The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/01/14 at 01:24 AM ET
Regardless of what the Red Wings do or do not do today in terms of attempting to enhance their roster, I'm not going to have a lot of time to think about whether or not Player X or Player Y is in fact a good "fit," if he or they are signs of "doom" or that "Kenny's lost it," etc. etc.
Paul and I will be attempting to cover somewhere between 25 and 45 signings today, and while helping you follow the Red Wings' media outlets is my job, I'm going to be pulling double duty on Canada Day with what my mother says are still "dark circles" under my eyes from the draft's 30 hours' worth of researching and reporting...And I'm going to go up to Traverse City on Thursday in search of a significant number of observations and answers.
I don't have the time to over-think whatever the Red Wings do or do not do because I'll be working my tail off for the next ten days, and I'm starting to believe that I'm the lucky one here.
The Red Wings fandom's level of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the comments section, on Twitter, Facebook, etc. is just nuts, and on top of your and my frustrations with the fact that the days of the Wings getting everything they want on UFA Christmas don't exist any more, our beloved beat writers are giving me headaches.
Generally speaking, the Wings' intrepid press corps preaches from the same sheet of music, issuing a harmonious tone. But Sunday, we were told that the team was interested in Christian Ehrhoff, at least marginally; on Monday, we were told that the team's main target was Dan Boyle, and that Matt Niskanen was too expensive for the Wings to go after;
On Monday night and this morning, the "wining and dining" period may have given way to the "disinformation" period, because the beat writers are telling us very, very different stories, and I'm starting to get suspicious regarding these oh-so-convenient "leaks."
I'm not saying that the press is lying to us--they don't do that--but I'm saying that the Red Wings may be lying to the press, and the press is just doing its job in reporting what it's been told. I've been lied to more than once by players and management, and it isn't personal; they're just protecing their information regarding player recalls, injuries, who's "made the team," who they're going to offer contracts to, etc., etc.
The vast dispairities between the press's stories from several days ago and their stories on Monday night and Tuesday morning have my "Spidey Hockey Sense" tingling so badly that the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.
At 7 PM, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reported this amidst a conversation with Ken Holland...
Detroit’s shopping list for a right-handed blue liner starts at Dan Boyle (New York Islanders), who’ll turn 38 next month, and could be had for a two-deal at around $5.5 million a season.
Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh), 27, is next on the list, but he’s looking for a lengthy deal at the maximum seven years and possibly in the 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 most likely won’t pay him much more annually than what Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million) is making.
Detroit, which wants its young right-handed defensemen to start the season in Grand Rapids, also could settle on Anton Stralman (New York Rangers), Stephane Robidas (Anaheim) or Tom Gilbert (Florida).
From that point it could be a left-handed shot the Wings have to settle for. Christian Ehrhoff, who was bought out of the final seven years of a 10-year deal with Buffalo, has the offensive abilities they’re looking for. He’s a premier skater who logs a ton of minutes who can move the puck and likes to join the rush. He can also quarterback the power play.
Detroit had interest in Ehrhoff in 2011 when Brian Rafalski retired, but didn’t want to overpay him. There was also talk between the teams a couple of times about possibly trading Ehrhoff to the Wings, but Buffalo decided to hang onto him.
But late on Monday evening, his story went through a major revision...
Ehrhoff appears to be asking for a five-year deal and the Wings are only willing to give him three years at roughly $5 million a season.
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner reported this from his "team source"...
If Ehrhoff can't secure a five-year contract, the source says that the Wings are more than willing to reopen negotiations with the 31-year-old power-play specialist.
The Wings will now aggressively pursue Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle, according to the source, who also said that the team believes the rest of the free-agent crop of defensemen doesn't upgrade from what they already have.
Niskanen appears to be the Wings' top target, and the source indicated that they're prepared to sign him for seven years and will even overpay him if that's what it takes to get the 27-year-old Minnesota native to commit to Detroit. The 6-foot, 209-pound Niskanen had a breakout season last year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 81 games, he had 10 goals, 36 assists and was a plus-33. Six of his goals were game-winners.
