The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/29/13 at 10:46 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings will fly back to Detroit around 12:45 PM EDT today, and won't arrive until just before 5 PM, and their most immediate concern involves the health of one Johan Franzen, who suffered a "lower-body injury" during last night's 2-0 loss against San Jose. The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that whatever's ailing Franzen is bad enough that he'll see a physician on Friday night...
Last night, I had my first, "Wow, Valtteri Filppula's playing his way out of town" moment. I genuinely like Filppula, and I don't root against any Red Wings player, regardless of whether I like them or whether I heard the clang when they dropped the Stanley Cup at Cheli's Chili, Brett Lebda, but with the salary cap going down and the Wings having to make so many hard decisions with their roster (Filppula, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller, Damien Brunner, Ian White and Jimmy Howard will be UFA's, and Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Jakub Kindl and Joakim Andersson will be RFA's), especially given that the team needs to make roster room for full-time Griffins graduates Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist.
With Filppula's representatives supposedly demanding $5 million a season despite his 13 points over the course of 27 games played, and Filppula increasingly pulling a nightly disappearing act, MLive's Ansar Khan wonders whether the Wings should deal him before the trade deadline if the organization believes that Filppula will pull a Jiri Hudler and chase more money--even given the fact that the team sees the 29-year-old as a "safety net" given Pavel Datsyuk's expiring contract a summer from now--because Filppula does have some trade value:
The club and Filppula remain far apart in contract talks. The 29-year-old forward is seeking more than $5 million per season. That's too much for someone who had one breakout year (23 goals, 66 points in 2012-13), but otherwise has been a 40-point player. And it's too much for someone who, despite knee and shoulder injuries, has been inconsistent, unassertive and unproductive this season, with six goals and 13 points in 27 games.
Ideally, the Red Wings probably hoped to ink Filppula for around $4 million a season, about the same as Johan Franzen, less than Niklas Kronwall's $4.7 million cap hit. That's not going to happen, since Filppula can get much more than $4 million a year on the open market, regardless of his performance this season. Despite his unfulfilled potential, he's still in his prime and he's fast, highly skilled and good defensively.
He's becoming an unrestricted free agent at the right time. A weak UFA crop got thinner when Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry re-signed with Anaheim. The list of impending free-agent forwards includes Jarome Iginla, Mike Ribeiro, Pascal Dupuis, David Clarkson, Jaromir Jagr, Brad Boyes, Michael Ryder and Derek Roy. Some of them might re-sign with their clubs before free agency, further increasing Filppula's market value. So, Filppula has plenty of incentive to hit the market.
Likewise, the Red Wings would have good reason to move him. They could deal him to a Cup contender for a high draft pick (Buffalo received a first-rounder from Nashville for fourth-line center Paul Gaustad last year) or a good prospect. Or perhaps they could make a player-for-player exchange for someone who could help them right away, maybe a UFA from another team.
If the Red Wings deal Filppula they would at least need to replace him with a top-six forward in a separate move.
There would be plenty of interest in Filppula if he were on the trading block.Take a club like the Chicago Blackhawks. They're loaded with talent and would be in good shape if they did nothing before the deadline. But that didn't stop them from pursuing Iginla before he was dealt to Pittsburgh. The Blackhawks are looking for more help up front, particularly a second-line center. Iginla is not a center and Filppula is no Iginla, but Filppula has been a center most of his career.
There is little doubt the Blackhawks are interested in Filppula. Their scouts are probably monitoring him closely. But, would the Red Wings trade with Chicago, a Central Division rival (until next season) they could meet in the playoffs? That doesn't seem plausible. Maybe a third team would need to be involved.
Khan doesn't talk like this very often, and I don't believe that the Wings will move Filppula before the deadline, but last night, I realized that #51, like Cleary, Miller, perhaps Patrick Eaves and definitely cap compliance buy-out candidate Mikael Samuelsson (no, the team won't buy out Johan Franzen), should be playing with a little more urgency given that the Wings are embracing a youth movement whose necessary parts in the incredibly-solid Andersson, an ever-improving Nyquist and an over-ripe Tomas Tatar's performances will necessitate letting two forwards go this summer to "make room for the new kids" on a permanent basis.
Should the Wings not re-sign Filppula--and despite the fact that I like him quite a bit, I'm starting to think that they shouldn't re-sign Filppula--I hope they move his rights at or around the draft instead of losing him for nothing.
In prospect news of the direct variety kind, Hockeysverige.se's Robert Pettersson noted something I neglected to mention in the middle of the night: Calle Jarnkrok went without a point in his North American debut, but he wasn't alone as the Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 4-1 decision to San Antonio last night. If you missed it, here's the Griffins website's recap...
In their eighth three-in-three of the season, the Grand Rapids Griffins fell to the San Antonio Rampage 4-1 Thursday at the AT&T Center.
