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The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: preparing to predate, signing bonuses, Q and A’s and junior hockey news

This lockout sure as hell feels like a line Mel Brooks uttered while playing "Yogurt"--Spaceballs 2: the Quest for More Money!--but in that sense, the Red Wings don't have a horse in this dogfight, save perhaps in increasing their profit margins. As the National Post's Guy Spurrier poitns out, the Wings are making a very sizable operating profit from ticket sales, and as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan notes, the Wings have been able to convert their cachet (or prestgious reputation) into excellent sponsorship deals, including a $20 million-a-season broadcasting deal with Fox Sports Detroit, "presenting" sponsorships with Amway and Belle Tire, and as members of the NHL, chunks of the NBC and CBC broadcasting deals (to the tune of somewhere between $7-10 million).

In other words, the Wings are doing just fine financially, and help drive the salary cap's rise. As the NHL attempts to roll back salaries and the NHL's percentage of league-wide hockey-related revenues (or H.R.Arrrrr as it's Talk Like a Pirate Day), the Wings have also positioned themselves in a place they weren't in 2004-2005: as an organization that might predate upon amnesty buyouts or out-and-out salary dump trades if the cap is indeed reduced, yielding the opportunity for Ken Holland & Co. to make some meaningful roster additions when the lockout ends:

"We have the flexibility we can go in a lot of different directions," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said last week. "Based on whatever is negotiated, we have a lot of players that don't have a lot of term (length of contract)."

Five players — Jimmy Howard, Valtteri Filppula, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller and Ian White — are set to become unrestricted free agents next summer, and eight more — Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, Mikael Samuelsson, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jonas Gustavsson — become unrestricted in 2014.

During an offseason of change, however, the Red Wings lost and won on the market. They missed out on big-name free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, and lost Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement, Brad Stuart in a trade with the Sharks and Jiri Hudler to free agency.

But they did acquire Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Colaiacovo and Gustavsson.

"Gustavsson is going to help Howie (goaltender Jimmy Howard) a lot, and Sammy (Mikael Samuelsson) is fired up to be back here," Zetterberg said. "We'll have some work to do but we'll have a good team, a great team. We have some great additions and as soon as we get started, we'll be fine."

Sixteen forwards--several of whom can be moved cheaply to shave out a few million dollars of cap space--seven defensemen and two goalies at least yield a solid roster, and while the Wings are likely to say, "Thanks, but no thanks" to the possibility of buying out Johan Franzen, Kulfan points out that only Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk (for two more  years, anyway) have substantial salaries coming to them for a significant period of time.

Even with the team's last-minute addition of Carlo Colaiacovo and re-signing of Justin Abdelkader to a generous deal, the Capgeek.com estimates that the Wings have over $8 million in cap space per the just-expired CBA's $70.3 million cap, placing them near the Kings, Penguins and Rangers in terms of big-spenders who are still poised to add players given their cap space remaining--while five teams, including the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, are $3.55 million or less under the current cap.

The bottom line, however, remains that the Wings aren't one of the teams that want to leave October or November gate receipts on the table as their rink sells out most of the time, their sponsorships are paying well and their fans still support a team that has approached the lockout so delicately that Danny Cleary was praising the ownership when the players were kicked out of the Joe last Friday, and as Niklas Kronwall suggests, at least in Detroit, neither side wants to take their fan bas's loyalty or support for granted:

"There's no doubt hockey is in a good place right now," Kronwall said. "Fans are coming to the games and we're growing revenues every year. We have the greatest fans. We just have to make sure we don't mess it up too bad to walk away from it."

Or mess it up to the point that fans walk away.

Interestingly, via RedWingsFeed, it's worth pointing out that the Wings semi-lockout-proofed Justin Abdelkader's contract extension...

Per Capgeek, Darren Helm was given the same signing bonus, as is Jordin Tootoo, Niklas Kronwall's going to earn $1.25 million this season regardless of how long the lockout goes, and even Damien Brunner's earning a $92,500 signing bonus and can achieve up to $425,000 in performance bonuses on his entry-level deal (yes, I looked at every signing the Wings made this summer. Kyle Quincey, Jonas Gustavsson and Carlo Colaiacovo ldid not receive signing bonuses).

Add in the fact that Patrick Eaves will continue to earn his $1.2 million salary until he's cleared to play (the Bruins owe him $258,333 to complete his buyout, too), as well as the fact that Gustav Nyquist will earn a $87,500 signing bonus, as will Brendan Smith, nd that  and the Wings could spend as much as $3,467,500 on signing bonuses alone this season.

It behooves them to receive returns on those investments.



