The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/23/13 at 04:41 AM ET
[edit/update: I wrote this and plain old forgot two points of my argument: 1. With the cap going down this summer (to $64.3 million from $70.2 million and 2. Given the Wings' comments about their youth movement, I've tended to believe that the "go with the kids" philosophy is in fact a two-year plan, not a one-year plan. Just my theory /end edit] I've spent the last...Oh, six weeks talking about the concept that the Red Wings' track record over the past three to five seasons--if not longer--provides the best indication of their future plans.
I've suggested that the vast majority of the Wings' roster changes will come from within, i.e. via the maturation of Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff; that the Wings' cap situation and free agency record tends to indicate that the team may re-sign Daniel Cleary, will probably re-sign Damien Brunner, almost certainly will not retain Valtteri Filppula's services, and that once the Wings lock up their RFA's (add Brendan Smith to Nyquist and Andersson), the team will probably simply go after a free agent forward to bolster their goal-scoring ranks, if not off-set Filppula's departure...
And after that, and perhaps after a cap-compliance buy-out and perhaps a trade (Carlo Colaiacovo's $2.5 million salary is pretty decent for a puck-moving defenseman who simply doesn't have room to operate within the Wings' currently-configured roster), the coaching and management staff's past record indicates that it may very well let its roster crunch up front resolve itself via Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi either recovering or not recovering from their injuries, and that players like Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton and Jordin Tootoo will be allowed to compete for spots on the roster during training camp and the exhibition season, when the Wings can exceed the 23-man roster limit and even exceed the salary cap by up to 10%.
On Thursday, however, the Free Press's Helene St. James indicated that the Wings will avail themselves of both trades and probably a cap-compliance buy-out of Mikael Samuelsson (assuming he's healthy) to more aggressively deal with their roster crunch. On Saturday, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness found that Holland was speaking about the Wings' changes to come in a more aggressive tone, first addressing the Grifins' graduates, and then speaking more bluntly about the Wings' forced "youth movement"...
“Other than DeKeyser, they’ve all got to go through waivers,” Holland said. “I’m pretty comfortable saying that none of them are going through waivers. Someone will claim them, which means that we either have to have him on this team or we have to make some moves. We started the year with 23 players and you add those five, that’s 28, so we probably have 27 or 28 players.
“We’ve got some tough decisions to make and at the same time, I don’t think it’s a big free agent market, if you look in comparison to other years, I think the free agent market every year is going to get a little thinner and a little thinner because teams are signing their best players. Nobody is letting those types of assets hit the market. They’re signing them or they’re trading them and somebody else is signing them. So much like the Red Wings were built in the ‘90s, through the draft, you know (Sergei) Fedorov and (Steve) Yzerman and Lidstrom and (Vladimir) Konstantinov, we’re trying to do the same thing now. We’ve got to build through the draft.”
“Eighteen months ago or plan was to try and be lean and go into free agency in 2012 because there was potential for a whole lot of high profile players,” Holland said. “We were lean and we did go in and we came within a whisker of getting one and we didn’t. So when you lose Lidstrom and you lose Stuart and you lost Holmstrom you’re going a little bit into the unknown.”
“We were going into the unknown, but we knew there was potential,” Holland said. “I believe Pav and Z and Kronner are world class players. I’ve always believed in Jimmy Howard. I love E. There are people here that I thought we could build around that were better than some people thought. But you don’t really know until they get put in a position of more responsibility, more minutes, different matchups than they have been before.”
And Holland concluded with the following:
“We’ve got to figure out ways to get better,” Holland said. “We’re not getting 50 percent better, we’re not bringing in a superstar player so we have to find a way to figure out a way to get a little bit better and a little bit different. Is it getting tougher, bigger, younger or quicker, but those are the decisions we have to make.
“My feeling is we’re in the thick of things,” Holland continued. “We’re not at the top of the heap, but we’re in a pile of teams that there are 24 of us in that pile. There are maybe three or four ahead of us in the class, but we don’t have those young studs. We don’t miss the playoffs to get those guys so we have to go through a longer process. When the time comes, can we trade for one or go after one that hits the market? We offered a ton of money last year to two people and one of them we kept raising it and raising it and I don’t think it was about money it was about lifestyle. I can’t fight lifestyle.”
