The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/30/14 at 04:08 AM ET
The hardest part of free agency for fans, as far as this person with an anxiety disorder is concerned, is that we know that the decisions made over the course of minutes on July 1st can drastically alter the course of a team, but we have absolutely no control over them.
July 1st feels like a playoff game for anyone whose team wants to improve itself via the unrestricted free agent marektplace, but we don't get to prepare for it in the same way we get to put on our lucky shirts or sit in our favorite places or have our "lucky" things nearby before our teams perform on the ice.
In the middle of the summer, on Canada Day, hockey fans have to process twenty to thirty-five signings over the course of a couple of hours, and especially as the second-lockout CBA has unfolded as it has, find that their teams strike out in terms of tapping a thinner and thinner crop of less and less game-changing players as the years go by.
Two years ago, we were talking about the Wings bidding on a "franchise player" in Ryan Suter; now Wings fans can hope, at best, that the team will land an up-and-comer in Matt Niskanen, someone who's just been bought out in Christian Ehrhoff or a soon-to-be-38-year-old in Christian Ehrhoff, if not a back-up plan in a Tom Gilbert or Anton Stralman--and the odds are still stacked against the Wings landing any of 'em, because at least ten to twelve teams are pursuing each player.
I know that many of you have debated which player, if any, you'd like to see the Red Wings spend some of their $14.7 million in Capgeek-estimated space upon as we've had to sit and wait during the "wining and dining" period (the Wings need to re-sign three important restricted free agents in Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, too; we still don't know if the team will offer Daniel Cleary or Daniel Alfredsson contracts, either)...
And the debate's become so passionate that the fact that the Wings have any sort of interest in Christian Ehrhoff has the Free Press's Helene St. James suggesting that not adding a right-shooting defenseman = no improvement whatsoever, and MLive's Ansar Khan leaning upon that Babcockian, "I'd love (to have a righty), but how do you get it?" quote.
Regardless of what you or I have to think about the situation, we're going to find who--if anyone--lands with the Wings tomorrow;
Later today, we're going to find out whether the Wings have issued qualifying offers to RFA's-to-be Adam Almquist, Mitch Callahan, Will Coetzee, Cory Emmerton, Landon Ferraro, Gleason Fournier, Andrej Nestrasil, Max Nicastro or the AHL-only-signed Tom McCollum back, and while those kinds of signings don't issue fireworks among the fan base, those decisions are more important than you might imagine.
I know you want to hear about free agent scuttlebutt, however, so:
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner reported the following in a midnight-filed report...
We're at the point in the NHL offseason when anything can happen and usually does. What was gospel one minute quickly becomes irrelevant the next minute.
So with the news on Sunday that the Buffalo Sabres will use a compliance buyout on veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, making him an unrestricted free agent, the Red Wings have altered their offseason game plan.
Although the Wings are still extremely interested in defensemen Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle, Ehrhoff has also been added to their wish list.
As a team source explained, the three defensemen are 1A, 1B and 1C.
Ehrhoff, who will turn 32 in early July, has long been on the Wings' radar. They made a play for him at last year's trade deadline, but the Sabres chose not to move him.
A little earlier, after quoting Babcock, MLive's Khan issued the following contractual and/or wining-and-dining turkey (and again, the Wings did meet with Matt Niskanen's prickly agent, Neil Sheehy, and Dan Boyle's agent, George Bazos, in Philadelphia):
Boyle, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, showed some interest in the Red Wings, who like him as a short-term option (he turns 38 on July 12) and might offer him a two-year deal in the range of $5 million to $5.5 million per season.
The Red Wings are willing to offer Niskanen the maximum seven-year contract he likely will seek because he's only 27. But they might be reluctant to give him the money he's expected to command ($6 million or more per season).
There are other right-handers who interest the Red Wings, including Anton Stralman, who had a strong playoff run for the New York Rangers. But he's not the offensive-minded power-play quarterback Detroit would prefer.
Tom Gilbert and Stephane Robidas are short-term, lower-cost options.
The Red Wings are highly interested in Christian Ehrhoff, a late entry into free agency after the Buffalo Sabres bought out the final seven years of his contract.
