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The Malik Report

Red Wings evening news: on the ‘push’ from within and targeting Clarkson

Updated at 7:57 PM with the Detroit News's John Niyo demanding a big move/free agent signing: As noted last night, Red Wings GM Ken Holland suggested to the Windsor Star that the vast majority of the Red Wings' roster changes will involve Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff joining the Wings on a full-time basis, and he both reiterated those points to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness and expanded upon them, suggesting that all five players will be full-time Wings on a team that will indeed have to utilize trades or buy-outs to alleviate a roster crunch designed to accommodate the "youth movement":

“I’m pretty comfortable saying that none of them are going through waivers. Someone will claim them, which means that we either have to have him on this team or we have to make some moves. We started the year with 23 players and you add those five, that’s 28, so we probably have 27 or 28 players."

Beware the lure of free agency? That's what Holland told Pleiness...

“We’ve got some tough decisions to make and at the same time, I don’t think it’s a big free agent market, if you look in comparison to other years, I think the free agent market every year is going to get a little thinner and a little thinner because teams are signing their best players. Nobody is letting those types of assets hit the market. They’re signing them or they’re trading them and somebody else is signing them. So much like the Red Wings were built in the ‘90s, through the draft, you know (Sergei) Fedorov and (Steve) Yzerman and Lidstrom and (Vladimir) Konstantinov, we’re trying to do the same thing now. We’ve got to build through the draft.”

With the re-signing of Drew Miller last week, Detroit currently has 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies under contract for next season. Andersson, Nyquist, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith are all restricted free agents and will be resigned which balloons the forward unit to 14 and defensemen numbers to eight for a grand total of 24 on the roster.

“Eighteen months ago or plan was to try and be lean and go into free agency in 2012 because there was potential for a whole lot of high profile players,” Holland said. “We were lean and we did go in and we came within a whisker of getting one and we didn’t. So when you lose Lidstrom and you lose Stuart and you lost Holmstrom you’re going a little bit into the unknown.”

As Pleiness notes, that "unknown" also involved the team swinging hard for and missing in their attempts to land Ryan Suter and/or Zach Parise, and as such, making lateral moves that were supposed to ease the transition in signing Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jonas Gustavsson and Jordin Tootoo. Three of those four players got hurt, and in some cases, stayed hurt, and as such, the WIngs had to embrace the "youth movement" a year earlier than planned:

“We were going into the unknown, but we knew there was potential,” Holland said. “I believe Pav and Z and Kronner are world class players. I’ve always believed in Jimmy Howard. I love E. There are people here that I thought we could build around that were better than some people thought. But you don’t really know until they get put in a position of more responsibility, more minutes, different matchups than they have been before.”

Holland does acknowledge that the team will do something this summer, but Pleiness duly notes that the Wings want to retain Daniel Cleary's services, that they really want to re-sign Damien Brunner, and that they'll at least go through the motions of offering Valtteri Filppula a contract. The Wings also have to re-sign four restricted free agents in Andersson, Kindl, Nyquist and Smith, and when you add up the probable million-plus-dollar moves plus attempts to re-sign Brunner and Cleary...All of a sudden, $10.6 million in salary cap space disappears in a hurry.

“We’ve got to figure out ways to get better,” Holland said. “We’re not getting 50 percent better, we’re not bringing in a superstar player so 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, but those are the decisions we have to make.

“My feeling is we’re in the thick of things,” Holland continued. “We’re not at the top of the heap, but we’re in a pile of teams that there are 24 of us in that pile. There are maybe three or four ahead of us in the class, but we don’t have those young studs. We don’t miss the playoffs to get those guys so we have to go through a longer process. When the time comes, can we trade for one or go after one that hits the market? We offered a ton of money last year to two people and one of them we kept raising it and raising it and I don’t think it was about money it was about lifestyle. I can’t fight lifestyle.”

(see: two players who wanted to play in and near their home state and where their family and in-laws lived, respectively, in Parise and Suter)

The Wings' beat writers have insisted that, should the Wings target free agents, they'll probably go after a forward to add some size, grit and/or goal-scoring ability, and will look at Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Nathan Horton or David Clarkson.

MLive's Ansar Khan profiled Clarkson on Thursday, and this evening, the Free Press's Helene St. James suggests that Clarkson, who's neither overly big (6'1," 200 pounds, 29 years old) nor all that established as a scoring forward (he's two seasons removed from a career largely spent as an enforcer) may in fact be a "perfect fit"--someone who can score goals, drop gloves, and someone who won't be salivated over as much as Bickell, Horton or even Stalberg have because 28 other teams have been watching them play during the Stanley Cup Final.

