The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/03/14 at 08:18 AM ET
Updated 2x at 12:36 PM: Puck Daddy's weighed in on the Red Wings' status as no longer a unique destination for free agents...The Sporting News's Sean Gentille notes that a certain Mike Commodore's not-so-delicately played the, "Your coach is an *#$%@& and that's why nobody wants to come to Detroit" line on Twitter (this has become a disturbingly common line, as has the, "Injuries are clearly not coincidental" theory among fans), and the Detroit Sports Site's Chris Burke reports that Wings fans are so pissed off that they messed with Ken Holland's Wikipedia page, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spent yesterday speaking with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Rico & Beard about the Wings' whiffs...
And ESPN's Pierre LeBrun believes that the Red Wings have one good alternative in terms of improving the team via the trade route:
[T]his isn’t a team that needs that much. Just being healthier after the incredible injury losses this past season would be one way to add about three or four wins next season. The team should also benefit from itsr younger players such as Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser getting some of their initial NHL experience under their belts. Just those two factors alone make Detroit a better team for next season in a division and conference that are as wide open as ever.
But there remains a glaring hole for sure: a right-handed, puck-moving, power-play defenseman. That’s why either Boyle or Niskanen would have fit the bill.
So I bring you the name of Mike Green. The Washington Capitals spent some major dough bringing in Niskanen and Brooks Orpik on Tuesday. It screams of perhaps needing to trade out a body now.
Could it be Green? It’s interesting in talking to team execs around the league on Wednesday that there was a mixed response. Some believed he was available, some didn’t. But if the Caps do try to move him, I would suspect the Wings would at least look at him. He fits the criteria listed above.
Now, he’s coming off a couple of less than impressive seasons, especially at a $6.08 million cap hit. On the other hand, he’s heading into the last year of his deal. He’s got a modified no-trade clause in which every offseason he lists seven teams he can’t get traded to, which leaves 22 open for trade.
Again, we’re not 100 percent sure Green is available, but if he is, one would think Detroit would perhaps take a look ...Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres could be another possibility. His name has been out there for a bit as well as trade bait.
MLive's Ansar Khan also suggested that the Wings will have to address their need for a top-four and offensively-minded defensemen via a trade:
Mike Green of Washington might be the most viable candidate, and he's probably available after the Capitals signed Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Injuries have hampered Green in recent years, but he's a tremendous skater who produces offense and can quarterback the power play. That would be enough for the Red Wings to overlook his defensive deficiencies.
Green, 28, is in the final year of his contract at slightly more than $6 million, so the Red Wings might not have to part with a young, top-six forward, a top prospect or a first-round pick for him.
Other potential trade targets could cost more to acquire, including right-handed shooters Tyler Myers (Buffalo), Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg), Cody Franson (Toronto) and Jeff Petry (Edmonton) and lefties Keith Yandle (Arizona) and Alexander Edler (Vancouver).
If the Red Wings acquire another defenseman, they likely would trade Jakub Kindl, who has three years at $2.4 million per season remaining on his contract.
More players are sure to become available during the season. Cap space isn't an issue; the Red Wings are roughly $5 million-to-$6 million under the cap, factoring in the money it likely will take to re-sign restricted free agents Tatar and Danny DeKeyser.
The Bruins were the class of the East during the regular season, much better than the Red Wings. But the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens reached the conference finals. Those teams were better than Detroit, too, but not that much better.
Khan and the Wings' other beat writers tried to accentuate the positive on Wednesday afternoon and this morning for a good reason: unless you feel like continually surveying the "Free agency losers" columns, and unless you want to read Lambert and self-flagellate with a wet noodle...
The Red Wings' roster, for the present moment, anyway, "Is what it is." Examining what the team has and looking at the players who can provide improvement from within is far less exciting than talking about a free agency addition, but it's about all we can do.
Goaltending: Jimmy Howard is the starter and Gustavsson the backup — with Petr Mrazek a phone call away in Grand Rapids. Howard will be looking to rebound from a sub-par season — 21-19-11 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Getting Gustavsson re-signed for another season was a mild priority. He was 16-5-4 with 2.63 GAA, .907 SVS, and saved the Red Wings filling in for Howard. But the issue with Gustavsson remains his troublesome groin injuries, which limited his availability. He needs to play approximately 25 games to give Howard a breather.
The plan for Mrazek is to play one more season in Grand Rapids before likely taking over for Gustavsson in 2015-16.
Defensemen: The starting lines include Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey-Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith-Jakub Kindl (or Brian Lashoff). In an ideal world, coach Mike Babcock would love to have a left-righty on each line playing on their natural side. The Red Wings were all left-handed last season.
