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The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: Hope on the Brunner front and draft talk (a.k.a., “No one knows”)

This talk kind of scares me, because I remember Jiri Hudler's agent, Petr Svoboda, insisting that Hudler, "Loves Detroit" right before he bolted for Dynamo Moscow, but I'll take what I can get.

After a week in which Damien Brunner pondered the lure of free agency while speaking to the Swiss media, Brunner's agent, Neil Sheehy, spoke with the Free Press's Helene St. James about Brunner's situation (which she assessed last Friday), and while cringe-worthy in the "I've heard this before" department, she delivers good news:

Brunner’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told the Free Press on Tuesday that Brunner “will sign longer than one year.”

Sheehy also emphasized that Brunner “loves Detroit.”

As we already know, Brunner's situation is very complicated. He's 27 (at this point, it bears noting that he turned 27 in March), he came over from the Swiss NLA and registered 12 goals and 26 points over the course of 44 games, which translates to roughly 19 goals and 41 points when accounting for Brunner playing for 91% of an 82-game regular season (75 games)...

And he earned a $92,500 signing bonus, the vast majority of $425,000 worth of performance bonuses, and 48 games' worth of a $925,000 base salary (total cap hit = $1.35 million, per Capgeek)...

But Brunner scored 10 goals in his first 19 games, then ran into conditioning and, "You can't make that extra move in the NHL once everybody has scouted you on video and broken down your tendencies" walls, and then he registered 4 goals and 9 points over the course of 14 playoff games played.

In theory, a "rookie" with those kinds of numbers over the course of a rookie season would be worth about $2 million. But Brunner is not necessarily a rookie, and in theory, he's mature enough to post better numbers when he's more ready for the brutal pace and physical battles involved in a long NHL season.

In any case, the Wings will have to pay a premium for Brunner's services--he's in for a Bryan Bickell-sized raise--and at least it's good to hear that Ken Holland's going to sit down with the notoriously tough-negotiating Sheehy at the draft:

“We’ve had discussions,” Sheehy said. “We’re scheduled to talk again in New Jersey this weekend.”

Negotiations always come down to money, and here’s what both sides are trying to figure out: Who is Brunner? Mr. Consistent Goal Scorer, or Mr. Hot and Cold?

“Those are always issues,” Sheehy said. “If you have a long track record, it makes it easier. Nonetheless, he’s a good player. We’ll see where talks go.”

The fact that Brunner acquitted himself well as a 2-way player on the Andersson-Nyquist line is good, and some of us (me) might argue that he could have performed better on the power play if the Wings coaches' obsession with placing a right-shooter on the point hadn't all but removed Brunner from the equation (see: Brunner pinches, and, inevitably, the puck goes back to the right point Brunner has vacated, forcing the Wings to carry the puck all the way back up the ice again; see also: Brunner's one-timers from both the right faceoff circle and the "Steve Yzerman spot" at the bottom of the faceoff circle, which the Wings' players are so naturally programmed to feed with passes that Nicklas Lidstrom himself would make rare pinches from the point to score power play goals there)...

And as the Wings were nearly unbeatable when scoring 3 or more goals, but struggled so mightily to reach that point, the Wings need to 1. Sign Brunner and 2. Sign or trade for another goal-scorer, even if it is that second-line center that Khan, Pleiness, St. James and Art Regner have all told us that the Wings will pursue given Filppula's inevitable departure.

As such, the Wings will pay what they have to, and St. James' estimate as to what Brunner's going to receive in terms of a cap hit is spot-on:

His value comes from scoring and the fact he’s one of the few Wings who shoots right-handed. Somewhere in the $2.5-million-per-season range should work for both sides.

I'm guessing that he's going to make a little more than that (see: a salary that rises to the $3 million range) on a long-term deal, but that's fine with me. Lock him up.

As the Score's Dave Lozo suggested, in an article chronicling the key figures or each and every one of the NHL's 30 teams going into the off-season, Brunner's the Wings' top priority for the present moment:

Detroit Red Wings, Damien Brunner: Along with Valtteri Filppula, Brunner is the biggest UFA decision for Ken Holland. At 27, Brunner isn’t a spring chicken, but he had a solid first year in the NHL and he’s the likely the guy that reminds old timers Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson to take their medicine and record NCIS. Filppula is 29 and a perpetual disappoint. He’s basically the writing version of me from five years ago. It may be time to cut bait and move on if Filppula’s demands are far exceeding that of Brunner.



In terms of possible players that the Wings might target, again, if we are to shift our focus from scoring wingers to second-line centers, we have to shift our focus from Bickell, David Clarkson, Nathan Horton and Michael Ryder (or perhaps Jaromir Jagr?) to Mike Ribeiro, Stephen Weiss, Tyler Bozak, Derek Roy, Nikolai Antropov or perhaps Daniel Briere (though he wants to stay on the East Coast as he's divorced and his kids live in Philly)...

But I cannot deny that reading the Tampa Bay Times' Damien Cristodero's suggestion that the Lightning may buy out Vincent Lecavalier and/or Ryan Malone intrigued me, and while GM's seem to be lying through their teeth about not using cap-compliance buy-outs (see: Paul Holmgren insisting that he was not going to spend "humongous big" money buying out Ilya Bryzgalov), I breathed something of a sigh of relief when Sportsnet's Geoff Lowe and Mark Spector stated the the Edmonton Oilers won't buy out Shawn Horcoff.



The Wings may make a cap compliance buy-out (or two), too, and the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle believes that the Wings should buy out one player:

10. Mikael Samuelsson, Detroit Red Wings

Years left on contract: One

Buyout cost: $2-million

Breakdown: There’s a complication with buying out Samuelsson in that he’s been battling injuries all season. Injured players aren’t eligible to be bought out, meaning he will be back with Detroit next season if he’s not fully recovered by the July 4 deadline. That would then turn GM Ken Holland’s buyout attention to someone else on the roster, with defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo the most likely candidate.




