The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/02/13 at 02:04 AM ET
As September begins and the Red Wings prepare for the prospect tournament (which begins on Thursday in Traverse City) and their main training camp (from Thursday, September 12th to Tuesday, September 17th), there's a fly in the ointment in terms of the Wings' status as over the cap by about $638,000 (per Capgeek) and over the 23-man roster limit by 2 players.
If the Wings were to somehow find a way to convince an NHL team to take even half of Mikael Samuelsson's $3 million salary onto their books, and to find a way to convince #37 to waive his no-trade clause, the team might not have to consider moving two of Cory Emmerton, Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo (listed from most-likely-to-move to least-likely-to-move) to get back under the $64.3-million upper limit and the 23-man roster limit by 5 PM on September 29th (the day after the exhibition season ends).
That's not likely to happen, however, and in all honesty, throughout his groin, hand and pectoral issues, all Mikael Samuelsson really suggested was that he was incredibly frustrated with his injuries getting in the way of being a contributing and useful part of the team he really, really wanted to rejoin a summer ago.
While Samuelsson may hang over Ken Holland's neck as something of a contractual albatross, he's likely to spend the 2013-2014 season with the Red Winsg, and as such, the Free Press's Helene St. James penned a profile of a player that we ought to get used to hearing about on an every-day basis, regardless of whether you feel tickled or tortured by the concept:
Looking back: Samuelsson played the first two games of the season, and then spent the rest of it moving from a sore groin to a broken finger to a pectoral injury. He appeared in one game in February, one at the end of March and none in April. He returned for Game 3 of the first-round series against Anaheim, and even topped 20 minutes in Game 4. By Game 7, he was able to play barely four minutes, and that was it for Samuelsson for the playoffs.
It's still iffy as to whether Samuelsson was really still recovering from a torn pectoral muscle when the Wings could've bought him out, or whether the team simply knew that he was going to protest the buyout...
Looking ahead: Samuelsson, 36, spent the summer recuperating pretty much from head to toe. Had he been fully healthy by July, the Red Wings would have bought out his contract, but that can’t be done to an injured player. So Samuelsson will go to training camp, and the Wings will see what happens. Samuelsson has said he feels 100%. If he is in good shape, he’s got a booming right-handed shot that will be helpful on the power play. If he pulls up hurt again, his salary can be hidden on long-term injured reserve.
If the Wings didn't have Samuelsson to deal with, I don't think that they would've paid Damien Brunner's asking price, but St. James certainly seems to believe that the Wings would've brought Daniel Cleary back--and that they're still interested in re-signing Cleary if the team can move a body off of their 50-man roster (though doing so would all but either ensure that all of Emmerton, Eaves and Tootoo were moved and/or that Gustav Nyquist would find himself starting the 13-14 season in the AHL).
Brunner and Cleary remain unsigned, and may end up inking training camp try-out deals with other teams, or they may end up having to wait until the regular season to sign with new teams.
Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun believes that at least Brunner merits mentioning as one of the best free agents still on the cap-crunch-stifled market....
3) Damien Brunner — Even if the salary cap hadn’t decline significantly, teams would probably still be a bit unsure as to how to approach Brunner. He’s a 27 year old with just one shortened season of North American hockey under his belt. He was streaky during his time with the Detroit Red Wings, although when the dust settled he had an appealing 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games. Brunner reportedly was seeking a 2-3 year deal from Detroit worth $3 -3.5 million annually. That was too rich for the Red Wings, but he might find more suitors willing to take a chance on him if he’s willing to ink a one-year contract.
And Sportsnet's Luke Fox is still waiting for Brunner to land somewhere, too:
1. Damien Brunner. Carrying over his Swiss-league chemistry with Henrik Zetterberg to the Red Wings, Brunner scored 26 points in 44 games as an NHL rookie. The 27-year-old added another nine points in the Wings’ two-round playoff run. Not bad for a rookie making $1.35 million (prorated). Now he wants a raise and a new sweater. Brunner’s agent, Neil Sheehy, has said his client is willing to wait as long as it takes to find the right NHL deal. Sheehy told a Swiss newspaper that NHL teams are interested, and now that Grabovski is off the market, expect Brunner to find a home before camp opens. It’s been rumoured Brunner is seeking a multi-year deal worth more than $3 million per season.
Somewhat appropriately, the Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk pondered the fact that so many players--like Cleary, Brunner, Brenden Morrow, Simon Gagne, etc.--have found themselves unemployed due to the fact that the cap's deline from $70.2 million to $64.3 million has left so many teams "capped out," and he noted that the cap has encouraged many teams to "go young" and "go cheap" in terms of filling third and fourth-line spots, which may bode poorly for players like Cleary:
It’s been said for years that the NHL is getting younger. This season, anecdotal observation suggests, it promises to be younger than ever.
“A lot of teams have spent money and they are near the cap or they have kids who they think are ready,” Ken Holland, the Detroit Red Wings general manager, told USA Today recently. “So we have some younger players replacing some older players. And in some cases, some salary demands (of veteran players) are above the marketplace.”
