The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: a DeKeyser tale; on Frk, Kronwall, ‘It’s More Than Hockey’ & ice buckets
by George Malik on 08/13/14 at 04:31 AM ET
The "offseason's" days are ticking down. While I'm sure that the Red Wings and the NHL will throw some surprises our way, after the Plymouth Whalers' alumni game on Saturday, we're likely to begin hearing stories of fans spotting Wings players skating informally at the Troy Sports Center, and after the Joe Kocur Foundation's charity softball game on August 23rd, Wings players will begin to show up at Joe Louis Arena to work out, consult with the training staff and engage in every-other-day "informal" practices.
After Labor Day, those practices tend to evolve into 5-days-a-week events, and by the time the Wings' prospect tournament begins on September 12th, the players will be skating at training camp pace (important given that training camp begins on Friday, September 19th).
Krupa weaves in vacation talk and not-so-subtle hints that this week's contract negotiations may or may not involve locking up the Macomb native for an extended period of time, and after suggesting that DeKeyser could (if not should) step into the fore in terms of offensive production and/or as a lynchpin of a transition game not aided by free agency, Krupa gets to the heart of the matter, discussing the Wings' first-round ouster and the team's desire to avoid a repeat performance:
“The season before, we beat Anaheim and took Chicago to a Game 7, and then, unfortunately, didn’t win that one,” he said. “But that was a good playoff run for us. We’d like to have gone a lot farther, obviously. And then last season, I think we were all a little disappointed with how it ended, four games to one. That’s really not much of a series. So, hopefully this year, make a longer playoff run and have a chance to win.”
Asked if he expected more personnel moves this offseason, especially along the blue line, DeKeyser spun things forward.
“I think we have a good team,” he said. “I think, last year, down the stretch we started playing really good hockey, up to playoff time. And then, in the playoffs, we couldn’t really put it all together like we wanted to. But I think we’ve got a ton of talent. We’ve got a lot of skill. And hopefully this year we stay healthy, too. That’s a big thing, too, because once you get everybody in the lineup, then I think we’re a pretty good team.”
As for his game, and the team’s need for more of an offensive push from the back end, DeKeyser said he intends to improve steadily.
“I just try to improve every year, just a little,” he said. “You know, just take another step after last season and try to play a little better than last year.”
And here comes the contract talk:
Meanwhile, he is a restricted free agent, and the Red Wings must at least tender him an offer for him to play this season. With roster decisions always crucial, but especially with a salary cap and amid a rebuild, many observers are wondering if the Red Wings can manage to sign DeKeyser and Daniel Alfredsson.
At the very least, beyond a simple offer that would keep DeKeyser on the roster, general manager Ken Holland likely will seek to lock up DeKeyser for a couple years. By then, the salary cap, due for significant boosts in the coming seasons because of a $4.8 billion television agreement signed in Canada with Rogers Media, should afford DeKeyser considerable bounty.
Krupa continues and wraps things up with a, "Raised in Michigan, hopes to stay and play in Michigan" bow.
In terms of dollars and cents, Capgeek estimates that the Wings have $5.27 million in cap space, but that should be more than enough to both re-sign DeKeyser (regardless of whether the Wings ink him to a lower-cap-hit "bridge" deal in the $2.5-3 million range or whether he signs a long-term deal with a higher eventual cap hit, near the $4 million mark) and ink Alfredsson to a low-base-salary, high-bonus-money deal should his back hold up over the next couple of weeks' worth of skating.
Unless there's another Daniel Cleary-style signing in the offing, there's no reason to panic about anything other than the possibility that Cleary's return, Luke Glendening's non-waiver-exempt status (and the same issue requiring Mitch Callahan and Landon Ferraro to make the team or possibly leave the team) could push Tomas Jurco back down to Grand Rapids to begin the year as he's the only player on the roster who can be sent down sans waivers.
If you missed it, Riley Sheahan discussed the Wings' hopes going forward in a Tuesday evening article penned by the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan (What's that, you say? There may in fact be more than "very little reason for hope in Detroit?" Well I'll be pants!):
Red Wings fans have been less than enthusiastic about this offseason, which saw no unrestricted free agents arrive in Detroit — other than defenseman Kyle Quincey and forward Daniel Cleary (and likely forward Daniel Alfredsson), players who were on the roster last season.
But the Red Wings expect to be healthier this season — forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Henrik Zetterberg, in particular — and the maturation of Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar, among other young forwards, should make for a good season.
“There’s so much talent on the team, we have no reason not to have any success,” Sheahan said.
He was one of several young forwards who joined the Red Wings during the course of last season and showed he belonged. In 42 games, Sheahan had nine goals and 15 assists (24 points) and a plus-8 rating, while averaging 14 minutes, 26 seconds of ice time.
“Riley had a very good year,” general manager Ken Holland said.
Having an opportunity to play regularly, and with so many of his former Grand Rapids teammates who won the 2013 Calder Cup, made for comfortable surroundings for Sheahan and increasing confidence.
“The young guys got a chance, we had some success, and we were able to contribute to the team’s success,” he said. “For sure it helps a lot seeing the familiar faces in the locker room. You can tell the chemistry is there and it translates to the ice.”
In the prospect department, the Red Wings chose, let's say an "intriguing" prospect to profile as today's "Wing in Waiting."