Regarding this Sunday's draft (all 7 rounds will take place on Sunday in Newark, NJ, starting at 2:30 PM, and TSN and NHL.com tend to air at least the first round, which takes 3 hours, as well as the 2nd through 7th round, which also take about 3 hours), I've come to the conclusion that NOBODY FRICKIN KNOWS what will happen after the first 5 picks.

NHL.com posited 3 mock drafts, and their draft experts picked 3 different players at the Wings' first round spot, 18th overall. The Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy picked defenseman Robert Hagg, who was taken in one of the three NHL.com mock drafts, Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp believes that the Wings will pick defenseman Ryan Pullock...

And on Tuesday evening, TSN conducted a mock draft and the release of TSN's Bob McKenzie's final draft rankings.

McKenzie pegs center Curtis Lazar as the 18th-best prospect available, and while Craig Button suggested that center Morgan Klimchuk was the 18th-best prospect available in early June, he believes that the Wings will draft London Knights center Bo Horvat.

USA Today's Kyle Woodlief believes that the Wings will draft...A sixth player...

18. Detroit — Adam Erne. A few other teams have passed on this premium talent because of lingering attitude concerns. This is how Detroit stays on top. They get studs like this later than they should, and then rely on the strong culture of their room to bring him into line. Watch what happens when Dan Cleary takes this kid under his wing.

And the I've heard the names of Frederik Gauthier, Kerby Rychel, Anthony Mantha, Mirco Mueller (my pick), Kerby Rychel, Hunter Shinkaruk, Samuel Morin, Ryan Hartman, Josh Morrissey, Max Domi, Nicolas Petan, Chris Bigras and Shea Theodore ALL bounced around as possible Wings picks.

Depending on who's doing the mock drafting, those players--all 19 of them--get drafted somewhere between 10th overall and 45th overall.

So I have no *#$%@& clue who the Wings are going to get, and given the fact that they pick "the best player available," and given the fact that this is supposed to be a deep draft, the fact that the Wings want to add some big bodies up front to the mix won't necessarily determine who they draft.

We All Bleed Red on YouTube posted a video of Button picking Horvat (sometimes he's picked 10th, sometimes in the low 20's) on TSN...

And I stumbled onto the following video of a former Red Wings executive who happened to be in charge of the Red Wings' amateur scouts until he left the team talking about his new team's draft plans (quote of the video: "The player you get at 40 could be as good as the player you get at 10):

Let's get two things straight here:

1. No, the Wings will not move up. Moving upward at the draft is always, always cost-prohibitive, and at this point, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Wings can find what someone has deemed to be a "top-15" prospect at 18, so I don't see them moving down--but it's happened before;

2. No, the Wings will not get a 1st-round pick for Valtteri Filppula's rights. At best, they could have gotten a 2nd-round pick had they both signed him and traded him at the deadline, and they're more likely than not to get a 3rd, 4th or 5th-round pick for him at the draft. Maybe two low picks. Nothing more.

Teams know the Wings won't retain his services, and teams know that they're going to have to invest over $5 million per season over the course of 4+ years to sign the poster boy for inconsistency and unfulfilled potential, so he's going to be flipped for little return. It is the way of the drafting world.

For the record, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan profiled Macomb, MI native and 6'5," 228-pound National Team Development Program winger Michael McCarron, and yes, he'd like to be drafted by his favorite team, even though he has a 1-in-30 chance of becoming a Wings prospect.

Craig Button's mock draft doesn't have him going in the 1st round and Bob McKenzie has him ranked 34th.

To summarize:

(they're a remarkably good band live)



In the availability department, I'm going to be out of the home office, as it were, from about 10:30-2, so the usual crop of mid-day news will have to wait until I get home (and holy *#$%@&, it's 4:30 in the morning and I have to get up at 9:30, dammit, how did that happen again? Oh right, reading 40+ foreign-language websites and starting on this at 2 AM--yes, for five to ten minutes of your time, assuming that you're not a member of the slight majority of readers that just scrolls through and gives this 1-2 minutes, I tend to put in 2-3 hours a night).



And finally, the fundraising has....Stalled. I'm at $800, which is awesome, but I need to raise a lot more than that over the next week-and-a-half to make the summer development camp work financially.

I will say this, however: you're going to see the Paypal button all summer long--if I don't start a Kickstarter for the fall prospect tournament and main camp, as some of you have suggested--as I've found that I generally start "breaking even" somewhere in mid-July, but that's gonna be tough this year as I have $22 in my bank account and the fam can't afford the annual vacation in Grand Marais ( :( ). Any assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated, and the same can be said for spreading the word.

I would like to attend the Red Wings' summer development camp from July 9-17 in Traverse City, MI, but I am a blogger. My paycheck is not very big, and due to health crap, this is the only job I've got. As such, I do not have the funds to pay for gas to get me to Traverse City or 11 days of a hotel stay.

During previous years, I've asked you to lend a hand and you've come though in a big way. I need to ask, if it is at all possible, that you might consider tossing a few bucks into the Paypal tip jar. I've generally found that the smallest donations, $5, $10, stuff like that, end up paying for gas and a huge chunk of my stay, and anything more is a bonus.

So if you want to donate, that's awesome, if you don't want to donate, that's cool, and one way or another, I hope to get up there and provide you with in-person, every-day coverage.

My "ID" is my personal email address, rtxg@yahoo.com, and you'll need to use that as the person you're sending $ to.


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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.