For the record, the New York Post's Larry Brooks spelled out the cap-compliance buy-out rules in black and white...
Amnesty buyouts can only occur during the initial buyout window that opens 48 hours after the final game of the Final and concludes July 4, one day prior to the opening of the free agent market, an NHL team executive confirmed.
Clubs cannot exercise amnesty buyouts during the second buyout period that opens following salary arbitration and is available only to teams that either filed for or were filed against.
Thus, if a player is deemed injured and ineligible for a buyout the first week of July — say, the Wild’s Dany Heatley, for instance — he cannot be amnestied until next summer.
And, right before the Hawks-Bruins game began, the Detroit News's John Niyo posited an early Sunday column in which he advocated for aggressive change by a Wings organization that chose to keep Pavel Datsyuk in the fold, suggesting that the Wings must maximize their access to Datsyukian dekes and Henrik Zetterberg's leadership while they're still around...
With the NHL draft next weekend and the start of free-agency looming July 5, just days after a Stanley Cup parade in Chicago or Boston, there will be flurry of activity around the league. But for all the emphasis on a draft-and-develop mandate in Detroit, general manager Ken Holland needs to be proactive if the Wings are going to rejoin the league’s elite teams.
They can’t afford to mortgage their future, and precious few teams in the NHL are willing to anymore. But the Wings can’t afford to simply stand pat, either, as they largely have the past couple years, missing out on their top free-agent targets and then staying strangely quiet at the trade deadline.
Now, though, with Valtteri Filppula likely headed elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent — the Wings don’t seem willing to pay him $5-million plus annually on a long-term deal — Holland must target another top-six forward to give Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg some much-needed help up front.
He suggested that the weak pool of free agent forwards and defensemen--at least prior to cap-compliance buy-outs taking place--might require the team to make trades to acquire players' rights (and he's been an advocate of the team acquiring Stephen Weiss for a while now, since February, really)...
Florida’s Stephen Weiss, who could get $6 million annually on a four-year deal assuming he’s healthy, figures to be among the primary targets. And there should be a few other intriguing (and expensive?) options out there, including Chicago’s Bryan Bickell and Boston’s Nathan Horton. More names will emerge as salary cap-strapped teams buy out some contracts beginning 48 hours after the playoffs end.
Another reliable defenseman has to be on the Wings’ offseason wish list, and if there’s a chance to land one that’d be an upgrade in Detroit’s top four, Holland absolutely should pursue it. Because as he keeps reminding us all, “The free agent market every year is going to get a little thinner and a little thinner. Teams are signing their best players. Nobody is letting those types of assets hit the market.”
And then he went after something of an otherwise "sacred cow." Niyo believes that the Red Wings have no "untouchable" young players save Danny DeKeyser, and as such, he feels that the Wings need to move at least one of Andersson, Nyquist, Tatar, Brian Lashoff and even perhaps Jakub Kindl or Brendan Smith to maximize their trade value while the Calder Cup spotlight's still shining upon the former and the potential of the latter defensemen outweighs their "minuses"...
As even Holland himself admits, “We don't have a guy coming through the system that I'm going to say to you is a superstar.” And as Babcock noted after the season, “The guys we’ve got coming can't all play here. But you have assets, so you make the decisions based on what's best for you.”
Niyo puts it most bluntly at the conclusion of a longer column that's worth reading and then some:
The Wings want to keep building from within, and understandably so. But a little outside help needs to be more than considered, or welcomed. It has to be pursued.
Now I have to make educated guesses about the Wings management's moves to come based upon facts.
I'm not allowed to make shit up. That's the first rule of writing.
And I don't like to offer false hope, because we fans tend to demand much, much more change than a team that believes in the process of "building from within" as its biggest philosophical guiding force, and I don't want to say, "Oh, I bet the Wings will go after Clarkson and another big forward and a top-four defenseman via a trade!" based upon nothing more than "gut feeling" or my own excitement, enthusiasm or subjective hopes for aggressive moves by a team that has been anything but in terms of both trades and free agency during the post-lockout period, perhaps with the exceptions of signing Hossa, Rafalski and, well, DeKeyser.