Boyle apparently isn't far behind Niskanen on the Wings' wish list. The source says that the Wings would like to nail him down to a two-year deal for up to $11 million.
The Wings seem to have some interest in a few free-agent forwards, but their main focus obviously is to upgrade on defense. The team source is convinced that they're two good defensemen away from being an exceptional team.
The free-agency period all begins Tuesday at noon, and Wings GM Ken Holland feels that there could be a flurry of early signings.
"We're making some calls today (Monday)," he said. "It's been a busy day talking to lots of agents. I anticipate things will happen fast tomorrow, after the interview period (which is ongoing). I talked to four to five players personally, with Kris Draper and Mike Babcock, talked to a number of agents. You're telling them about your program. At the end of the day, the agent gives you a feel of what's out there. There should be lots of activity the first four to five hours."
MLive's Ansar Khan reported this...
The Red Wings have been told they're on the short lists for both Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle, the top right-handed shooting defensemen available. They're no longer in the running for the left-handed shooting Christian Ehrhoff, who is seeking a five-year deal, two more years than the Red Wings are willing to give.
Niskanen, coming off a career season with the Pittsburgh Penguins (10 goals, 46 points) is the premier defenseman available because of his skills and age (27). He likely will be seeking a maximum seven-year deal worth more than $6 million per season. The Red Wings don't have an issue with the term, since he's young. They might be willing to meet his high salary demand as well.
The Red Wings would like to sign Boyle for two years for around $5 million to $5.5 million per season. He might get a three-year offer from someone, however, despite his age (turns 38 on July 12). In addition to the Red Wings, Boyle reportedly has drawn interest from Toronto, Montreal, Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers.
The Red Wings have plenty of salary-cap space (roughly $9-10 million after signing restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan). But it's a thin free-agent class and there are many teams seeking what the Red Wings want.
And after Khan discussed the trade route...
The Red Wings have discussed some possible free-agent forward targets, including Jarome Iginla, but that is much less of a priority. They will have 13 forwards signed (after they ink Tatar and Sheahan).
They also might sign Daniel Cleary and/or Daniel Alfredsson later this summer. They will be so crowded up front that Tomas Jurco, their only forward who is exempt from waivers, might be forced to start the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan offered a more open-ended discussion of the players available...
“We’ll explore everything that’s out there,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ll see if there’s a fit. It has to make sense for both sides.”
Holland is looking to bolster his defense, primarily finding a right-hand shot to add to the current all-lefty corps.
Holland and coach Mike Babcock have been able to contact potential free agents and their representatives since last Wednesday. The hope was they could sell the organization with no urgency or deadlines staring at both sides.
“It’s an opportunity for players not to make a decision in 20 minutes with two or three teams offering long-term contracts and deciding what he wants to do,” said Holland, who has between $8 million and $10 million to work with.
The Red Wings made necessary qualifying offers Monday for seven restricted free agents: forwards Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and Andrej Nestrasil, and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Adam Almquist.
With the moves, the players were qualified, meaning the team retains their rights.
For example, Almquist, who didn’t want to play another season in the minors, signed a two-year deal with Severestal in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League. By qualifying him, the Red Wings retain his rights should he return to play in North America.
Those not qualified were: forwards Cory Emmerton, Willie Coetzee and Trevor Parkes, and defensemen Gleason Fournier and Max Nicastro.
Outside of Metro Detroit, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun posited some Monday-evening "Rumblings"...
Unless Jarome Iginla takes a pay cut, not sure how the cap-challenged Boston Bruins can re-sign the veteran UFA winger, although never say never.
If Iginla does hit the free-agent market, which opens at noon ET Tuesday, among the teams that we’ve heard have interest are Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Detroit.
To me, Dan Boyle likely goes to one of four places Tuesday: Detroit, Toronto, Tampa Bay or the New York Rangers.
With the Jets out on Stastny, they continue their search for a center. Mikhail Grabovski and David Legwand are among the names they were looking at Monday.