Ehrhoff is a left-handed shooter, but that won't deter the Red Wings from pursuing him. Arizona's Keith Yandle and Vancouver's Alexander Edler also shoot left, but that didn't prevent Detroit from inquiring about them in past trade discussions.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness posited this on Sunday afternoon:
The free agent pool for right-handed defensemen is thin and the asking price via a trade – Buffalo’s Tyler Myers or Arizona’s Keith Yandle – is quite steep – Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco.
The Wings, along with numerous other teams, met with the agents for right-handed defensemen Dan Boyle (New York Islanders) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) Thursday in Philadelphia.
Niskanen, 27, is most likely looking for a lengthy deal, probably a maximum seven years and possibly upwards of $6 million a season to sign. The Wings would be OK with the length, but they’re not going to break the bank to get him. They may not want to pay him much more annually than what Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million) is making.
Boyle, who’ll turn 38 next month, and could be had for a two-deal at around $5.5 million a season.
Detroit, which wants its young right-handed defensemen to start the season in Grand Rapids, also could settle on Anton Stralman (Rangers), Stephane Robidas (Anaheim) or Tom Gilbert (Florida).
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson provided an out-of-town perspective discussing the fact that even the Edmonton Oilers are likely in on Niskanen, Boyle and Ehrhoff...
Niskanen, who was a throw-in in the James Neal-for-Alex Goligoski trade between Pittsburgh and Dallas a few years ago, is not a No. 1 blueliner. He’s a No. 2 at best.
The truth is, while MacTavish has likely reached out to about a half-dozen agents in the sell-us-on-your-team window from June 25-30, the Oilers may want to go after somebody like Buffalo Sabres defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, but everybody’s eyes lit up when the Sabres on Sunday bought out the last seven years of his contract.
Quite possibly 10 teams might be in the hunt for the German-born defender; the Oilers can sell him on playing with his countryman Draisaitl, among other things, but you can bet the Detroit Red Wings will make a huge push for him.
Ditto for the Colorado Avalanche, who are also in the Niskanen pursuit, the Washington Capitals, the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Islanders and the Minnesota Wild.
Ehrhoff has been paid $22 million of the $40 million he signed for and will get another $12 mil in the buyout, so he’s made out like a bandit. Now, the teams are lining up for the 32-year-old, who can easily log 20 minutes a game, but teams may be trying to give him dollars but not term at his age — like, say, four years at $5.5-million a season.
The Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby offered another out-of-town take...
[M]ore than a few general managers are happy that rebuilding Buffalo bought out defenceman Christian Ehrhoff on Sunday, another late addition to what were meagre or over-priced offerings in the unrestricted free agent market that opens Tuesday.
Ehrhoff had seven years to go on a 10-year, $40-million deal inked in 2011, which put a $4-million annual hit on the Sabres’ cap. He was Buffalo’s second buyout after winger Ville Leino and followed a series of similar moves around the league as teams cleared the books for July 1.
“It adds players that you hope your team can get at a better price,” said one NHL exec on Sunday evening. “You know these guys aren’t going to sign for what they had before. You are going to get more players coming into the picture.
“You hear management guys say it all the time: “I love this player or that player at $3 million, but I hate him at $5 million’.”
Count Detroit and a lot of Western teams in the mix for Ehrhoff.
(Eastern Conference, but still)
USA Today's Mike Brehm posited a very Ehrhoff-specific article, speaking with his agent, Rick Curran, about finding his client suddenly available after being bought out on Sunday...
Ehrhoff's agent, Rick Curran, said he talked about Ehrhoff with Sabres general manager Tim Murray during the weekend, but the topic of a compliance buyout didn't come up.
"We talked about whether he could be an asset value in a trade as opposed to being around a club that was trying to rebuild," Curran said. "We talked a lot about the complications of the recapture penalty. This morning when I woke up, I got messages that suggested they were going to buy him out. ...
"We were surprised that that was the solution that they arrived at. I can understand, from their standpoint, why, but it is what it is."
Ehrhoff should be popular in the free agent market, which is lacking in big-name defensemen. He had 33 points for the last-place Sabres but also a minus 27 rating. But more than two-thirds of that minus rating came after the Sabres shed goalie Ryan Miller and other veterans around the trade deadline.
"It took about four to five minutes for the first team to call," Curran said. "I've had a fair number of calls expressing interest."