I do know, however, that the Red Wings asked Shea Weber's agent whether he'd be interested in joining the Wings before the Flyers tossed him an offer sheet, even though Holland absolutely despises the offer sheet as a means of acquiring players (see: Sergei Fedorov, circa 1998).
You and I both know that the team went "all in" on Ryan Suter, perhaps foolishly in retrospect, waiting for Suter to make his decision as their Plan B and C defensemen signed with other teams (Sami Salo and Matt Carle both signed with the Lightning), choosing to put all their hopes in a free agent who even Chris Chelios admitted came from a family that never wanted to venture far from its Wisconsin roots.
But Chelios did accompany Mike Ilitch, Holland and Mike Babcock on Ilitch's plane on a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, and we were told that the Wings sent a delegation to the Newport Sports offices in Mississauga, only to be told that Zach Parise, probably already set on going to Minnesota, wasn't going to entertain team delegations.
In terms of the Wings' summer moves, I still believe that the team will:
A) Flip Filppula's rights for a mid-round draft pick next Sunday in Newark;
B) Attempt to move Colaiacovo;
C) Attempt to buy out Mikael Samuelsson if he's healthy;
D) Attempt to re-sign Daniel Cleary if only for loyalty's sake;
E) Probably ink a short-term deal with Damien Brunner very late in the free agent game, perhaps as late as the morning of July 5th;
F) Wait out Helm and Bertuzzi's back issues, stick with Jordin Tootoo, retain Patrick Eaves and Cory Emmerton over the summer and then see who wins roster spots during training camp and the exhibition season;
G) And I think that the team will sign and/or acquire, at best, one free agent forward to bolster their goal-scoring, and sit out the oversized bidding on free agent defensemen (see: a 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar getting 2 years and $10 million, and a 35-year-old Mark Streit getting 4 years and $21 million from Philly), hoping that the team can more meaningfully address the need to give Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson some relief either right before the season or at next year's trade deadline.
For the first time in a long time, however, I've got to admit that the Wings' front office made some surprising moves last summer, that the team has some options in cap-compliance buy-outs and player-shedding trades (it's not like the Wings would get much more than a conditional pick for a Colaiacovo or Samuelsson), and while I don't agree with Niyo's theory, yes, it is possible that the Wings could move either some of their top prospects or perhaps some b-level guys.
The front office has surprised us over the past year, and there's no doubt that the fact that the team may end up with sixteen or seventeen forwards under and eight defensemen on their roster will necessitate personnel moves given that the team can no longer bury players' salaries in the AHL anymore.
TSN's Scott Cullen agrees with Niyo's assessment of what the Wings must do to maximize their window of opportunity:
General Manager Ken Holland has a clear view of what he would like to do when building a team, telling MLive.com, "The teams, in my opinion, that want quick fixes, you're not building a foundation. You've got to start at the draft table, and you can complement it with trades and free agency. If we don't have a strong foundation, free agents aren't going to want to come here."
"We're not that far away," Holland continued. "We're trying to get 5 percent better. We're not going to go 50 percent better. We've got to get a little deeper, a little more scoring, a little more experience for some players who haven't been there before."
So long as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are playing at a very high level, Holland is right, the Wings aren't that far away. Upgrades to the supporting cast could give Holland that desired five (maybe even 10!) percent improvement and Holland can look to the Red Wings' foundation for those upgrades, whether that means prospects taking the next step in their development, or being used as trade chips.
While trading prospects isn't typical of these Red Wings, there ought to be a sense of urgency here. There are only so many more great seasons left for Datsyuk and Zetterberg; it would be a shame not to provide the best possible supporting cast so that they have a chance to win it all again.
Up front, Cullen offered this take on the Wings' space to make moves, literally and figuratively...
If the Wings re-sign Brunner and add prospects like Nyquist and Tomas Tatar to the mix, and have a healthy Helm, then they don't have any glaring needs up front, though they could certainly upgrade on the spots that would be held by older wingers Bertuzzi and Samuelsson, though some financial creativity may be required if the Wings are going to go after any big-ticket free agent forwards.
I had to smirk at his take on the blueline...