Word is Anton Stralman has a long-term offer worth between $4.5 million and $5 million coming his way from another team, which is why it’s going to be hard for the Rangers to retain him, although I’m sure the Blueshirts will take another crack at it.
The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger offered a different Wings outlook...
Detroit Red Wings: Bringing back Daniel Alfredsson and bolstering the blue line with a Dan Boyle or Ehrhoff are options facing GM Ken Holland. Does Holland take the bold route and make a pitch for Joe Thornton? Holland reportedly will make a strong run for defenceman Matt Niskanen.
* San Jose D Dan Boyle will try to narrow his list of destinations before going into free agency. He wants a two-year deal at $5.5 million per-season. The Tampa Bay Lightning cleared off cap space to make moves and have heavy interest.
* Doesn’t look like Jarome Iginla will be back with the Boston Bruins barring a miracle. The club is trying to clear off cap space but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back. The Canucks are trying to make an impact and GM Jim Benning has ties with Iginla from Boston while the Minnesota Wild want in as well.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks weighed in, too...
The Post has been told that anticipated available deals for [Anton] Stralman and Pouliot have priced them out of the Rangers’ reach, even though Pouliot’s camp hadn’t closed the door on a return as of Monday evening.
The Blueshirts would have loved to get this Boyle — 38 next month — on a one-year, over-35, bonus-laden deal in order to defer some of the charge to 2015-16, if necessary, but The Post has been told the 2004 Tampa Bay Cup champion is seeking (at least) a two-year deal in the neighborhood of the $5 million per that he is sure to receive.
Jim Matheson posted a Tweet...
And in addition to discussing the Wild's interest in Thomas Vanek and Jarome Iginla, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo (I admire the man, but Monkey, the Wild will sign EVERYBODYEZ line is getting old), the Russo updated Niskanen's Wild Wooing Status (and remember when Niskanen to Minnesota was set in stone? Two days ago?):
Last week, the Wild was expected to pursue free-agent defenseman Matt Niskanen. However, as of late Monday, it looked as if the Wild had decided not to enter the fray. As agent Neil Sheehy looked to cut his long list of suitors to a more workable number, the Wild hadn’t made contact.
Sheehy has said he could get up to the maximum seven-year term for Niskanen. That could have scared the Wild off because with so many young players needing to be re-signed the next couple of years and not wanting to box out youngsters like Matt Dumba and Gustav Olofsson from eventual jobs, General Manager Chuck Fletcher has said he wants to avoid super long-term contracts.
The Wild did not inquire about bought-out Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on Monday, but it might have interest in consistent Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman. With rugged defenseman Clayton Stoner likely leaving via free agency, the Wild will look to replace him. One veteran it has talked to is former Wild Willie Mitchell, although there are others as well.
What's going to happen?
F*** if I know. The salary cap and the ever-diminishing quality of the free agents available = teams like Detroit have to hope that their "wining and dining" made an impact, because the money and term are going to be similar for each of the 4-5 teams Boyle's considering, the half-dozen-to-dozen teams after Niskanen, the dozen teams after Ehrhoff, Stralman and everybody else.
As far as I'm concerned, the Wings can't afford to be choosy here. The odds are against any of those players or any other UFA-to-be (Tom Gilbert?) choosing Detroit, and if another team gobbles up the top target at 12:01 PM EDT, the Wings need to move on to targets number 2 AND 3 (that means Christian Ehrhoff, Anton Stralman, Gilbert, whoever else the team believes will help rejuvenate its puck-possession offense). You've got to stack the deck as much as possible...
And that kind of "strategery" might involve dropping contradictory hints to the press on purpose.
Holland's comments to Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika seem most pertinent right now...
“Free agency used to be about eight or 10 teams,” said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. “Everybody’s in the free agent market now because of the ceiling and the floor. It’s really important to draft. It’s really important to develop. Are we going to explore the markets? Yeah. Can I stand up here and tell you we’re going to be the team standing at the end with one of those defensemen that are available? No. I can’t make those guarantees because I’ve been through the process.”
