The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/24/13 at 01:15 PM ET
Updated with Datsyukian hip hop at 2:33 PM. Seriously.
The Red Wings are theoretically going to stand pat for the next month or two, save re-signing Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist, anyway, as the Wings are "capped out" and are sitting at the 50-man roster limit (no news as to whether signing Tom McCollum to an AHL-only deal removes him from the team's 50-man roster yet).
During a chat on the Free Press's website, however, Helene St. James suggested that Daniel Cleary may yet find his way back to Detroit, and ESPN's Craig Custance offers semi-confirmation of that line of thinking from Cleary's agent in an Insider-only article discussing the best unrestricted free agents still available to sign--as an addendum of sorts to confirming that ex-Wing Damien Brunner will pursue NHL employment:
3. Damien Brunner: He's 27 years old and scored 12 goals in his first 44 NHL games. He then followed it up with nine points in 14 playoff games. He's still rounding out his NHL game, but proved he can score at this level and contribute on the power play, where he spent significant time on the point. The Red Wings wanted him back, just not at the price Brunner expects to ultimately get on the open market. His agent, Neil Sheehy, declined to comment on specific negotiations, but did say there are no plans to return to Switzerland, where Brunner lit things up offensively for years.
"Damien will play in the NHL this upcoming season," Sheehy wrote in a text.
Another Red Wings forward on the market is Daniel Cleary, although Detroit remains the front-runner to keep him. GM Ken Holland has to clear cap room up front for it to happen, but Cleary showed again with his physical play in the postseason -- along with 10 points in 14 games -- how valuable he is to a playoff contender.
"He's a perfect fit for [Detroit]," said Brisson, who represents Cleary. "I have other teams that are showing interest as well ... Detroit is the place where it's a win-win for him but it has to be done the right way."
I believe that's agent-speak for, "We aren't taking a pay cut from the $3 million Cleary earned this past season," which is downright baffling given that the Wings' lack of cap space and lack of roster space up front, but stranger things have happened...
And NHL.com's Brian Compton's list of his top 25 still-available UFA's offers a similar conclusion:
Daniel Cleary Detroit 48 GP 9-6-15 Didn't put up the offense we've seen in years past, but this 34-year-old wing is scrappy and would provide leadership. Cleary is hopeful he will re-sign with the Detroit Red Wings, but if negotiations fall apart, he would be a valuable penalty killer and leader.
As for Brunner, it appears that the ship sailed early on. He may be twisting in the wind at present, but the fact that he's still out there indicates that he and/or Sheehy are still looking at a $3-3.5 million payday, and that they're willing to wait to get it.
In speculative news of a different kind, via RedWingsFeed, the Sporting News's Sean Gentile pondered possible jersey retirements by Eastern Conference teams (on the heels of the news that the Vancouver Canucks will retire Pavel Bure's #10 this upcoming season), and one new division rival's got an obvious choice to make...
Buffalo Sabres: Dominik Hasek, No. 39
Hasek's relationship with the team is good enough that he called them last season about a potential comeback at age 48. That, thankfully, didn't happen, but whenever Hasek is done for good, this should be a lock. He won six Vezina Trophies with the team and came within a Crease Rule (plus one game) of a Stanley Cup. Yes, he played for the Blackhawks and Red Wings too, but who cares.
Retirees: Tim Horton (2), Rick Martin (7), Gilbert Perrault (11), Rene Robert (14), Pat Lafontaine (16), Danny Gare (18)
But this is...complicated.
Detroit Red Wings: Sergei Fedorov, No. 91
That would initially bother a lot of people, and it's out of step with the franchise's last two honorees. Both were long-time captains who only played for the Red Wings, but there has to be a chance that No. 91 is headed to the rafters at some point. Fedorov was one of the absolute best players of his era, and time has a way of smoothing things over. Even protracted contract disputes that involve rejected $50 million offers.
Retirees: Terry Sawchuk (1), Nicklas Lidstrom (5), Ted Lindsay (7), Alex Delvecchio (10), Gordie Howe (9), Sid Abel (12), Steve Yzerman (19).
Future candidates: Pavel Datsyuk (13), Henrik Zetterberg (40)
Note: Larry Aurie's No. 6 and Vladimir Konstantinov's No. 16 aren't in circulation. They're also not officially retired.
I've never been able to get clarification as to why Aurie's #6 hasn't been retired, but it appears to be a, "It worked for the Norrises, so if it ain't broke, don't step in it" theory.
And looking forward in a very different direction, MLive's Ansar Khan's already examined a pair of the Wings' Eastern Conference competitors in the Sabres and Bruins, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose scouted the Rangers, so I'm guessing that it's coincidence that Khan scouted the Panthers today...