The Red Wings have enough bodies on the blueline, though they could really use another quality puck mover on the back end. Failing that, at least adding a right-handed shot might be worthwhile.
And after assessing the "upside" of some of the Wings' top prospects, he offers a simple bottom line:
Needs: Two top six forwards, one top-pair defenceman.
What I said the Red Wings needed last year: Two top nine forwards, top-pair defenceman, backup goaltender.
They added: Damien Brunner, Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson, Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Jonas Gustavsson.
Yes, at this point, every indication suggests that the Wings will stick with Gustavsson, knowing that Petr Mrazek's better-served playing 50 games with the Griffins than sitting on the bench as Howard does his thing, but that Mrazek is always available to call up.
TRADE MARKET: Kyle Quincey, Carlo Colaiacovo, prospects.
And then there is the x-factor...
A second-round pick in 2010, 21-year-old Calle Jarnkrok has been starring in Sweden, scoring 81 points in 103 games over the past two seasons, and got into nine games with Grand Rapids late in the year, scoring three points. The Wings calling card is that they don't rush prospects, so Jarnkrok could be due to some time in the AHL, but he'll have a chance to be an impact player when he gets to the NHL.
If Jarnkrok proves that he's NHL-ready, even as a 3rd or 4th-line forward, if the Wings believe that placing him in the AHL isn't going to do him any good, and if they believe that he's worth sacrificing an Eaves or Emmerton, things can change in a hurry.
I've seen him play enough to believe that he's incredibly close to being NHL ready, and is only really held back by his lack of upper-body strength, so I can't deny that, should he display Danny DeKeyser-like impressive play during the exhibition season, the Wings may be more inclined to make another move to shed NHL bodies.
I'm very wary of all of these suggestions for a simple bottom line of my own: thirteen teams are under $10 million removed from the $64.3 million 2013-2014 salary cap, and with those teams needing to both re-sign their own UFA's and RFA's and those teams serving as the vast majority of the NHL's "contenders"...
The vast majority of the teams who lie further south of the cap are "budget" types that can't afford to add willy-nilly, so I don't believe that there's going to be much of a trade market this summer.
I also don't believe that the Wings' "supporting cast" can bring much of anything (players "in danger" include the aforementioned Eaves, Emmerton, Tootoo, Colaiacovo, Samuelsson and perhaps Lashoff) in return, so I'm not willing to toss a, "Wings can package b-prospect + roster overflow player and get impact player in return" trade suggestions off.
But again, the Wings seem inclined to surprise us this summer, and while my expectations remain bare-minimum low (again, adding a UFA forward, moving "Coco," buying somebody out and then standing pat until the exhibition season shows the Wings which players they might need to shed to get under the 23-man roster limit and down from 10% over the $64.3 million cap to below it)...
I can't deny that I'm intrigued by the suggestions that re-signing Datsyuk empowers the team to be as aggressive as they wish, even if I don't believe that much will really happen.
Speaking of drafting and developing players, the Vancouver Province's Ed Willes offered an intriguing take on why the Wings are where they are while attempting to assess the draft *proficiencies* of each and every one of the NHL's teams--and let's be honest, folks, the Wings swing for the fences more often than not thanks to their low draft positions, and they often miss:
The team with the most successful draft record from 1994 to 2004 was the San Jose Sharks. From 2000 to 2009, it was the Montreal Canadiens. These two teams share another thing. They both won the same number of Stanley Cups over that period: zero.
There was some correlation between draft success and on-ice success. It just wasn't as strong as most people think. Boston and Chicago, the two teams in the Stanley Cup final, both had good grades in the second study.But they were surpassed by the Canadiens, Buffalo, Nashville and the Rangers.
In the earlier study, the Sabres and Senators graded out highly. The dominant teams of that era - Detroit, New Jersey, Dallas - were just so-so, although Colorado was in the top-10 in both batting average and slugging percentage. . Detroit, regarded as the NHL's best drafting team, was average in both studies. The Red Wings' strength is finding players in the mid-to later-rounds and plugging them into their system. Unfortunately, they didn't get any extra credit for that.
So what does all that teach us? Well, drafting is a major plank in any organization's structure but it's not the only one. Player development is equally important. So is managing the players who've been drafted. They all fit under the same umbrella. It's just drafting gets the most attention.