Goaltender Brian Foster shined in San Antonio’s victory as he stopped 39 of 40 shots against the Griffins.
San Antonio (28-29-1-6) jumped on the scoreboard first as Wade Megan scored in his first professional game at 9:13 of the first period. The fifth round draft pick from Boston University showed great speed as he danced around the Griffins defense and snapped a quick wrist shot over Petr Mrazek’s right hand shoulder.
Jed Ortmeyer gave the Rampage a two-goal lead at 1:50 of the second period. San Antonio took two long shots before Ortmeyer picked up a rebound at the left wing faceoff and blew it past Mrazek for his sixth goal of the season.
Grand Rapids (37-22-3-3) scored at 4:09 of the second period to cut San Antonio’s lead to 2-1. Jan Mursak sent a drop pass to Jeff Hoggan, and the left wing drilled the puck into the upper right hand corner of the goal from 40 feet away past Foster.
The Rampage restored their two-goal lead on a power play goal at 10:15 of the middle period. Brendon Nash knocked down a clearing attempt with his chest at the blue line to keep the puck in Griffins territory. A dozen seconds later, Jon Rheault deflected a shot past Mrazek to give San Antonio a 3-1 lead.
Rheault finished the game off for the Rampage with his second goal of the game at 19:30 of the final period. The right wing’s empty net goal was his fifth goal against the Griffins in four games.
The Griffins had multiple breakaway opportunities to cut into San Antonio’s lead, but were unable to get another shot past Foster, who had 39 saves in the victory. Mrazek blocked 12 of 15 shots in the loss.
The Griffins will stay in Texas for their next contest, as they will against the Houston Aeros Friday at 8:05 p.m. EDT.
And I keep forgetting to check SendtoNews.com for highlights, but DRW Prospects on Twitter's been paying attention to the fact that the website's posting more and more AHL highlights, and they posted a clip of the Griffins-Rampage game:
There's been no news thus far as to whether the Wings plan on calling the Finnish Ice Hockey Association to bring Teemu Pulkkinen over for a pre-April 14th audition as well. Pulkkinen and Jokerit Helsinki were eliminated from the Finnish SM-Liiga playoffs in a huge upset yesterday, dropping a 3-1 decision to Lukko Rauma (and their playoff series 4 games to 2), which had to win a playoff play-in to earn the right to battle the SM-Liiga's regular season champion.
CBS Detroit posted a wallpaper-sized image of Henrik Zetterberg consulting with Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk before a faceoff...
And if you didn't catch it, Antti Niemi pitched the Sharks' first back-to-back shutouts in franchise history last night, and his record against Detroit is downright silly "good." As a Wings fan, the following comments made to Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area's Kevin Kurz make me cringe--mostly because I felt that the Sharks trapped and clutch-and-grabbed, hooked-and-held, tugged-and-groped and sometimes wrestled their way to last night's win (see: We All Bleed Red's video of Marc-Edouard Vlasic sending Zetterberg ino the goalpost without incurring a penalty)--but the Wings were all too content to be held to the outside last night, and the team fired 27 shots at Niemi and another 39 wide or into Sharks players, which is plain old unacceptable:
Niemi had plenty of help from his defense, too. Trailing 1-0 after the first period on a Joe Pavelski goal, the Red Wings had the territorial advantage for much of the second period, especially early. Still, the Sharks were rarely in danger, keeping the dangerous and skilled Red Wings forwards to the outside, blocking shots, and clearing pucks out from the front of the net if they happened to get there.
“It never really felt like they were all over us,” Pavelski said.
Niemi’s biggest save came at a crucial moment, with the Sharks holding on to a 2-0 lead but trying to kill off a TJ Galiardi minor. Henrik Zetterberg was alone in front with the puck on his backhand, but Niemi patiently stayed with it and turned it away with a little more than seven minutes left in regulation. That was as close as the Red Wings would come to getting one by him.
“He made some big saves there, like that one on Zetterberg towards the end of the power play,” Pavelski said. “That’s a huge save at that moment.”
Niemi enjoys playing Detroit. He improved to 9-2-2 in his career against the Red Wings, with a goals-against average under two. It was his second shutout in his career against them, the first of which came when he was still with the Blackhawks. He admitted that games with Detroit have a little bit more meaning.
“I think just them being one of the top teams for a long time, they have lots of skill, so I think it’s been a rivalry here against them, too," Niemi said. "I think it’s fun playing this team. It’s always a little bit bigger game against them.”
Again, this is just me talking, but I thought that the Sharks played sleep-inducingly stifling hockey, and on a morning that I've woke up after 3 hours of sleep to endure "DeKeyserWatch," I'm still kind of pissed off at the Wings for so easily letting a very "winnable" game slip through their fingers due to inconsistent, ineffectual and sometimes disinterested play.
As I said a couple of hours ago, I hope the Wings leave that shit behind on the West Coast when they fly back to Detroit today.
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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.