Panthers' strengths: They have some promising young talent in center Jonathan Huberdeau, last season's Calder Trophy winner as best rookie, defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson and goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Plus, center Alexsander Barkov, the No. 2 pick in this year's entry draft, appears ready to step into a top-six role right away. Their power play ranked sixth in the NHL, even through they tied for last in the league in goals scored, overall. Three of their top five scorers in 2013 were Red Wings draft picks (Fleischmann, Kopecky, Matthias).
Panthers' weaknesses: [Panthers GM Dale] Tallon went on a spending spree in free agency in 2011, doling out bad contracts to Scottie Upshall, Ed Jovanovski and Sean Bergenheim, who haven't provided much. Bergenheim missed the entire NHL season after suffering a groin injury playing in Finland during the lockout. Jovanovski was limited to six games due to a hip issue. Upshall missed 21 games with injuries. In addition, injuries limited forward Kris Versteeg to 10 games.
Panthers outlook: They're not a playoff team, but they're not the worst team in the league, like they were in 2013. As long as they get contributions from their many injured players in 2013 while their young talent continues to grow, the Panthers should move in the right direction.
An obvious concern for the Panthers in 2013-14 is consistency. Two seasons ago they went from worst to first in the Northeast Division. Last season, with an influx of injuries, Florida took a gigantic fall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
While the Red Wings could lay claim to operating out of a M*A*S*H unit last season, the Panthers had similar issues with as many as 10 regulars out of the lineup for much of 2013.
Certainly, an important key for the Panthers will be returning to health, something they struggled with last season with season-ending injuries occurring to guys like forwards Kris Versteeg (knee surgery) and Scottie Upshall (ankle), center Drew Shore (wrist surgery), defensemen Erik Gudbranson (shoulder/hand) and Dmitry Kulikov (shoulder surgery). The Panthers had more than 270 total man games lost to injuries.
Success in the NHL is built from the back-end out, and the Panthers believe they have the building blocks in goalie Jacob Markstrom, who signed a new two-year deal this month. He has a world of potential, but Markstrom’s downside has been inconsistency, which has prevented him from playing a full season in the NHL or in the minors. However, the Panthers hope the 6-foot-6 Swede is their goalie of the future, and they will give him every opportunity this season to be the No. 1 netminder in front of backup Scott Clemmensen.
Defensively, the Panthers will lean on veteran leaders Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski to help out the young crop of blueliners expected to get bigger roles this season. The Panthers passed on taking defenseman Seth Jones in the draft, which says a lot about the faith they have in upcoming sters like Grudbranson, Kulikov and Alex Petrovic, who played in six games last season.
To compete in the East, strength up front and down the middle are imperative qualities, and the Panthers certainly have some big-bodied centermen with 6-3 Shore, 6-6 Nick Bjugstad, 6-4 Shawn Matthias, and 6-2 Quinton Howden. They’ve also signed recently drafted 6-3 center Sasha Barkov to a three-year entry level contract. The second overall pick in this year’s draft is loaded with talent and the Panthers hope that he can quickly become an impact player.
Another young star that the Panthers are quite high on is 5-10 center Vince Trocheck, who was player of the year in the Ontario Hockey League, producing 50 goals and 59 assists with a plus-49 rating in 63 games split between Saginaw and Plymouth.
Otherwise...Khan's also taking questions from MLive readers for a future mailbag column;
Pavel Datsyuk was busy today in Yekaterinburg...
And the Wings offered two reminders that the 2013-2014 season is anything but far away:
Sovetsky Sport posted a photo gallery from Datsyuk's summer camp...
I'll let these quips roll in Google-translated Russian...
- You have said many times that many coaches do not let the guys in your camp, jealous. Trend continues?.
- Alas. But we have no one to fight and do not pay attention to it. Our task - to train the children and give them the confidence charge. And let their teachers improve skills and make guys better. By the way, did you notice that the foreign coaches who deal with children, already tolerably speak in Russian? In a pinch, understand our language. Because almost all here for the sixth time. So now I'm close to them talking in Russian very carefully - smiles Pavel.
- Recently thundered news: the city of Detroit, where you play on the verge of bankruptcy ...
- So I have signed a new contract with the local club, and that's all collapsed - jokes Pavel. - But seriously, it is noticeable that the city is going through hard times. People become less, they leave to find work.
And Bergishev's blog offers an entry with over 20 minutes' worth of video from Datsyuk's hockey school, including an 8-minute Russian-language interview with Datsyuk:
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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.