And here's what hockey pundits had to say via Twitter on Sunday evening--with former player agent Brian Lawton noting that the Tampa Bay Lightning's triplicate of trades allowed the team to clear a crapton of cap space; you're probably already familiar with the Star-Tribune's Michael Russo's, "Niskanen's going to Minnesota! And Vanek! And Iginla! And Stralman!" narrative:
And at 3 AM, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan brought us back to the Wings' perspective via a conversation with General Manager Keeps Expectations Low As A Rule--and Kulfan's context is essential, and his free agent profiles are good, too, so go read his dang article. All I can do is give you the KH comments because I can't quote his entire thing
“When a player hits free agency, there’s 10 or 12 or 15 teams bidding for these players now,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “There are 30 teams all competing, trying to make the playoffs, trying to win the Stanley Cup. With the (salary) cap, there’s parity.”
Lifestyle concerns (Where are you going to live? Where are your kids going to go to school? What's the rink like? What's the weather like?, taxes, promises of playing time, the "term" of contracts, these issues didn't matter as much when the Wings could out-spend everyone to ask players to deal with our mediocre weather, crappy roads, spread-out Metro Area and what is--let's be honest here--the last year for a rink that's running out of steam (though Dylan Larkin's parents certainly seem to believe that the new barn, scheduled to open for the 2015-2016 season, is quite the player draw).
“We’re done in goal,” said Holland, who has re-signed Jonas Gustavsson to back up Jimmy Howard, with Petr Mrazek ready in Grand Rapids. “We have good depth in goal.
“Up front, we’ve got about 12 or 13 forwards signed (not counting Alfredsson). We need to get some of these guys healthy. (Stephen) Weiss is working out real hard, I talked to him, he’s optimistic he’s headed in the right direction.
"(Henrik) Zetterberg feels great. Pavel (Datsyuk) feels great. Then you’ve got (Darren) Helm and (Justin) Abdelkader and those kids like (Tomas) Jurco and (Gustav) Nyquist and (Tomas) Tatar and (Riley) Sheahan and (Luke) Glendening. Joakim Andersson, at the end of the year, said he wants to have a good summer and really come in and try to compete for a bottom-six spot. So we’ve got 12 or 13 forwards. Ideally, we’d like to have one more established top-six forward that can score some goals.”
I'm guessing that Andersson might find himself on another team if Ferraro or Callahan out-battle him for a spot on the roster, but waivers ain't what they used to be, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Ferraro (who probably believes that he's earned his NHL shot) and Callahan (who's stated that he's more than willing to return to Grand Rapids to remain a Red Wing long-term) be sent back to Grand Rapids.
“We’d like to get a little deeper on defense,” Holland said. “Everybody’s talking about can we find a right-shot defense(man) through trade or free agency. (But) we’ve got guys (minor-leaguers) on defense like (Ryan) Sproul, (Xavier) Ouellet, (Alexey) Marchenko, (Mattias) Backman.“We’ve got (goal-scoring winger) Anthony Mantha, who we’re going to give an opportunity in training camp. We’re going to have a good competition of players. We don’t need to get four or five or six players. We’ve got room for a couple more.
The beat writers have speculated that it'll cost anything from $5-7 million to retain DeKeyser, Tatar and Sheahan. I'd imagine that the Wings want to lock them up to longer-term deals in which they sacrifice a little bit in terms of their 2014-2015 salary figures and get paid above-market-value toward the back-end of 3-to-4-year deals to help the team cap-wise, but I think $7 million is a safer figure there.
“Ideally we’d like to add a D-man and ideally we’d like to add a forward. Then our fallback position is, if we don’t get somebody or the money’s too high or we don’t like terms, we’ll go with kids. We’ll give some of the younger players an opportunity to play like they did last year.”
Kulfan continues at length, and I think his "5 that intrigue the Red Wings" is worth a read.
What do I think will happen? I know that it's seen as a cop-out by some, but I genuinely don't know. I hope that Ehrhoff's addition to the top-of-the-pile mix will bring Niskanen's asking price down from $7 million for 7 years, that Boyle might figure that $5 million's acceptable, and that Ehrhoff and Rick Curran will factor the fact that his client's going to earn a Capgeek-estimated $857,143 from Buffalo for the next FOURTEEN YEARS (that's $12 Miillllliion dollars, with his retirement payments ending in 2028) into his asking price...
