The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/02/13 at 11:25 AM ET
Updated 3x with development camp news at 1:43 PM: As the Red Wings prepare to make their "final pitches," as the Free Press's Helene St. James put it, to the team's unrestricted free agents-to-be in Damien Brunner, Daniel Cleary and Valtteri Filppula, a strange window's opening up in the new CBA which allows UFA's-to-be to be wined and dined in both literal and figurative senses by possible suitors, with no player being allowed to sign deals with either the teams that hold their rights or any potential suitors until noon on July 1st (at least officially).
According to NHL.com and CBS Sports' Brian Stubits, on Wednesday and Thursday, players may negotiate contracts with UFA's-to-be, and even visit possible destinations, and, according to the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti, that period begins on Wednesday at 12 PM EDT and ends on Friday at noon, when unrestricted free agency begins. In terms of the player Gulitti's talking about in one bound-for-the-market David Clarkson, Clarkson's agent doesn't plan on "circling back around" to the Devils, but it's pretty easy to assume that most agents will engage in that courtesy behavior:
Potential unrestricted free agent David Clarkson and his camp are preparing to begin fielding offers from other teams at noon Wednesday after not accepting a contract offer submitted by Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello to his agent during the draft weekend in Newark.
“Over the weekend, there was an exchange with Lou,” Clarkson’s agent Pat Morris confirmed. “He put in an offer and that was not signed. David’s contract ended on the 30th (of June) and by tomorrow teams can call and say what they think of David. We’ve got an open mind with New Jersey and we’ve got an open mind with NHL clubs. We know where New Jersey is at today to a level to sign a contract. It was a respected offer that was not signed and we’re just moving forward with whatever the timeline is.”
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams and potential free agents have a 48 hour window to communicate before they are permitted to sign contracts beginning at noon in Friday. As his previously contracted team, the Devils are still permitted to sign Clarkson at any time and Morris said they are still willing to listen to anything the Devils have to say, but didn’t know if there would be any further communication before noon Wednesday.
“We indicated we would keep in touch as the process went along, but Lou would have to answer that question,” Morris said of whether they would talk again before Clarkson begins talking to other teams. “We have no need to call him. New Jersey is the one facing life without David, so that’s up to Lou to answer that question.”
Nobody's done this before, so we don't really know whether teams will publicize their meetings (some will, some won't: see also, "Hi, Ken Holland, is that Nathan Horton we saw at Metro Airport?" KH: "No comment out of 'respect to the process.'")...
And as this really is an NBA-style "visiting period," the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch (and both these stories come from Paul, for the record) reports that the league's "laid down the law" regarding the means by which teams can entertain UFA's-to-be:
Ready to allow free agents to make visits to possible destinations Wednesday and Thursday for the first time in history, the NHL has laid down the law before the fun begins. They have informed teams that they can’t spend outrageous amounts of money by having owners send their private jets to give the players ultimate luxury before their visits. That means if Boston Bruins centre Nathan Horton, one of the top names on the market, wants to visit a place like Buffalo he’s got to fly commercial just like everybody else.
We know that Vincent Lecavalier's already being pursued by the Wings and FOURTEEN other teams, and he will supposedly sit down with his agent, Kent Hughes, to narrow down the field to three to five teams to negotiate with and/or visit over the next 24 hours, but I have a bad feeling that he might pull a Suter or Parise and wait until free agency begins, yielding yet another gumming-up of the process as he's essentially the "marquee name" out there--barring any other cap-compliance buy-outs between today and Thursday at 5 PM, anyway.
This article qualifies as a, "Who the *#$%@& knows?" pondering, mostly because the Wings' beat writers have been pretty insistent that Vincent Lecavalier will go elsewhere (that, and Lecavalier literally and figuratively has his pick of the litter), but Yahoo Sports' Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski (he has...let's say an "interesting" relationship with Wings fans) handicapped the Lecavalier sweepstakes, and here's his take on Lecavalier's most likely landing spot:
Vincent Lecavalier is the embodiment of that classic question: If you won the lottery today, would you quit your job tomorrow?
Vinny’s getting $32.667 million over the next 14 years, on top of the money he’s already earned on his bought-out contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning – including $8 million in signing bonuses. Some people believe that means he should take less for a chance to win in another market. Ultimately, it appears that Lecavalier is looking for a reasonable five years at $5 million annually from his various suitors.