As such, if the Wings are to go after a forward (St. James has repeatedly suggested that the Wings should go after a defenseman instead), she sees the right-shooting Clarkson as the #1 choice as the player St. James believes the Wings should target:

Clarkson has spent his career so far with the New Jersey Devils. He was never drafted, and largely has been considered a grinder-type. He has 97 goals and 73 assists in 426 games over seven seasons.

His 770 penalty minutes, meanwhile, indicate a propensity for taking far too many penalties, and his minus-32 rating is also a concern. He has bounced around on lines, and hasn’t been a picture of consistency — much like Wings forward Damien Brunner this past season, Clarkson was a scoring machine the first half, with 10 goals the first 14 games and then five the rest of the way.

One of the intriguing aspects about Clarkson, though, is his shooting. He finished fourth overall in the NHL this past season with 180 shots in 48 games. The only Wings player who shoots that often is Henrik Zetterberg (he was sixth overall, with 173 shots in 46 games). Clarkson is good along the boards and is a hound for rebounds; again, this could be valuable on the power play, where getting second-chance shots has been a huge problem.

The question is whether Clarkson can be a 30-goal scorer again (as he was in 2011-12), or, as is more likely, a guy can give a team around 20 goals per season. And of course, there’s price to consider. The Devils are talking extension with Clarkson, but Clarkson knows he’ll generate good interest if he goes to unrestricted free agency on July 5. He’s coming off a three-year, $8 million deal, with last season’s salary standing at $3 million. He’s going to command at least $1 million more per season, probably closer to $4.5 million per season.

Clarkson has more strengths than weaknesses, and it’s hard to think he wouldn’t help the Wings generate more offense, an area they consider a weakness. If he becomes available for around $4.5 million a season, he could be a terrific asset.

St. James' article sets up what sounds like a series of free agent profiles to come, but she and Khan seem to have picked Clarkson as their first player profile for a reason. At this point, it looks like Horton will a) command a $5+ million salary and b) need surgery for what's become a chronic shoulder issue; if we are to believe ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Montreal Canadiens really, really want Bickell; and Stalberg may be big, fast and Swedish, but there are definite questions regarding his offensive "upside."

Who would you like to see the Wings sign if they go after ONE and only one player? Capgeek's got lists of UFA-to-be forwards and defensemen up...

 

Update: Via RedWingsFeed, the Detroit News's John Niyo believes that the Wings have to make a big move this summer, arguing that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are essentially owed an elite set of teammates:

Florida’s Stephen Weiss, who could get $6 million annually on a four-year deal assuming he’s healthy, figures to be among the primary targets. And there should be a few other intriguing (and expensive?) options out there, including Chicago’s Bryan Bickell and Boston’s Nathan Horton. More names will emerge as salary cap-strapped teams buy out some contracts beginning 48 hours after the playoffs end.

Another reliable defenseman has to be on the Wings’ offseason wish list, and if there’s a chance to land one that’d be an upgrade in Detroit’s top four, Holland absolutely should pursue it. Because as he keeps reminding us all, “The free agent market every year is going to get a little thinner and a little thinner. Teams are signing their best players. Nobody is letting those types of assets hit the market.”

That’s why it’s going to take more than Holland’s usual tire kicking to get what he really wants. Or more pointedly, what head coach Mike Babcock wants, since most of the last two summer’s free-agent dollars were scratched in the playoffs this spring.

It’s going to take some wheeling and dealing at the draft, perhaps, buying the negotiating rights to one of the Wings’ targeted free agents. Or perhaps a trade involving some of that young talent that debuted in Detroit after the lockout and helped AHL affiliate Grand Rapids win the Calder Cup. I wouldn’t part with Danny DeKeyser, but Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl and any of those young forwards should be shopped.

As even Holland himself admits, “We don't have a guy coming through the system that I'm going to say to you is a superstar.” And as Babcock noted after the season, “The guys we’ve got coming can't all play here. But you have assets, so you make the decisions based on what's best for you.”

The Wings’ management team began last season talking hopefully — even confidently — about their depth up front. But that was before injuries — and age — started eating away at it. Mikael Samuelsson played all of five regular-season games. Todd Bertuzzi played seven. Darren Helm played 12 minutes all season. They can’t honestly count on any of those three producing next season, either.