Certainly veteran players can’t take longevity as a birthright; the uber-talented likes of Teemu Selanne, who announced his plan to return to the Anaheim Ducks on a one-year deal at age 43, is an exception to the trend. But unsigned oldsters aren’t without hope. Surely some of those cheaper youngsters will fail to perform to standard during the pre-season. It’s also expected that some teams will shuffle contracts, free up cap space, and sign free agents as the season approaches.
Still, [Calgary Flames forward Mike] Cammalleri said he has seen a commitment from NHL coaching staffs to teach younger players the ins and outs of roles that, in another era, were usually filled by higher-mileage athletes. Take, say, a defensive-focused forward who plays on the penalty kill and against an opposing team’s top offensive threats.
“That was a role, pre-salary-cap, that was usually occupied by a veteran,” said Cammalleri. “Back then the coaches didn’t need to do as much detailed coaching. It was, ‘OK, I need a guy for this role. I have Kris Draper on my team. I don’t have to worry about that role.’ Now it’s, ‘I need a guy for this role. This guy can do it on an entry-level deal. We’re going to have to coach the (bleep) out of this line to make sure they know every detail.’ Maybe that’s one of the dynamics that’s changed. It’s really driven coaches to be so good. The coaches now are hockey encyclopedias, where maybe some of the era-before coaches were, ‘Hey, you know the job. Go get it done.’ The motivators. The Mike Keenans.”
We'll have to see what happens over the course of the next six to eight weeks. Inevitably, players like Brunner catch on with non-contending teams, and while it may take an injury or two to free up space, players like Cleary tend to find jobs, too.
That being said, the number of very serviceable veterans and bit players alike heading to Europe has been an eye-opener for me this summer. I'd imagine that the Swedish SHL, the Finnish SM-Liiga, the Swiss, Austrian and German pro leagues, the Czech and Slovak Extraligas and the KHL must all see the declining cap as something of a Godsend.
It's been a week since the Joe Kocur Foundation held its annual charity baseball tourney in Highland, MI, but the Tri-County Times' Sharon Stone penned a late-arriving article (accompanied by a lone photograph) that's still worth a read:
For one Saturday afternoon, Fenton firefighters and several Detroit Red Wings were on the same playing field — a softball diamond in Highland. Fenton’s finest took part in the fifth annual Charity Softball Series hosted by the Joe Kocur Foundation For Children. Instead of turnout gear, the firefighters donned cleats and baseball caps — to honor Jackson Gangwer, a Fenton student who died in April at the age of 12.
Jackson was active in sports and played basketball, football and baseball and he enjoyed being outdoors and hunting. His sister took part in the games by throwing out the first pitch.
Celebrities always come out to support Kocur and this year was no different. The charity softball series featured the Detroit Red Wings alumni, Detroit area celebrities, and firefighters and law enforcement from Milford, Highland, White Lake and Oakland County.
Fenton firefighters who participated were Scott Smith (Jackson’s uncle), Mike Johnson, Josh Sturgis, Dustin Lucius, Nick Will and Paul Bond.
Nick Will, a 14-year veteran of the Fenton Fire Department, played and felt that it was a great way to give back and make money for a charity. He also liked mingling with celebrities in the hockey world.
With the format, there were four teams with the fourth team comprised of local celebrities including past and present Red Wings, announcers, radio personalities and other media. Will’s team included four Fenton firefighters as well as police from Wixom, Northville and White Lake Township. His team’s third game of the day was against the celebrities.
Will said one of the best parts of the day was the fact that Mickey Redmond and Darren Pang from the Red Wings provided the play-by-play of the game. That’s not something that happens every day. As the soreness is finally easing in his muscles, Will recalls how he got a triple in that last game and being grateful to meet the celebrities and honor Jackson at the same time.
In the Twitter department, the Ted Lindsay Foundation offered a charitable note...
And the Red Wings' Twitter account noted that Wings prospect and Grand Rapids Griffins forward Landon Ferraro is embarking on quite the road trip:
In terms of the upcoming week, I plan on laying very low today. I've got some errands to run and will be in and out.
Tomorrow, the Wings will likely hold an informal practice at the Joe, and I'll try to cover that, but I've also got to pack and pick up dry cleaning, and Wednesday, Paul will be handling Wings-practice-blogging duties as I head up to Traverse City.
I'm nervous as hell, quite frankly. I'm going to be gone for fifteen or sixteen days (with an extra day in the hotel booked due to the high likelihood that I'll be knackered at the end of six days' worth of prospect tournament goings-on and then six more days of the main camp), and it's going to be very intense, but I'll try to take things a task at a time and will even consider enjoying myself from time to time. Mostly, I'm not looking forward to packing and I'm not looking forward to the lack of sleep, but I am excited about going up, and I couldn't have done it without your donations, so I know who I'm working for over the next two-and-a-half weeks--you.
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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.