom Gilbert (Florida).
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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.