Speaking of earning money this season, for the record, I do believe that the "Pavel Datsyuk to Ak Bars after all" rumor has legs, but given the prohibitive insurance premiums for Niklas Kronwall or Jonathan Ericsson's contracts, I'm calling shenanigans on the latest report about Kronwall possibly heading to Djurgardens IF from Expressen's John Rafsedt and Mattias Ek.

The pair suggest that, insurance issues included, the Allsvenskan's richest club might somehow be able to bring Kronwall, Gabriel Landeskog, Douglas Murray and Patric Hornqvist into the fold, and that seems...Well, ludicrous.



One of the Red Wings' free agent signings spoke to the Tennessean's Josh Cooper about practicing in Nashville as, per Cooper, he packs up his condo and prepares to move to Detroit.

Tootoo's a bit mumbly, so, thanfkully, Cooper provides something of a play-by-play in article form:

“Everything is still the same. Obviously it’s part of the business,” Tootoo said. “Players come and go, and that’s basically it. I’m just preparing myself to be in the best shape possible for when we get the call,” Tootoo said.

Tootoo, 29, played with Nashville from the 2002-03 season through 2011-12. He became a fan favorite with his big body checks and aggressive style. Although he set a career high with 30 points in 77 games last season, he played in just three of 10 postseason games. When the rival Red Wings offered him a three-year, $5.7 million contract after free agency started July 1, he thought he had to take it.

“I had no clue they were interested until the 11th hour,” Tootoo said. “They offered me something I couldn’t give up. It’s part of the business.”

Tootoo is back in town to pack up his condo, and he’ll practice with former teammates until he has completed that chore.

The Wings are expected to begin skating in Troy next week. They took the week off to enjoy some time with their families.



Also from Nashville: I spoke to the gents from Fang Faction about the Wings as the gents take a tour around the Central Division. You can listen to the podcast here or via their embedded player. I apologize for being so blabby...it turns out that in real life, I talk just as much as I do on this blog.



A more interesting person answered three questions about the Red Wings in a web chat on Tuesday--ESPN's Craig Custance...

devinbachman (whitmore lake mi): if the lock and all teams back by december 10 is to late to have the winter classic or would still have it

Craig Custance: I believe they would still have it. The Winter Classic is a major pressure point in these talks and it would be a huge blow to have that event cancelled. It's become a New Year's tradition and it would be a blow to have it miss a year.


Ryen (Salt Lake City): Do coaches still receive paychecks? Or will Mike Babcock have to write another business book?

Craig Custance: Coaches get paid. They're not being locked out. Most coaches and GMs will spend this time traveling to their AHL affiliates and to junior leagues scouting young players to help fill the time. Much like many of us writers will.


Wally (Fairfield, CT): Who do you think is the next to wear the "C" in Detroit? Following Yzerman was a tough act for Lidstrom...but now whoever takes that responsibility of following 2 of the best players the game has ever seen. Zetterberg seems like the obvious choice, but it could be someone else...thoughts?

Craig Custance: It'll be Zetterberg. He's becoming more and more of a strong voice in the media and he's one of the best two-way players in the game. He has the respect of the players in that room. It's a no-brainer.

And while I don't want to beat you over the head with lockout talk, Custance did post a substantial teaser from an ESPN Magazine article (damn Insider-only stuff) in which he discusses whether the last lockout was "worth it" with Mike Modano (no), Marty Turco (yes), Bobby Holik (yes), Keith Tkachuk (no) and Dallas Drake (yes):

"I lost money -- we all did," Turco said. "I have no bones about losing money ... it is worth it. There's a lot of money at stake and the future is so much more important than guys in their 30s. This is about guys in their 20s. It's about kids who are six years old. It's unbelievable how important this is."

Last time around, it would have been easy to understand if a guy like Dallas Drake greatly preferred to keep playing rather than sitting out a year. He wasn't a superstar making millions, just a guy beloved by teammates who could usually be counted on to contribute 10-15 goals each year. A guy winding down his career.
"I was totally aware that I wasn't going to play much longer than that. I did understand that there was a good chance I might not play at all. There's a lot of guys in my shoes who made sacrifices," he said.
He's now simply a hockey fan hoping for a quicker outcome than last time.
"I think we did what we thought was best," he said. "And I would do it all over again."

Drake has a stake in this as he coaches the used to coach the Traverse City North Stars of the NAHL, and a substantial part of that team's costs are were subsidized by the Red Wings' prospect tournament and main camp. On Tuesday, the Wings announced that they'd be holding a youth camp at Centre Ice Arena this weekend, and as I suggested on Tuesday evening, it's very important that the Wings cancel camp today or tomorrow so that fans don't get screwed out of their hotel room deposits. 

I understand that the team's decision--and the league's decision--to delay announcing the cancelations of training camps is strategic, and in the Wings' case, they could be encouraging fans to take a four-day weekend vacation in Northwestern Lower Michigan regardless of whether the Wings are skating at Centre Ice Arena, but I find the whole thing to be a little creepy.