But with some of the AHLers out of options, and some of them having proved they’re NHL-ready, there’s a numbers crunch that’ll force Holland’s hand. Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Anderson are lineup regulars now, and they’ll be among a handful of restricted free agents that get re-signed this summer. Tomas Tatar, who should’ve been a part of the playoff push this spring, has to be in Detroit next season as well.

That gives the Wings 14 forwards even without the trio of pending unrestricted free agents: Filppula, Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner, the latter of whom the Wings still hope to re-sign. And that should give Holland all the nudging he needs to utilize one or both of his compliance buyouts, shedding Samuelsson’s $3 million cap hit and perhaps defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo’s $2.5 million as well.

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Comments

Son of Flying Pig's avatar

For cost, and if Holland is bent on bringing in another big forward with net front presence - go with Dustin Penner.  He’ll probably be a bit below Clarkson on the free agent radar and salary.  If not, I really wouldnt mind seeing them bring Filppula back (and that sounds more up to Val than anybody).

Posted by Son of Flying Pig on 06/22/13 at 06:47 PM ET

perfection's avatar

i find it interesting you continue to lump Viktor Stalberg in with those others when you talk about adding “size, grit and/or goal-scoring ability”. He’s soft and scored 9 goals in 47 games plus a whopping 0 goals in 17 playoff games. He’s an on and off healthy scratch in the playoffs.

How does that help our team exactly? Dan Cleary had 9 goals in a somewhat below average regular season and added 4 in 14 playoff games. I get why we’d potentially go after Bickell, Clarkson, or Horton as they actually do bring different elements to our team (though would Horton really sign with a new division rival and is Chicago really going to let Bickell walk?), but Stallberg adds nothing but a little depth of mediocrity and a bit of wasted speed. Why would we kick Emmerton, Eaves or Tootoo out of town for that?

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 06/22/13 at 07:29 PM ET

Primis's avatar

As noted last night, Red Wings GM Ken Holland suggested to the Windsor Star that the vast majority of the Red Wings’ roster changes will involve Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff joining the Wings on a full-time basis

And the best part of that is two of those cost the Wings NOTHING except salary to get in.

Posted by Primis on 06/22/13 at 07:44 PM ET

IMOrthodox13's avatar

I’ve been saying Clarkson as the #1 choice for weeks now (on the MLive forum). He has all the elements we need - size, grit, good on the boards, good on rebounds, shoot first mentality, right handed shot, has shown he can score 30 goals, and he can fight. Glad to see Helene is finally coming around to the party. : ) Hopefully with Bickell and Horton and Stalberg being showcased in the playoffs, that Clarkson’s market value will be tempered. I’d pay $4.5M all day long for someone who brings so many elements that the Wings lack - all in one package.

Posted by IMOrthodox13 on 06/22/13 at 07:45 PM ET

IMOrthodox13's avatar

I agree with @perfection. I don’t get the infatuation with Stalberg except that he’s a larger than average Swede. I’ll be extremely disappointed if the Wings waste $3M - $4M on him. Spend the extra $1.5M - $2M to get Clarkson. He brings so many more assets to the table. I’d like Bickell too, but for the same price I’d take Clarkson.

Posted by IMOrthodox13 on 06/22/13 at 07:49 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Player multiple beat writers insist the Wings are pursuing does not necessarily equal an endorsement from me. They say the Wings are intrigued by Stalberg. He will be out there and he will be affordable. I don’t see much “upside” but I’m not the decision-maker.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/22/13 at 07:51 PM ET

perfection's avatar

who is going to give Stalberg $3mil? Dude made $900,000 this year and didn’t exactly shine? Can’t see him getting much more than a mil and a half by some desperate team. I actually think that’s why George is infatuated with him is that he will definitely come the cheapest of those players. But that’s because he sucks. Again, I just don’t see how we would be upgrading. It’s another lateral move basically just for the sake of making a move.

Hell, if Stalberg actually is trying to get over $3mil, you might as well just give Filps what he wants at that point. Filps is 10 times the player Stalberg will ever be.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 06/22/13 at 07:55 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The only explanation for the Stalberg interest that I can guess at involves the fact that he’d come cheaply. He’s not a $3 million player…A $2 million player, sure, but not much more than that. I’m not interested in him, but the team apparently is.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/22/13 at 08:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Also: I’m kind of surprised to read the added article by John Niyo suggesting that the Wings should “sell high” regarding any one of their graduating Griffins not named DeKeyser. That line of thinking goes very contrary to team philosophy….