The good news? DeKeyser will continue his growth into an elite top-four defenseman, and Smith played well late. And, re-signing Quincey, a defensive defenseman and able penalty killer, was needed after the free-agency bust.
Don’t be surprised to see a right-hander — Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet — play early, jumping past Kindl and/or Lashoff on the depth chart.
And the Free Press's Helene St. James continues the narrative in a more "holistic" sense:
To save space, here’s another way of looking at the 2013-14 Wings: Only two players appeared in all 82 games. One was Kyle Quincey, the defenseman re-signed after being rejected by righties throughout Tuesday’s opening of free agency. The other was fourth-liner Drew Miller. Only an additional five skaters played in at least 70 games. That is how gutted the Wings were last season. If the Wings can achieve a modicum of good health, they could add a half-dozen victories to the 39 of last season.
Another reason for optimism: Youngsters Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Danny DeKeyser have gained NHL experience, including how difficult it is to be a factor in the playoffs. Gustav Nyquist learned a hard lesson about being an “everyday’er” after cramming 23 goals into 28 games only to have two assists the last six games of the regular season and then no points in the playoffs.
What the young guys did contribute last season is reason to like the future. Here’s another: The Wings are going to give Anthony Mantha, a two-time 50-goal scorer in juniors, every chance during exhibition season to make next season’s team. Xavier Ouellet, the young defenseman called upon for an elimination game, will be considered, too, as will right-shot defense prospect Ryan Sproul.
Last season demonstrated how well the Wings have drafted and developed. So add those young contributors to an even remotely healthier NHL-vetted squadron, and the future looks brighter than the dark clouds that hovered over Detroit on Tuesday evening.
Lastly, there’s this: Boyle took less money than the Wings offered to join his friend Martin St. Louis with the New York Rangers. Robidas took the same money the Wings offered to play in Toronto, closer to his kids in Montreal. Niskanen took marginally more money to join his former mentor in Washington. But none of those targets was going to replace Nicklas Lidstrom or Rafalski. And by being rejected, the Wings retain room down the road to make a trade.
Otherwise...The Red Wings posted a YouTube video to serve as a companion to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's "Wings in Waiting" profile of Teemu Pulkkinen...
In not-so-cheery news, the Toronto Star's Rick Westhead, and, via Pro Hockey Talk's Mike Halford, the CBC report that Steve Moore is now seeking $68 million in his lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi, the Vancouver Canucks and the NHL, with the civil suit scheduled to take place in September;
And to not end this report on a downer, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus's Bill Khan reports that Ted Lindsay lived up to the hype in terms of his kindness and generosity while appearing at a charitable event on Wednesday:
All that Cathy Brock knew about Ted Lindsay, the human being, was confirmed when he walked into the restaurant and greeted her.
Brock, the marketing manager at Aubree’s Pizzeria & Grill, had met Lindsay at other fundraisers. The hockey Hall of Famer knew that a friend of hers has autism, a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s development of social and communication skills.
“He’s always such a nice man,” Brock said. “For being such a tough guy on the ice, he’s such a gentle soul. The first thing he asked me today was about my friend and her son with autism. He was truly interested in his care and asked if he got early care. It’s never about him. It’s a privilege to have him here.”
Lindsay mingled with fans Tuesday afternoon at Aubree’s, which was donating 15 percent of its sales to the Ted Lindsay Foundation. The foundation was established in 2001 to raise money to research the cause and treatment of autism.
Lindsay weighed in on the Wings' free agency...lack of signings...
He believes the team needs to sign at least one veteran defenseman to be a contender next season.
“I’m just looking for my team to get a defenseman,” he said to one fan who came up for an autograph. “They haven’t done that yet.”
And he spoke about Gordie Howe's condition as well:
“He spends most of his time now with his son in Connecticut,” Lindsay said. “It’s a shame to see his dementia is getting worse. Every time I see him, it’s gotten a little bit worse. He was in town last weekend at East Side Sports and signed. He’s having trouble signing, too, because of his concentration.”
Update: The Hockey News's Rory Boylen's free agency grade for the Wings isn't a surprising one:
Detroit: The Golden Age of Detroit hockey is over. The Wings had a few targets in mind heading into July 1 and struck out on all but one of them. So you get the feeling the one signing they did make was their third, fourth, or even fifth choice. Getting Kyle Quincey for a $4.25 million cap hit and two years is quite a lot for a depth defenseman, but the Wings were desperate to add something to the blueline and couldn’t convince Matt Niskanen or Christian Ehrhoff to come aboard. If the Wings were still in the West, they likely would have missed the playoffs last season – but because they are having a hard time filling their needs, it’s going to get tougher to hang on even in the East. GRADE: D
Update #2: 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.