There were only two bona fide stars on the market two years ago: winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. The Wings especially wanted Suter. They flew to his farm in Madison, Wis. They made their pitch. Both Parise and Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild. Parise was from the area. So was Suter’s wife.
“You can be right there with money, or you can be the highest bidder,” Holland said. “But at the end of the day, there’s other factors that go into players’ decisions.”
As do his comments to the AP's Larry Lage:
"It's going to make things go quicker because there has been time to mull things over," Holland said Monday. "On the afternoon of July 1, things are going to happen quickly."
Thomas Vanek, Paul Stastny, Matt Niskanen, Matt Moulson and Jussi Jokinen are among the younger unrestricted free agents. At least some of them are expected to get long-term deals because they're potentially entering the prime of their careers.
Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle, Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller are relatively productive older players who might be a short-term fit for a championship-contending team.
"The last crop of free agents looked OK, too, this time a year ago and a lot of those players didn't play up to expectations," Holland said. "When you give players long-term money, it's hard for them to live up to the expectations."
That's the biggest worry for you, me and the Red Wings--that whoever the team signs out of a very middling pool of defensemen don't pan out in Detroit, that we get another Stephen Weiss-style injury, that we find a player can't "keep up" or that he's a poor fit, and that the Wings are saddled with somebody they don't want any more come November.
Holland's warned us about that, and if the team really feels that the best available option is to do nothing and go with "the kids" over going "all in" in Niskanen, I'd be completely comfortable with that.
I just don't want to see the team re-sign Kyle Quincey or go after Derek Morris (Quincey II in my view) or Ed Jovanovski as a fall-back-fall-back plan. If they don't make those moves, regardless of the outcome, I'll survive and keep blogging away.
If I get a free minute to express my elation, frustration, disappointment or joy, I will most certainly do so, but tomorrow's gonna go by quickly...On Tuesday, even if the Wings make a signing, taking my mom to get her skin cancer check-up is far more important to me (she's been clear for a year-and-a-half now, so knock on wood), and I'm going to have to spend Wednesday evening packing and getting ready to head out to the Wings' strangely-scheduled prospect camp on Thursday.
I don't have the time to think about all of this stuff too heavily.
NHL Network-U.S. will deliver seven hours of analysis of the opening of free agency on Tuesday, July 1 (12:00 p.m. ET), with streaming live coverage of Sportsnet's HOCKEY CENTRAL Signing Season, starting at 11:00 a.m. ET. This marks the first time Sportsnet's coverage will be available to viewers in the U.S., following the landmark Canadian rights deal between the National Hockey League and Rogers.
NHL Network-U.S. and Sportsnet 360 will chronicle the free-agency frenzy with HOCKEY CENTRAL Signing Season hosted by Daren Millard, Jeff Marek and Christine Simpson and featuring panelists and hockey insiders Nick Kypreos, Damien Cox, Elliotte Friedman, Doug MacLean, John Shannon, Scott Morrison, Chris Johnston, Greg Millen, Darren Pang and Billy Jaffe. The show will bring viewers the most up-to-date information on signings and trades as well as analysis of all 30 NHL® teams.
NHL.com will have full coverage of the opening of the free-agency period, including position-by-position analysis of the market, the official list of available free agents, news and notes on all of the major signings, and more. Steve Mears and E.J. Hradek of NHL Network™ will provide video reaction as news develops throughout the day, followed by a live, online wrap-up show at 5:00 p.m. ET. In addition, U.S. viewers will be able to watch HOCKEY CENTRAL Signing Season on NHL.com from 12:00 – 6:00 p.m. ET.