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/22/13 at 08:16 PM ET

Avatar

Who would you like to see the Wings sign if they go after ONE and only one player?

Ryder or Horton.  Horton would be my first pick and if a decent term could be had I wouldn’t be worried about him missing part of next season to have his shoulder repaired.

Neither Bickell nor Clarkson are proven scores at all.  They’re going to command big raises with very little in the way of justification for them.  Briere would be OK, but I would consider it a colossal failure if they end up with Penner.

As noted last night, Red Wings GM Ken Holland suggested to the Windsor Star that the vast majority of the Red Wings’ roster changes will involve Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff joining the Wings on a full-time basis

Ken Holland doesn’t seem to understand what a roster change is because all of those names but Tatar already ARE full-time Wings.

I guess it makes sense though, since he thought that re-upping roster players was the same as making free agent signings.

Posted by Garth on 06/22/13 at 08:41 PM ET

Avatar

Personally I quite like Ryder but in a somewhat shallow FA market these players salary demands (or rather salary opportunities) mean KH may not sign / land anyone. Perhaps it also depends on who may get bought out? In any event there are supposed deficiencies with almost every FA so there is no silver bullet as such that I can think of.

I still wonder; even though it would fly in the face of the build from within mantra KH keeps going on about, if there is a viable trade option out there?

Posted by redwingsdownunder on 06/22/13 at 09:17 PM ET

IMOrthodox13's avatar

@George, can you confirm the compliance buyout options for Samuelsson? I hear some say they can use it only up to this year’s free agency, and elsewhere that it can be used any time between now and next year’s free agency. Also, if Sammy is indeed considered still “injured” and not available for a compliance buyout, if he shows up to training camp “healthy” can he be bought out then?

Posted by IMOrthodox13 on 06/22/13 at 09:32 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

I still wonder; even though it would fly in the face of the build from within mantra KH keeps going on about, if there is a viable trade option out there?

That’s what I asked earlier. I don’t follow the NHL well enough to pick someone out, but given the defensemen options in free agency are limited, find a team with an excess of defensemen, and in need of a young forward.

Ryder or Horton.  Horton would be my first pick and if a decent term could be had I wouldn’t be worried about him missing part of next season to have his shoulder repaired.

Does Horton’s concussion history worry you?

Ken Holland doesn’t seem to understand what a roster change is because all of those names but Tatar already ARE full-time Wings.

I guess it makes sense though, since he thought that re-upping roster players was the same as making free agent signings.

Garth, you’ll forget more hockey than I’ll know, but I’ve read other places as well that the free agency pool is getting thinner and thinner. So, if “everyone” is supposedly locking up their own players more, are the Wings outside the “norm”?
The other question is whether someone has the analysis of how teams who did dive in for the big free agents the last few years did. I remember last offseason how some liked all of the free agents Tampa and Minnesota signed last year, but Detroit went further than either team. Pittsburgh acquired all of those players at the trade deadline but couldn’t get past Boston. I understand what Babcock is saying in that the free agents signed the last few years seem to be more bargain bin, so maybe the Wings would be better off trading for quality if they don’t get one of their top choices (e.g, for a power forward), since it sounds like a lot of their budget is going towards signing who they have (and using those as trade chips later this summer)?

Posted by Bugsy on 06/22/13 at 09:43 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

If he’s hurt he can’t be bought out, but it’s murky as to whether a player can protest a buyout insisting that he’s injured.

As for the way cap compliance buy-outs work, from 48 hours after the end of the Cup Final until the day before free agency starts, they can be implemented, and teams have 2, which they can use this year and/or next summer from 48 hours after the end of the Cup Final until the day before free agency starts. Those are the only periods of time in which you can “get out of jail free.”

After that period of time, the only way you can buy a player out is by paying him 2/3rds of his remaining salary spread out over 2 years for every 1 year of term, and you’re hit with 1/3rd of the cap hit against your cap figure.

So if the Wings were to buy out Samuelsson on July 5th, they would be paying him $2 million of the $3 million owed to him, spread out over the next two years, and as far as I understand it, they’d be hit with a $666,666.67 cap penalty for the next two years.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/22/13 at 09:45 PM ET

IMOrthodox13's avatar

Thanks for clarifying George! What sucks about those rules is that the Wings would have to use their compliance buyout BEFORE they find out if they can get someone to replace Samuelsson through free agency -  otherwise they have to still use some cap space to buy him out or keep him the rest of the season (assuming he can’t be traded which I don’t see who would trade for him after this season unless they needed to reach the cap minimum). I guess $666K is still better than $3M against the cap, tho. With the youth we have coming in and if Bert can be healthy enough, I don’t see that we need Sammy regardless.
If the Wings can get Clarkson and re-sign Brunner I like our team with the new kids playing full time. Then if Helm’s back heals up I think we can do some real damage next year.