Martin Frk had a thoroughly mediocre professional debut, spending significant time as a healthy scratch at both the AHL and ECHL levels this past season, and while Frk still possesses 20-goal-scoring potential, his production hangover while not playing alongside former Halifax Mooseheads teammates Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon (please see: Tampa Bay's top prospect and the Calder Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche forward).
any Wings fans view Frk as a reclamation project already, if not a lost cause.
Whoever penned the author-less article received a blunt assessment of Frk's struggles to adapt to the pro game issued by Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer:
“There's no doubt that he's had a rough go of it in his first pro season,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “He's struggled to make the adjustment from junior.”
After playing three seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads, Frk began his professional career during the 2013-14 season, playing in both the AHL and ECHL. He appeared in 50 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins and 15 games with the Toledo Walleye.
The forward produced three goals and 12 points in the AHL and five goals and 13 points in the ECHL.
Frk's stats aren't available on his Wings profile, but Eliteprospects.com notes that Frk also played in 4 post-season games with Grand Rapids, registering no points and finishing at -4.
“With so many good players in Grand Rapids this year, there just wasn't a spot for him,” Fischer said. “He didn't get a lot of ice time and eventually, he was sent to Toledo.”
But adversity is nothing new to the 20-year-old.
“I think when he first got to Halifax, all the attention was on Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin and he kind of was a little bit jealous,” Fischer said. “But he got over that and by the time they got to the Memorial Cup, he was one of their best players.”
I have a feeling that a video profile is on the way given that the "Wings in Waiting" and "Red Wings Firsts" articles have been accompanied by "prospect reports" on the team's YouTube channel.
In foreign-language news, I knew going on vacation would mean missing any news Niklas Kronwall's annual charity hockey game to raise funds for his youth hockey team, Jarfalla HC.
Swedish hockey correspondent Marie Hallman spoke with Kronwall prior to last Friday's game (Mikael Samuelsson, Patrik Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, Jonathan Ericsson and several other NHL'ers participated in the game, as you can see in Hallman's photo gallery, sourced from Jens Forsberg's game gallery), and she discussed Kronwall's participation in Jarfalla's youth hockey camp, the charity game and Kronwall's little hockey player in the making (and what follows is very roughly translated):
"We want to try to get as many NHL players [for the exhibition game] as possible, or guys playing over there, anyway, to the game so that the kids growing up now will see guys who were once in their skates, who now play away in North America--so they can get to see them up close and think, 'Hell, that could be me in a few years.'"
And it seems that you and the great players have as much fun as the kids, ha ha?
"Yes, I think so. This has become an annual event, and I hope the others have as much fun as I do, because it's a fun evening, to meet with the kids before the game, sign autographs and chat with them. It tends to be one of the better days of the summer."
But Kronwall's in Jarfalla on Wednesday as well, when the team has a hockey camp during the week, and today he'll be a hit with the kids because:
"They may ask questions, and I tell them about my journey and how my trip was, and I hope to come with some tips and ideas that they can hopefully relate to and learn something from."
You have a child yourself now, as of last winter?
"Yes, little Douglas, and of course you yearn for the day when you can take him to the rink, but right now it's about small steps, you look forward to a smile. Now he stands at times, he takes small steps [of growth] all the time that I enjoy every day right now."
Promotionally speaking, it certainly appears that the Red Wings' "It's More Than Hockey" video from last week embodies the team's 2014-2015 season social media theme:
Why do I say that? The Windsor Star's Bob Duff did more than Tweet about Danny DeKeyser's contract status and write articles about Daniel Alfredsson and Luke Glendening. He picked up a little bit of merchandise at the Joe, too...
The team also included this little ditty in an email to Wings mailing list subscribers:
(Don't forget that the Wings' "Hockeyfest" takes place on Sunday, September 14th)
"If you're interested," Igor Larionov spoke with Sport-Express's Andrei Kuznetsov on Monday, and he discussed the state of the KHL, his client Nail Yakupov's attempts to put a rough sophomore campaign behind him (Yakupov is training in Edmonton this summer, not Detroit), and Larionov stated that one of the clients that's going to visit him in Detroit to work out at 2SP Sports and skate in Troy, unrestricted free agent forward Andrei Loktionov, is getting shaken down.
According to Kuznetsov, Loktionov may have played for the Hurricanes and Devils this past season, but the 24-year-old was "drafted" by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and the KHL team is now claiming that they issued a "qualifying offer" to Loktionov to retain his rights, and as such, that no NHL team can sign Loktionov because his rights suddenly belong to Lokomotiv...
And Larionov says that the players who are working out with his clients presently, Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson, aren't talking about Russian politics, to which I respond, "Sure they aren't."
On Twitter., the "Ice Bucket Challenge" has taken over:
I took a total of five dips in Lake Superior over the course of 3 days last week, so I'm not particularly interested in another dip in icewater, but ALS is an awful illness, and the ALS Association is indeed a superb charity.
I'm also guessing that MLive's Ansar Khan will examine the "fit" of another Wings player in a 6 AM-posted article, but it's nearly 4:30 and I've got to take a little old lady to the dermatologist around noon. I'll see you in a couple of hours, and will probably spend the trip and ensuing grocery shopping run looking forward to my afternoon nap.
I do enjoy this job, but kicking my insomnia back into gear and remembering that six or more hours of sleep is a luxury...Not so much.
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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.