So he's not quitting his job. But he's also not looking for $10 million per season. And oh, those suitors. Not since Madonna in the “Material Girl” video have we seen such abject courtship.
Here’s the field of teams that have expressed interest, and engaged in talks, with Lecavalier ...
Detroit Red Wings (Odds: 3/1)
The Red Wings were Lecavalier’s favorite team growing up, and it’s a franchise for which he has a great respect. With Valtteri Filppula most likely gone via free agency, the Wings have over $8 million in cap space available and a need at center.
His contract might be too rich for what Detroit is looking to offer a second-line center, but his puck control skills and character would seem to fit a Mike Babcock team to perfection.
Wyshynski continues, and he discusses the chances of Lecavalier landing in Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, St. Louis, Toronto, Anaheim, Florida and Vancouver--with all of those teams believed to be his most serious pursuers--so his article's more than worth your time, but it's intriguing that he suggests that the Wings are the team most likely to land Lecavalier.
Of course, as I said last night, Lecavalier's motivating factors come down to 1) money (we've been told that he wants 5 years at $5-5.5 million at 33) versus 2) his desire to win versus 3) his desire to remain somewhat anonymous off the ice or to play in a "fishbowl" 4) his desire to step into a leading role to prove that he's "the man" versus finding a situation where he just has to be himself and 5) where he feels is the best "fit" for his family, so we're talking about a lot of variables...
And the Wings have the fact that they're going into the same division as the Bolts against them, which may or may not matter depending on the "revenge factor." St. James suggested that Lecavalier will almost certainly go to Dallas; I've heard others say that Toronto and Montreal are no-brainers, and others believe that he'll go to a Western Conference team to get as far away from Tampa as possible, suggesting that Lecavalier reuniting with John Tortorella in Vancouver makes perfect sense.
As for the Wings' cap issues--the team will probably have to pay $3 million to re-sign Brunner, they'll spend at least $4 million on retaining the services of RFA's Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, the team is still attempting to retain Daniel Cleary's services, and it may or may not buy out Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Todd Bertuzzi or Jordin Tootoo, assuming that they can't trade Colaiacovo, Tootoo or Cory Emmerton...
The Wings currently have a Capgeek-estimated $8.2 million in cap space, and the team can exceed the new "upper limit" (the cap goes down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million this summer) by as much as 10%--in other words, teams can carry $70.73 million in total payroll until the last day of the exhibition season--so the Wings technically could have as much as $13.627 million in POTENTIAL cap space to work with, should they choose to spend to the "summer cap" limit, so there really isn't that much urgency for the team to move bodies right now if it can't find any fits.
That being said, it's hard to believe that the Wings WON'T place at least one player on unconditional waivers before the cap-compliance buy-out period ends on Thursday at 5 PM EDT.
The free agency period doesn’t start until Friday, although free agents — which now includes center Stephen Weiss — are allowed to begin speaking with other teams Tuesday.
Florida had hoped to sign Weiss, the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, before it came to this, although him testing the market is of little surprise.
And if we're really going to go speculation crazy, we may as well let the Boston Globe's Adam Kaufman posit a seed of doubt as to why Nathan Horton has chosen to pursue a "new start," even though he's going to miss a couple of months of what will presumably be a 4-to-6 year deal at $5.5 million or more recovering from shoulder surgery...
Too much media scrutiny?: No matter the sport, athletes in Boston are under the microscope. When you play well, you’re lauded. When you don’t, you’re crucified.
Since his trade to the Bruins with Gregory Campbell back on June 22, 2010, Horton’s been a perfect example of this. He’s beloved for the 15 goals, 36 points, and plus-31 rating he compiled in 43 playoff games in Boston, but his effort has also been questioned numerous times during the regular season, despite 56 goals, 107 points, and a plus-30 rating over 169 contests. Odds are he didn’t deal with that treatment during six playoff-less seasons in Sunrise, Florida.
Plus, regardless of what we in the media advised, B’s coach Claude Julien stayed loyal to him. Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, and Milan Lucic all took turns on the team’s third line. Horton was consistently a top-6 forward.