Posted by IMOrthodox13 on 06/22/13 at 10:03 PM ET

Avatar

This is all just chatter for the next 12 or so days.  Lots of players are going to make deals with their teams before its open season, hopefully those deals include a guy named Brunner.

Something tells me Smith and/or Kindl get a Big E type deal that start a firestorm of comments about Holland losing his mind again.

If we get really lucky a trade at the draft happens sending Flip, Quincy or Coco and a pick or Emmerton for a top 3 defensman or that big scoring winger we want.  Maybe teams in the west will deal with us now.  Yandle and Ryan still seem like guys that would fit in.

Posted by maltby18 on 06/22/13 at 10:06 PM ET

Avatar

Does Horton’s concussion history worry you?

Not overly.  He seems to have bounced back well this year.  If he was concussed now or missed time this year I would be concerned.

So, if “everyone” is supposedly locking up their own players more, are the Wings outside the “norm”?

My problem isn’t him locking players up, it’s that he has used it as an excuse for not making the team better.

Mark my words, if the Wings don’t land a top six forward we’ll here Holland saying that re-signing the team’s RFAs was their free agent signing.

Posted by Garth on 06/22/13 at 10:55 PM ET

wedge56's avatar

Before the playoffs, my ventures into enemy forums yielded a lot of chatter from Bruins fans talking about Horton not being what he used to be and not sure if they should re-sign him at all.  I know he is having a successful playoff run, but….it all reeks of how the grass is always greener…

Posted by wedge56 on 06/23/13 at 03:02 AM ET

SK77's avatar

If we get really lucky a trade at the draft happens sending Flip, Quincy or Coco and a pick or Emmerton for a top 3 defensman or that big scoring winger we want.  Maybe teams in the west will deal with us now.  Yandle and Ryan still seem like guys that would fit in.

Posted by maltby18 on 06/22/13 at 10:06 PM ET

Not only would the Wings have to get lucky, but a rival GM would have to suffer some sort of head injury to contemplate any such trade.

Posted by SK77 on 06/23/13 at 03:09 AM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

I wouldn’t be disappointed in the least to see Queezy traded for something useful.  I’ve suggested it in the past but have backed away from commenting about the D because focus seems to have moved to finding a power forward first.

The little bit that has oozed out of the Chicago camp makes it sound like they’ll figure out a way to keep Bickell ... ditto for Horton ... Stalberg is dead weight ... Clarkson could be the two more Abdelkaders we need up front but the more we rave about him the more he’ll cost us so lets try to keep the chatter to a minimum… LOL

Could KH actually pull off a huge jaw dropping blockbuster type trade ??
I called for it almost all of this past season up until the time DeKeyser got here and the defence finally jelled. Having a few too many forwards could force Holland to do something big.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 06/23/13 at 04:31 AM ET

Bugsy's avatar

My problem isn’t him locking players up, it’s that he has used it as an excuse for not making the team better.

Gotcha.

Before the playoffs, my ventures into enemy forums yielded a lot of chatter from Bruins fans talking about Horton not being what he used to be and not sure if they should re-sign him at all.  I know he is having a successful playoff run, but….it all reeks of how the grass is always greener…

That’s what I’ve been thinking for a while now, but I wouldn’t mind the Wings taking the chance. Of course, Bickel leaving as of a few months ago sounded likely since he was “okay”.

Not only would the Wings have to get lucky, but a rival GM would have to suffer some sort of head injury to contemplate any such trade.

I was thinking the same.

Having a few too many forwards could force Holland to do something big.

That’s what I’ve been thinking, figuring trade from your strength. The Detroit Tigers, for all the experts saying they had a weak farm system, have used that system the last few years to get good talent in trades, so it couldn’t have been that weak. In particular last year, the Tigers had a surplus of minor league catchers, so they could afford to trade a good potential one with Atlanta.. 2 years ago, they traded 4 prospects for Doug Fister and came out ahead in that trade, too. The Wings have too many forwards. Trade from strength.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/23/13 at 05:05 AM 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.