Otherwise...In yesterday's overnight report, JeffK revealed, via an in-print-only article by DBusiness magazine, that the Wings' execs--including Tom Wilson--have talked about the follow-on rink, and there's a bit of a problem: the City of Detroit plans on closing Joe Louis Arena after the 2014-2015 season, and it doesn't sound like the new rink will make that opening date. From Jeff's posts:
The new arena will be built first and from what i’ve heard it will probably break ground at the same time as the M-1 rail project(which is scheduled to begin on July 28th). As far as the $200 million district surrounding the arena, that part is not guaranteed and will be done in a second phase. Also, the Temple Hotel was demolished last month by DTE Energy to make room for a substation that will power the new arena. So, behind the scenes work has already begun (http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showpost.php?p=104266042&postcount=82 this happened last year) and you also have to factor in the neighborhood advisory panel & training Detroit residents for the promised 51% of the construction jobs. There was an interview with George W Jackson and Tom Wilson in dbusiness magazine(cover story) and it explained pretty much everything. The deal is done, now they just have to go through the final process and start building. If things go as planned there is no question the arena will be finished on time.
To maximize the potential for naming rights - Wilson says no final decision has been made relative to overall branding - the longer portion of the oval-shaped arena will likely run parallel to I-75, though it will be set back from the service drive by several dozen feet. Under that scenario, the hockey nets would be at the east and west ends of the stadium. At least one parking deck is planned, most likely built west of the arena. Both a skywalk for suite holders and a tunnel for the players will connect the deck to the arena.
Summer/Fall 2014 — Construction on the new arena is expected to begin, if officials anticipate a 24-month time `frame is needed in order to be completed for 2016-2017 National Hockey League season.
Estimated fall 2016 — Nearly a quarter-century after Ilitch first expressed interest in a new home for the Detroit Red Wings, the team’s new arena is expected to host its first game.
At the Joe, Ilitch had to share that with the city. Now he gets 100% of the profits and can offer richer contracts to book more concerts and entertainment. When this new arena opens, the Palace will have a major competitor. According to Wilson the new arena will have between 100-150 event nights annually, up from 70 they currently get at the Joe.
I will try to get my hands on a print copy of the magazine when I'm able...
In numbers of a different kind, I always enjoy DetroitHockey.net's Clark Rasmussen's takes on the Wings' numbers, and he weighed in on the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau's numerical list of the summer camp's participants, noting that Axel Holmstrom's been given a bit of a legacy to live up to:
For the first time I can remember, numbers in the 90s are in use. One of those is Axel Holmstrom being assigned the #96 formerly worn by the unrelated Tomas Holmstrom. Similarly, returning camp invitee Dean Chelios wears the #24 previously worn by his father, Chris Chelios. Dominic Turgeon will don a number one higher than that of his dad, Pierre Turgeon, having been assigned #78. The team missed out on one more such opportunity, as Tyler Bertuzzi keeps his #59 rather than taking his uncle's #44, with Todd Bertuzzi now out of the Red Wings' plans.
For the record, I expect the #44 to go to Colin Campbell in the main camp.
Only one returning player who isn't a free agent tryout is changing his number from last season, as David Pope drops down from #64 to the #63 vacated by Hudon.
Clark continues, and I'll miss Phil Hudon. He's a great great human being who deals with bad OCD, and I can relate to that.
Regarding one of the Wings' picks this past Saturday, the Oregonian's Molly Blue spoke to Dominic Turgeon about his draft experience (and again, the Wings posted SEVEN videos detailing draft day[s] in Philly):
Turgeon and his family didn't have to wait long before Dominic's name was called, third pick in the third round, No. 63 overall, by the Detroit Red Wings, who traded up to get him.
"I was just really, really happy," Turgeon said. "It was Detroit, such a great organization. I'm really happy."
Later on Saturday, the Red Wings played host at a Phillies baseball game to celebrate. "So, I got to meet a lot of people in the organization and talk around. It was good," he said.
Up next, he'll head to Detroit on Thursday for a Red Wings camp.
"This has been a great organization for a lot of years," Turgeon said. "I hear the way they develop kids in this organization is really good."
And yes, I am short on gas and food money, not by much, but enough to ask for assistance for a couple more days. You've all been incredibly grateful, and while some of you drive me nuts, please understand that my audience is my inspiration for putting in these crazy hours and doing what I do. If following the Red Wings didn't mean so much to so many of you--even though the team drives us nuts--I wouldn't be doing this.
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.
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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.