The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/21/13 at 12:19 PM ET
The vast majority of our discussions over the last couple of days have involved the proposed follow-on rink that will replace Joe Louis Arena, as well as the surrounding economic development that's absolutely essential for a still-blighted Cass Corridor--and, quite frankly, developing those swaths of vacant land behind the Fox Theatre will finally allow the Ilitch family to escape those creeping-in comparisons to land-hoarder Matty Moroun.
We'll continue talking about the $450 million rink and proposed $650 million investement in both the rink and surrounding development in a little while...
But in case you haven't noticed, Red Wings GM Ken Holland's suggestion that the team's keys to success over the long haul involve hanging on to draft picks, developing prospects and signing complementary (not "complimentary") players as opposed to key contributors from what he believes is a free agent marketplace that continues to diminish in terms of team-altering importance.
The significant increase in NHL teams' attempts to lock up their superstars a full 12-14 months ahead of the expiry of their current contracts certainly seems to serve as anecdotal evidence backing up Holland's theory, and while I can't quote all of ESPN's Craig Custance's paywall-blocked blog entry examining the phenomenon on a league-wide basis, Holland offered the following take on the lock-'em-up-early philosophy...
"It's asset management," said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. "We all learn from history when you see good players that go to market become unrestricted and you lose them and you don't get any assets for them. It's not a way you want to run business. Ultimately, teams are making a decision a year in advance, they either want to get extension or you consider what options you have."
Another consideration is that teams have hoarded talent so much in the salary cap era that each free agent class seems worse than the last. If general managers were confident they could adequately replace these players in free agency, they might not be compelled to act early. But some of the worst contracts are signed on July 1 and often it's for a player who isn't necessarily hitting their prime. Big money has already been paid to this year's free agent class for 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar and 35-year-old Mark Streit. Good players but players on the decline.
Other options for teams this summer include Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere, Mike Ribeiro, Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Ryan Whitney, Nikolai Khabibulin -- some big names with incredible accomplishments. Not guys you're building the immediate future around.
Holland also points out that investing long-term capped money now means having to spend less money to retain the same players later--because players who hit the open market often expect to receive above-market-value compensation...
"You've got a cap that's squeezing from 70 to 64 [million]. [In 2014-15] at the very worst the cap is holding. There's 200 players in the league UFA or RFA. Most of them are looking for raises, many of them significant raises," Holland said. "You have to decide where you want to put your cap space."
And then there's this regarding a certain "keystone player," and the unrestricted free agent forward the Wings may have had to pony up to overpay to replace one #13 with an inferior #51:
Having the critical Datsyuk contract done helps Holland know exactly how much he's comfortable spending now on this year's key UFA, Valtteri Filppula. Contract extensions are about leverage and it certainly would have helped Filppula's case for a big long-term deal if there was uncertainty about Datsyuk's future in Detroit. With rumors Datsyuk wanted to play in the KHL, it would have been hard for Detroit to lose both those players in the next year. Now Holland knows he's getting at least one and is working on the other.
"I'd like to re-sign Fil but the deal has to make sense for Fil and it's got to make sense for us. If it doesn't make sense for us, we're not going to do a deal," Holland said. "If it doesn't makes sense for him, you're not going to do a deal."
There's a number there that works for the Red Wings, and with Datsyuk signed Holland knows exactly what it is.
Thanks to the weak crop of free agents available this summer (at least prior to cap compliance buy-outs), the 29-year-old Filppula, inconsistencies and dropping salary cap included, can and probably will earn the $5-5.5 million salary he's seeking on a 7+ year contract.
That number doesn't "work" for Detroit, plain and simple...
In the words of Sil n Olly's Precious Roy Commercials, it's a simple equation: Datsyuk playing in Detroit for four more years, plus the team's need to add a big, heavy forward who can go to the net, bang in rebounds, and, to some extent, help Abdelkader and a hopefully healthy Todd Bertuzzi serve as deterrents to teams intent upon taking advantage of what will still be a "small" forward corps going forward, minus Joakim Andersson, anyway (Gustav Nyquist isn't exactly big, Tomas Tatar may be fearless and stocky, but he's not exactly 6'3," and the Wings' "closest to NHL-ready" offensive contributors in Calle Jarnkrok, Landon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen and defenseman Adam Almquist are all under six feet tall--though Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan at least give the Wings some hope that there are "big bodies" on the horizon), equals the team not necessarily needing to acquire a Stephen Weiss to replace Filppula.
Especially given the speed that Gustav Nyquist brings to the mix, the down-low playmaking and scoring skills possessed by Tatar, the fact that Andersson's an excellent two-way center and the fact that Johan Franzen actually looked more engaged as a center...The Wings have already replaced Filppula by committee, especially if they're able to re-sign Damien Brunner to replicate Filppula's ability to score from the Wing (albeit on a slightly more consistent basis by Brunner, wildly up-and-down first season play included), and if Darren Helm returns to health, the team's at least "fine" at center with Datsyuk and/or Zetterberg, Andersson, Helm, Franzen and a possibly outgoing Emmerton all able to play the position (Abdelkader can do so in a pinch, too).
Speaking of the "next generation," as noted this morning, the Grand Rapids Griffins have hauled ass to their summer homes, but the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren took note of Petr Mrazek's upward trajectory (via SI's Allan Muir, whose "Top Line" defines the term every-morning "must-reading") as something of an anachronism going forward given the Canadian Hockey League's soon-to-be-implemented ban on European goalies:
5. THE END OF OLD WORLD: Ex-67’s netminder Petr Mrazek followed the road of Senators goaltender Robin Lehner by winning the AHL championship with Grand Rapids, but nobody else will follow suit.