I'm going to be out of the office for a good chunk of Wednesday, so Paul will probably end up reporting that the Wings have canceled camp today.



In junior hockey news, Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Vellucci will be taking part in a web chat on Freep.com at 11 AM EDT today, and as the Whalers open their season on Friday against Ryan Sproul and the Soo Greyhounds, it's worth noting that the Greyhounds' website posted a press release suggesting that Sproul won't join fellow Wings prospect and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defenseman Xavier Ouellet in wearing the captain's "C"...Yet...

Overage defenseman COLIN MILLER will join fellow rearguards RYAN SPROUL and DARNELL NURSE, and forward DAVID BROLL as Assistant Captains for the Hounds this weekend.

The London Free Press's Ryan Pyette penned a season preview for each and every one of the OHL team's...


GM: Kyle Dubas. Coach: Mike Stapleton (second year).
Last season: 29-33-2-4, 64 points. Missed playoffs.
The man: Ryan Sproul. Detroit prospect tied for third in the league in scoring by defencemen (23 goals and 54 points) and can be a game-breaker.
Adios: Former first pick Gianluca Curcuruto shipped to Plymouth to play defence after just two seasons.Watch for: First-rounder Jared McCann, who has rookie-of-the-year potential.
They'll be fine if: Top gun Nick Cousins (35-53-88 last season) lives up to his scoring title potential.
Prediction: Slowly emerging from the doghouse.



GM: Jim Paliafito. Coach: Reigning OHL top coach Greg Gilbert (second year).
Last season: 33-27-1-7, 74 points. Lost in second round to London in six.
The man: Centre Vincent Trocheck. Florida third-rounder and Pittsburgh native can be one of the league's most dynamic players and Spirit needs his 29-goal, 85-point performance from last season -- and probably more.
Adios: Dominant Chicago stud Brandon Saad, who racked up 76 points in 44 games. One-third of the team's offence departs with him and linemates Josh Shalla (40 goals) and Michael Fine (67 points).
Watch for: Overage forward Garret Ross, who busted through with 25 goals last season.
They need: Goalie Jake Paterson (Detroit) standing on his head as he did for much of the playoffs.

Prediction: More Gilbert mastery needed to vault up the charts



GM: Dave Reid. Coach: Mike Pelino (third year).
Last season: 27-34-3-4, 61 points. 27-34-3-4, 61 points. Missed playoffs.
The man: Nick Ritchie. He's the class of an impressive group of 1995-born Petes.
Adios: Oft-injured Andrew Yogan had a standout OHL farewell with 41 goals as an overager.
Watch for: Tampa first-rounder Slater Koekkoek. He's a horse at the back end and when he was hurt the club struggled mightily.
They need: Alan Quine, 30-goal man and former No. 2 pick in the draft, to produce along with ex-Storm Francis Menard and ex-Hound Brett Findlay.
Prediction: They're on the long road back.

Andreas Athanasiou will play for the Barrie Colts this season; Richard Nedomlel is the Wings' lone WHL prospect, playing for the Swift Current Broncos; and Phillipe Hudon plays for the Victoriaville Tigres and Martin Frk plays for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL, joining Ouellet in that regard [edit/update: add Marek Tvrdon of the Vancouver Giants to the WHL mix!].

You can refer to RedWingsCentral for a full listing of the Wings prospects' teams, and the Twitter account DRW Prospects is doing a very good job of compliing players' stats on a game-by-game basis.

Regarding Mr. Frk, Yahoo Sports' Cam Charron reports that the Moosheads find themselves battling a near team-wide flu bug, and Frk has to sit on the sidelines for two games thanks to said bug:

So the only lasting effect once players have returned to school, as noted in the Palov story from above, is that Martin Frk's suspension will carry over into the regular season. After taking a spearing major in a preseason game against Cape Breton on September 9, the Detroit Red Wings pick from June was suspended for the final two pre-season games.

But since those games didn't happen, the league announced Monday that they'd carry over the suspension to the start of the regular season, which conveniently takes place in Cape Breton, on Friday. Hopefully the Mooseheads still have enough operable players going forward for that game.



Heading back to the big club, what are the Wings doing to promote themselves? Setting up a bracketed "Alumni Showdown" on their Facebook page, and holding Twitter trivia contests promoting alumni as the team can't talk about their current players (isn't the lockout swell in terms of the NHL imposing content restrictions that all but ensure layoffs?)...


And finally, as previously stated, I'm going to be out of the office for part of, if not most of, the afternoon today as it's time for the mom's six-month skin cancer check-up. She had skin cancer in 2000, so her dermatologist takes a gander at her twice a year. I've got to take her to another appointment on Friday, so I'll be in and out.

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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.


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