"You have to have a certain amount of raw material, but development is more important," says Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning's director of amateur scouting. Why do some players turn out and others don't? It has to do with the director of player development and the work they do after they're drafted.
"You have to draft well but you have to develop, you have to make trades, you have to sign free agents," says Paul Fenton, Nashville's assistant general manager. "Drafting is just one piece of the puzzle, but if you don't draft well, you can't do the other things well. That's why we always talk about taking the best asset."
Those assets, in turn, give organizations flexibility and allow them to make other moves. Over the years, the Red Wings have been able to make deals while replenishing their organization.
The Red Wings aren't the best drafting team. They do a hell of a job in terms of player development, and that's why the Grand Rapids Griffins' roster for next season is all but overflowing in terms of the number of defensemen turning pro. It's entirely possible that some of the "top prospects" will end up spending significant chunks of their first pro seasons with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye.
There's a reason that the Wings spend so much time, energy and effort to ensure that Jiri Fischer monitors players via one-on-one meetings as the "director of player development," that Chris Chelios works with the Griffins' defensemen, that Chris Osgood and Jim Bedard spend significant chunks of time in Grand Rapids, that the Griffins have their own strength and conditioning coach in Aaron Downey, that they work out with Wings strength and conditioning coach Peter Renzetti in the summer, that the front office keeps tabs on prospects on by watching them play in person when possible, and there's a reason the Wings hold their summer development camp and fall prospect tournament at no cost to everybody but the NCAA players.
Drafting is just the first step in a long journey toward becoming a professional athlete, and the Wings are signing more and more of their drafted players because they've made huge investments in player development since the second lockout. It was as much an acknowledgement of the fact that the team could no longer plug holes via free agent signings, and that their 2002 Cup winners wouldn't play forever, as much as anything else, but it's starting to pay off in spades.
The Wings' last crop of lockout-playing prospects included Filppula, Kronwall, Brett Lebda, Joey MacDonald, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Derek Meech and Drew MacIntyre.
The Wings hope that the Griffins' graduates and players who played for the team during the 2012-2013 season, like Tomas Jurco, Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan, Mrazek, Riley Sheahan, Adam Almquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, Luke Glendening (he will be signed to an NHL contract soon), Louis-Marc Aubry, Trevor Parkes, Jarnkrok, Ryan Sproul and Smith can at least produce a couple more NHL'ers, and perhaps another star player.
In foreign-langauge news, Championat's Andrew Osadchenko conducted a Russian-language interview with Tomas Jurco that's way too long for me to translate, but it's a good read in Google-translated Russian, and the most interesting parts involve Jurco admitting that:
- The biggest adjustment to AHL hockey for him involved living on his own. He can't cook and he's not thrilled with American food, so he did his best to change things up;
- As he likes to point out, he's trying to get past his "YouTube sensation" reputation;
- And he's been invited to the Slovakian National Team's pre-Olympic meetings in Poprad, which will be held on July 1st.
In Swedish, Folkbladet pulled the, "Read our print edition for the article" spiel regarding what is apparently a long interview with Jonathan Ericsson, but this tidbit from Henrik Jonsson's conversation with the Wings' #2 defenseman is worth noting:
He was certainly disappointed in the Stanley Cup playofs, but Jonathan Ericsson still had a good season on defense. So good that Detroit now wants to extend his contract.
"Jonte's" current contract expires a year from now, but he wants to stay with the team.
"I think so and I hope it will be so. They've been incontact and it's a good sign that they want to talk [about a contract extension] a year early," says the NHL pro, who's now back in Sweden.
In English-language news, from RedWingsFeed, the Detroit Free Press has gone bracket crazy. The 84 Tigers and 97 Wings are vying for Michigan's best sports title until 6 PM today, and now they're encouraging fans to weigh in on their favorite Michigan sports nickname;
And finally, I'm 2 weeks away from the Wings' summer development camp and about $250 into defraying over $1,200 worth of costs. Vive le spread the word if you can?
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, and you'll need to use that as the person you're sending $ to.
Hey, I spent three hours writing this on June 22nd just to get a discussion going. It's not like I don't put the work in!
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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.