When he eventually inks somewhere after free agency opens on July 5, we’ll learn if this theory of insecurity has any merit. If he signs in a comparable hockey market, it’s a non-issue. If he winds up in another Panthers-like situation with big money and perhaps no real opportunity to win, that will speak volumes.
Is there an ego problem? This notion is something of a reach, but not implausible. In Florida, Horton was consistently the guy. Though he never amassed more than 62 points in a season, he was regularly among his team's leaders in both goals and points.
In Boston, there was plenty of spotlight to go around and it rarely shined on the right wing outside of the playoffs.
Horton’s a very good player, maybe great. He’s no superstar. He may have looked like one at times while playing with David Krejci and Lucic because they formed one of the most deadly lines in hockey, but he didn’t do it alone. You might say he’s a proven complementary piece, not the guy you nab to carry your club.
And Sportsnet's Jeff Simmons has penned articles about the best free agent centers and wingers available. Simmons believes that two dark horse candidates could fit in Detroit, though I don't necessarily agree with him:
Jarome Iginla: 2012 salary cap hit: $7 million
If a team is looking for a player that could take them over the top, Jarome Iginla might be their man. The 36-year-old two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner has slowed with age but can still produce as a top-six forward and is capable of notching 30-plus goals. In 44 games last season for the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins the future Hall of Famer notched 31 points. The bottom line with Iggy is that he has an innate knack for putting the puck in the net — as evident by his 530 career goals — and will be looking for a multi-year deal from a Stanley Cup contender. This winger will satisfy the appetite of an experienced bunch.
Possible fits: Chicago, Detroit, New York Rangers
Jaromir Jagr: 2012 salary cap hit: $4.5 millionJaromir Jagr is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skates. Will he play another season in the NHL? Not really sure about that one. But if he does, he will draw interest from a couple of contenders. Father time apparently has no effect on the now 41-year-old, who notched 35 points in 45 games for the Stars and Bruins. At this stage Jagr is most likely going to settle on a team that has a good chance at raising Lord Stanley’s mug. This wing has been in every situation. Tried, tested, and true.
Possible fits: Pittsburgh , Detroit, Montreal
The Wings did pursue Jagr in the past, but were spurned by both Jagr and his agent, Petr Svoboda (see: bad blood left over from Svoboda helping Hudler bolt from the Wings to spend a year in the KHL), so I'm not sure that the mercenary forward has any desire to play here, but who the hell knows for sure?
The CBC's Elliotte Friedman posited a 30 Thoughts column today, and it's an as-usual must-read, but it was a Tweet noting the status of players like Mikael Samuelsson that we really need to pay attention to:
Friedman discussed the "wining and dining" period in his column...
At 12:01 am ET Wednesday, talks can begin (buyout candidates can already be contacted), but signings are forbidden until noon ET Friday.
It is not unheard of for NHL teams to knock on the door right away. In 2002, the Dallas Stars did something similar with Bill Guerin, luring him with a five-year, $45-million contract. It's not known if any team will try this tactic, but you can be sure some phones will be ringing as Toronto's frat boys stumble home from the bars Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.
I love the idea, but at the draft, there was uncertainty -- "uncharted territory" as one agent called it. Both teams and agents were curious to see how much negotiating would be done or if this would amount to a giant, feeling-out process.
The buyout period ends Thursday afternoon as well.
And he also posits the following:
2. I asked for some predictions in free agency, maybe a sleeper team on a certain player. Two interesting picks: Detroit Red Wings on Andrew Ference and Pittsburgh Penguins trying to bring back Rob Scuderi. I don't know if the Penguins could pull that off under the cap, but it's an intriguing guess.
8. Last week, some NHL GMs were excited about the possibility of getting relatively inexpensive help through bought-out players. Not so fast. Both Vincent Lecavalier and Daniel Briere have gone from terribly disappointed to pleasantly surprised and excited by the amount of interest in them. All of that interest means both players will command a bigger dollar than expected.
9. I'm not as certain about Briere because he wasn't as front and centre at the draft, but guesstimates on Lecavalier's next contract are around the five-year, $25-million mark. That said, there are a couple of executives who said they wouldn't be surprised if a team asks to bump that up to seven years with the last two at lower salaries to lessen the cap hit. It's also expected that Lecavalier will ask for no-move or no-trade protection.