But the last 24-to-36-hours have included David Poile almost angrily insisting that his Predators "aren't that far off" from being Cup contenders (and no state income taxes!), Barry Trotz discussing his plans to turn around the Capitals, enough general managers suggesting that their teams should be a "destination for players" to make me wonder whether Doug Wilson's pulled that whole "rebuilding team" tag off of his San Jose Sharks when he's talking to prospective additions, I'm guessing the, "Wild will sign everybody!" lines from Russo are in fact suggested by Wild GM Cliff Fletcher, and we all know that teams like the Oilers, Lightning, Avalanche, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets and Coyotes will all very happily out-pay the Blues, Hawks, and of course the Wings to snag a PR coup.
Teams do dumb things on July 1st to out-compete each other for free agents. It's not out of the question to see Niskanen get PK Subban money from someone or the rumors of Boyle wanting to go to Toronto or back to Tampa Bay for sentimental reasons to prove accurate.
I'm not expecting much. I would rather have the Wings do nothing and stick with "the kids" than have Holland repeat the reactionary and downright dumb Summer of 2012 lateral-signings after the team struck out on Suter and decided that it needed Mikael *#$%@& Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo (Mike Babcock may want a "tough guy," but from the days of Brad Norton being used as a forward to Aaron Downey and Darren McCarty riding shotgun in 2008, the Wings never really have found a scrapper who's been able to keep up with the team's puck possession game).
As an admitted Red Wings fan who pretends to be a professional blogger, I most certainly want to see the Red Wings bolster the fundamental blueprint that I believe will serve as the foundation for success as this team continues to reap the short-term "prospects" of speedy forwards who remain a little undersized and puck-moving defensemen who are big but not necessarily ornery.
I don't believe that "toughness" or "sandpaper" is necessary to compete with the Beasts of the East--I'd much rather see the Wings out-skate the Bruins the same way they out-skated the Blues, Ducks, etc. I feel that the team doesn't need to abandon the players who are already in the system and bring in four or five rough-and-tumble players to compete--I believe that a speedy transition game is essential, and adding a Niskanen, Boyle or Ehrhoff would aid the cause greatly.
I'll take nothing over betting on Derek Morris or Brooks Orpik, though, and if we have to talk about adding toughness, Steve Ott's my dark-horse candidate simply because he camps out in front of the net, and I happen to believe that the power play needs a net-front presence to reignite itself.
We'll find out what happens tomorrow.
Otherwise...DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose allows me to address another issue that's popped up on Twitter via a "By the Numbers" look back at Jakub Kindl's 2013-2014 season:
19: Tied for third among Red Wings’ defensemen in total points, which is his single-season best since joining the NHL in 2009-10. He had four two-point games during the regular season – against Edmonton (Nov. 2), Washington (Nov. 15), Minnesota (Mar. 22) and Toronto (Mar. 29).
93: Finished third among team defensemen while also setting a personal best for total shots on goal during the regular season. Tied his single-game best with six SOG in Red Wings’ 4-3 win against Carolina on Nov. 21.
8: Total points, including a pair of two-point performances at Minnesota (Mar. 22) and Toronto (Mar. 29) that he produced in the final 13 games of the regular season. He compiled a plus-9 rating and 12 shots on goal during that time frame.
More than a few people have asked me, "When are the Wings going to trade Kindl? This week?" and my answer to Kindl and potentially shipping out his $2.4 million salary is this: September or October, if he loses his job to Ouellet, Sproul, Backman or Marchenko.
With free agents available and cap-floor teams having absolutely no requirement to get to within 10% of the cap floor until "the last day of training camp," there is zero demand for a Kindl, Lashoff or Andersson at this point, and the Wings aren't going to go into training camp purposefully lean just because players might be out-competed for roster spots by younger players.
The Wings are essentially stuck with 'em for the summer, and as the management and coaching staffs believe in going to camp with more players than they will need, they're not going anywhere. Yet.
The Free Press's sports staff posted part of ESPN's Insider-only draft grade for the Wings, but if you missed it, I have an Insider subscription, and if you missed it in yesterday's overnight report, here's what Corey Pronman and Frank Provenzano said about the Wings' draft haul:
Detroit Red Wings | GRADE: C+
2014 draft class
Round Overall Player Position PDR*
1 15 Dylan Larkin C 26
3 63 Dominic Turgeon C 132
4 106 Christoffer Ehn C NR
5 136 Chase Perry G NR
6 166 Julius Vahatalo LW NR
7 196 Axel Holmstrom C 101
7 201 Alexander Kadeykin C NR
*PDR: Corey Pronman's pre-draft ranking.