Mrazek, a Czech, went from the 67’s to the AHL. Lehner, a Swede, went from Sault Ste. Marie to an AHL title in Binghamton in 2011.
Yet now that the Canadian Hockey League has banned its teams from drafting European goaltenders, that path won’t be taken again.
ECHL.com's Mike Ashmore penned a column about Mrazek's rise from an, "I'm in a little too deep and need to reestablish my confidence while adjusting to North American pro hockey" stint with the Toledo Walleye to a dominant AHL goaltender and Calder Cup champ:
"I've come a long way, but I can say that it was a great opportunity to me," he said. "I got a chance to play here in October. (Everyone with Detroit) has helped me so much, and our coach, Jeff Blashill, helped me so much. Without them, I wouldn't be here right now."
He also became the youngest goaltender to start for the Red Wings since Chris Osgood did in 1993-94, going 1-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in two appearances in Detroit, leaving many fans clamoring for him to join the team full-time for the 2013-14 season.
Osgood just happened to weigh in on the progress made by his young protege:
"He thrives on big game situations," Osgood said. "Just his demeanor, he's confident in what he can do. He's a winner, that's the biggest thing for me. Every level he's been at, he's been a winner. When the game is on the line, more times than not, he's going to come through for you."
Mrazek proved just that once the playoffs rolled around for Grand Rapids, and he played every minute in the postseason to backstop the Griffins to their first Calder Cup Championship by defeating the Syracuse Crunch in six games.
"This is the best moment I've had in hockey for now," Mrazek said. "This is my first year pro, this means a lot to me. We won something special. It's the first time Grand Rapids won the Calder Cup in their history, it's a big moment."
While his style could still use some refinement, concedes Osgood, there certainly seems like a chance that one day down the road, there could be a repeat performance in the NHL as well.
"He's different than other guys," Osgood said. "He's not totally a scrambly goalie, but he relies on his reflexes and he's getting better at being a blocker and being positionally sound. You can't take his athleticism away from him, that's what makes him so good. The bottom line is, he just battles so hard and he knows how to win."
And, regarding rink talk...
1. Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea will hold a chat regarding this past week's news at 2 PM EDT;
2. I would suggest that the "Pistons to the Belle Tire" (or whatever the Wings will call their new rink) talk, as noted by MLive's David Muller, is a bunch of flufernutter.
There's just no logical reason for the Pistons to end up sharing a facility, practice time and home dates in the pre-season, regular season and playoffs. The Palace was designed for the Pistons, and it's a fine facility...And no chatter by Dan Gilbert of all people is going to convince me that the Pistons' management or Tom Gores plan on moving to a facility where they wouldn't necessarily be entitled to pocket all their game-night bucks.
I don't think that the Wings would want to have to give up some of that money, too, because it sounds like the Wings will be able to operate the rink and keep all the $ raised from both hockey and non-hockey events for themselves, and sharing that stuff with a Pistons team whose management also runs the Palace and the DTE Energy Music Theatre makes little sense for the Ilitches;
3. And finally, MLive's Eric Lacy spoke to architect Alan Mountjoy, who's probably going to help design the follow-on rink as he works for Chan Krieger NBBJ, one of the firms contracted to build the barn, about the possibilities presented to him:
What's the vision the Ilitch family has conveyed to you and others about their vision for this project and how it will benefit the city of Detroit?
Their primary interest is making sure that the investments that they’ve made in the Fox Theatre and in the existing Tigers stadium are reinforced and enhanced with this new project. They want to reinforce that area right now, but there are still quite a few holes. They want to expand it and they like the idea of moving northward because they think Midtown is the sort of happening place. They also think that Woodward is super-important as a primary address. And you don’t have to go more than a couple of blocks before you see activity on Woodward again.
They have a big picture of reinforcing the health of the Woodward corridor. They’re very excited about the M-1 (light rail project). They see the arena, the Fox Theatre and the Tigers stadium being as a complex that will have a lot of stuff going around it. You’ll be able to go between those events, park in one place and go to lots of different things. Obviously it will reach over the highway (I-75) - an important piece of the picture to make it happen. The sky is the limit. The family has pretty big visions for Detroit.
Joe Louis Arena seats a little over 20,000, but this new arean would seat 18,000. Why do plans call for fewer seats?
I think the Ilitches did with HKS (another firm working on the project) a lot of surveying on arenas from around the country and I think the number they came up with is a good number. You’re partially right that it has to do with (luxury suites and other amenities). And you also want these fans close to the ice; it’s really the best seat. You also want to fit in a lot of premium products (like luxury suites). There’s kind of a diminishing return when you’re adding seats that are so far from the ice that they’re really not very quality.Red Wings fans have fond memories of Olympia Stadium (closed in 1979; demolished in 1987), and most appear to want a new stadium that has some kind of historic feel to it. Is that emphasized in the plan and when could the public ending up seeing renderings of this project?
There's been a lot of discussions about the angle of the bowl, how the seats should be and how close people should be to the ice. A lot of people have talked about the barn (Olympia Stadium) and how intimate the barn felt. I think that’s a major factor (in the design stage right now). (With a release of renderings to the public) that remains to be seen. I think in the coming months we’ll start to see what the actual architecture might look like. I think we’re still in discussions about that. I probably can’t talk about that. I think this public announcement definitely increases the pace in which the public is going to want to know more.
These quips are just part of a much longer Q and A, and I strongly suggest that you read the rest of Lacy's article.
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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.