10. Dallas is making a hard pitch here and one agent said there is a hidden benefit to the Stars chase. Like Florida, Texas is a no income-tax state. If Lecavalier chooses this destination, all of his earnings, including the Lightning buyout, will continue to be taxed at the same level. That's a huge benefit, especially if he keeps a primary residence in Tampa. If you've ever faced these kinds of issues, you know they're an enormous pain in the derriere.
11. That would benefit the Florida Panthers, too, if they decided to make a serious run at him. Michael Russo of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who used to cover the Panthers, reminded me that the pick Tampa Bay used to draft Lecavalier was originally Florida's. In November 1997, it was sent to the San Jose Sharks with Dave Lowry for Viktor Kozlov. Four months later, the Sharks sent it to the Lightning with Andrei Nazarov for Bryan Marchment, David Shaw and a first-rounder.
And finally, this Tweet popped up while I was writing this entry:
Poile = Nashville Predators GM David Poile. That changes things, doesn't it?
Update: The Medicine Hat News's Darren Steinke spoke to Wings draft pick Marc McNulty about finding out that the Wings had picked him:
On Sunday at the NHL Entry Draft in Newark, N.J., the Wings selected the 18-year-old Medicine Hat product in the sixth round and 169th overall. The 6-foot-6 defenceman, who plays with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, almost couldn’t believe his luck, when he found out he was picked by one of the NHL’s elite franchises.
“They are a great organization, and an Original Six team,” said McNulty. “I couldn’t be happier to be selected by them.”
McNulty paid attention to the draft at home in the Hat.
“I watched most of the first round, where the guys are getting called up on the stage and stuff,” he said. “After that, I just tried to keep myself busy and took my mind off things.”
It took a congratulatory phone call from Cougars head coach Mark Holick for McNulty to hear the news about his draft selection.
After that call, a whole pile of congratulatory messages poured in.
Last season, McNulty posted eight goals, seven assists and a minus-18 rating for the Cougars. He was rated 104th among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings, so a draft selection was far from a sure thing. Now, he can’t wait to get to his first training camp as a Wings prospect player to see their general manager, Ken Holland, head coach Mike Babcock and star players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.
“It is going to be pretty exciting,” said McNulty. “I am looking forward to it.”
Update #2: In an "Insider"-only entry, ESPN's Craig Custance listed his top 35 free agents. Among them:
1. Vincent Lecavalier
POS: C | 2013 Team: Lightning
Hes a legitimate No. 2 center and could also move to wing on a contending team. "With Vinny, youre getting a class guy. Unreal with his teammates. Unreal maturity guy off the ice," [Lightning coach John] Cooper said. "On the ice, when Vinny's rolling and he's not injured he's a man down below the dots. He's big time. He's a point-producer and he can win faceoffs." The one knock is that his skating isnt as strong as it once was and he may have trouble keeping up at times during even strength but teams are willing to gamble that his other attributes make up for it. Montreal is a natural fit but theres interest in him all over the league, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and Toronto. If he wants to remain in a smaller market, the Dallas Stars are a strong darkhorse. "I think weve got a great opportunity. Were not rebuilding, were not far from being a contender and I think thats a big part of that," said Stars GM Jim Nill. I know he has lots of options, he's earned this right to look around.
6. Valtteri Filppula
POS: C | 2013 Team: Red Wings
He's one of the more complex potential free agents on the market. He's one of the few players on this list who still has upside but he's also been frustrating fans in Detroit for years by flashing talent but then failing to live up to it consistently. He's a strong two-way player who has the versatility to play at center or on the wing. His production was way down this season with just 17 points in 41 seasons but in 2011-12 he had 66 points in 81 games. The reality is he's likely a player who can be penciled in for about 40 points per season, possibly more if he's given more power play time than he received under Mike Babcock in Detroit.
12. Michael Ryder
POS: RW | 2013 Team: Canadiens
In a league in which its hard to score goals, there will always be a place for someone like Ryder who consistently finds a way to produce offensively. He had 16 goals in 46 games this season split between Montreal and Dallas. He has a Stanley Cup from his time with the Bruins, when he registered 17 points in 25 games in Bostons championship season. He doesn/t necessarily play that big, heavy game that coaches like in the postseason but he still finds a way to make an impact. In 75 playoff games, Ryder has 21 goals.
Update #3: FYI:
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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.