Top Pick: Dylan Larkin was one of the top power forwards available in this year's draft class and is an outstanding skater. He has a fine but not outstanding amount of skill but consistently gains the offensive zone due to his skating ability. He drives the net, muscles out opponents in battles and gets back on defense effectively. He kills penalties well, and he can be a short-handed scoring threat.
Day 2 picks: Turgeon is a player with average skill but fine size and protects well. ... Ehn has above-average possession skills, he's skilled and smart with a good work ethic. ... Holmstrom trended up as the season went along, including a great World U-18 tournament. He's a skilled center who thinks the game well. I ranked him a little low due to lack of notes, but know some scouts who feel he's a top second- to third-round prospect. ... Kadeykin generated buzz last season after his significant production in the MHL as a big forward and had a productive KHL season.
Summary: The Red Wings added Larkin as a nice complement to the high-skill players in their system. Larkin will provide the two-way play, speed and work ethic to the skill of Tomas Jurco, Anthony Mantha, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and others. Turgeon fits in that mold as well. After that, they drafted some talented players that I'm not as sold on, but do have tools. -- Pronman
Organizational assessment: The Red Wings haven't had a particularly eventful draft weekend. Given the relatively thin pickings in the upcoming free-agent class (along with their disappointing Stephen Weiss signing last offseason), this summer will probably see them being fairly low-key as they try to retool on the fly. Grade: C -- Provenzano
Regarding the details of the Red Wings' summer development camp from July 4th to 8th, I'm sure that the Wings are still finalizing their plans, so I woudln't expect a full schedule or full roster until tomorrow or Wednesday, though we could see something today.
As an FYI, the Winnipeg press is pushing hard for the Jets to sign Jordin Tootoo because he played for the Brandon Wheat Kings and because Winnipeg is essentially the closest city to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, yielding a very large Aboriginal Canadian population in Manitoba. The Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe listed Tootoo as a Jets UFA target:
RW Jordin Tootoo, 31, 11 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P with Detroit Red Wings
Things didn't work out for the former Brandon Wheat Kings winger under Mike Babcock but he plays a feisty, energetic style that is contagious. Could still be a useful NHLer in a fourth-line role.
And finally, you've all been incredibly generous, but I am indeed a few hundred bucks of "breaking even" in terms of gas money and food money, so if there's a way that you can lend a few bucks to the gas-and-food fund, I'd greatly appreciate it:
Over the three years that the Wings have held development camps in Traverse City, I've asked for your help in raising the finances to cover my hotel and gas bills, and you've been amazingly and remarkably kind in affording me the opportunity to "work for you"; due to my present financial circumstances, I'm afraid that I have to ask for your assistance again.
If there's any way that you can lend a financial hand in my attempts to get up to Traverse City for the summer development camp and/or eventually to attend the prospect tournament and main camp in the fall, I would be incredibly grateful for any help.
I'm sticking with Paypal as it's the most direct route (though I will also do the whole, "Give me your address and I'll send you a check or a few bucks in the mail" thing, too), and you have to use my email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, as the recipient.
Here's the button:
FTR: Monday = shopping for the trip + mom's bridge fell out so dentist's office it is; Tuesday = UFA day, helping Paul; Wednesday = mom skin cancer check-up (every six months) and more UFA fun and packing; Thursday = driving my butt up to Traverse City.
Update: From the Livingston Daily Press & Argus:
Tuesday: Former Red Wing Lindsay will be at fundraiser in Genoa Twp.
Aubree’s Pizzeria & Grill, east of Howell at 4433 E. Grand River Ave. in Genoa Township, will host former Detroit Red Wings star Ted Lindsay for a fundraising event. Fifteen percent of guest check purchases from 11 a.m. to midnight will be donated to the Ted Lindsay Foundation, which supports research and educational programs focusing on the cause and management of autism spectrum disorders.
Call 517-552-9999 or visit http://www.tedlindsay.com for more information.
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About The Malik Report
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.