The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/28/13 at 03:41 AM ET
Thursday was most certainly a strange day in terms of the players that the Red Wings may end up targeting during free agency, and those targets will continue to change as teams buy out players between now and July 4th, as the Wings make whatever moves they end up making at the draft on Sunday (it will air on TSN and NBCSN from 3-8 PM), and based upon who ends up not re-signing with their current rights-holders...
But this "target-rich environment" has to involve a wee bit of restraint as we ride the roller-coaster that is getting to know seven new Wings on Sunday, bidding farewell to some NHL'ers and welcoming others over the next three weeks, and learning about the team's prospects when a slightly slimmed-down summer development camp takes place in early July.
This week and the next drives me nuts in no small part because so, so, SO MANY DAMN RUMORS pop up regarding players going to destinations X, Y and Z, and so little of the people writing them really know what's going on.
The week before free agency is honestly worse than the three weeks before the trade deadline in terms of the amount of BS that's spewed, and quite a bit of it builds off "insiders" reinterpreting stuff that's already been reported.
The Fourth Period went with this scoop on Thursday evening...
As Vincent Lecavalier looks towards to the future, a number of teams will be knocking on his door between now and the first day of free agency.
Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced their plans to buy out their long-time captain. Lecavalier, 33, is Tampa Bay's all-time leader in games played (1,037), goals (383), powerplay goals (112) and game-winning goals (60).
He will officially become an unrestricted free agent July 5 and several teams, including the Detroit Red Wings, will be contacting his agent, Kent Hughes, to pitch an offer.
Lecavalier, a natural center who can also play the right wing, would be a great addition to the Red Wings, who are looking to bolster their roster this summer and add at least one top-six forward and a top-four defenseman.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland is active on the trade front, willing to trade multiple forwards in exchange for one.
And that last part came from the Free Press's Helene St. James, circa Tuesday morning:
General manager Ken Holland is off to New York in a few days, where he’ll try to clear out the Red Wings’ roster by a couple of players.
The Wings are extending qualifying offers this week to their restricted free agents: forwards Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, and defensemen Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl. Adding Nyquist and Andersson to the roster would put the Wings at 14 forwards under contract for next season, and while that’s how many the Wings plan on carrying, they’re not necessarily planning on carrying those 14.
“I’m going to explore a trade or two,” Holland said Monday. “Maybe a two-for-one deal, maybe a three-for-one, or three-for-two.”
Holland has had talks with the camps for all three of the unrestricted free-agent forwards — Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner — but they’re all part of the puzzle that’ll fall into place over the coming week, vis-a-vis who fits where. It’s almost certain the Wings will end up trading Filppula’s rights, then set out to find a replacement second-line center.
If a trade can’t be worked out to clear roster room, — one of those who’ll be in play is defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who became extraneous with the addition of Danny DeKeyser — then buyouts will be considered next week. It’s a bit murky, but it may be possible to buy out forward Mikael Samuelsson, though he could possibly make a case that he isn’t healthy.
moving any and/or all of Cory Emmerton, Jordin Tootoo, Carlo Colaiacovo and Mikael Samuelsson, exercising their cap-compliance buy-outs as soon as Monday if trades don't materialize over the weekend.
But on the Lecavalier front--and ESPN's Pierre LeBrun confirmed that Lecavalier and any bought-out free agent-to-be can begin to find landing spots as soon as they've been informed of their status--Lecavalier's going to have his pick of destinations...
And the Red Wings are a division rival now.
Could he fit in as a 33-year-old?
Sure, and as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted, Lecavalier mentioned the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens (another division rival) by name during his "farewell" conference call:
Even with the free agency period a week away Lecavalier said he hasn’t put much thought into where he’d like to play next season, but that the Wings will get some consideration.
“I haven’t really thought about that,” Lecavalier said. “(Detroit’s) actually a team I grew up idolizing. Them and Montreal were my favorite teams. Steve Yzerman was my favorite player.”
“My door’s open to everything, but I haven’t made a list yet,” Lecavalier said. “I’m really open to anything. I haven’t pinpointed anything.”
The Wings seem to be a good fit for both parties since they could be in need of a second-line center if they’re unable to come to terms with unrestricted free agent Valtteri Filppula.
Lecavalier’s addition would more than likely allow the Wings to rejoin Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the top line alongside Justin Abdelkader.
“They’re probably one of the best duos in the league,” Lecavalier said of the Wings tandem. “They made the playoffs the last 20 years. It’s a great team, a great organization. It’s definitely a place I would consider.”
Lecavalier could center Johan Franzen and either Gustav Nyquist or another free agent, possibly Damien Brunner if he re-signs with Detroit.
“As a hockey player you want to win,” Lecavalier said. “I want to be happy.”
Lecavalier's resume is impressive, as Fox Sports Detroit's Art Renger noted...
At 6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds, Lecavalier would add size and some grit to the Wings and a high-skill level — even if his skills at 33 years old are beginning to erode. Lecavalier has excellent vision, skates well for his size, possesses tremendous hand-eye coordination and has a laser beam for a shot.
Adding a talent like Lecavalier to the Wings' lineup would enable them to keep Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together on the same line, and provide Johan Franzen a top-notch playmaker to center his line.
Lecavalier has an upbeat attitude, and with Detroit having so many young forwards on the verge of becoming NHL players, his influence would be immeasurable. In 1,037 games played, Lecavalier has accumulated 383 goals and 491 assists. He has 24 goals and 28 assists in 63 career playoff games.
But here's the obvious rub:
Detroit will not be the only team in the running for his services when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 5. But you have to believe that the Wings will be a major player and a team Lecavalier would strongly consider.
“My door's open to everything, but I haven't made a list yet,” Lecavalier said. “I'm really open to anything. I haven't pinpointed anything. I'm so motivated to go somewhere else and prove I can play at a high level. I believe in myself and what I can bring to a team. I want to win.''
A factor that might play well for Detroit is the opportunity of being on the same team with Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
When asked about playing with the Wings' Euro twins, Lecavalier replied, “Definitely playing with those guys (something he will think about) … they're probably one of the best duos in the league. They made the playoffs the last 20 years. It's a great team, a great organization. It's definitely a place I would consider.''
That's swell and all, but the Blackhawks are clearing lots of cap space by using their cap-complaince buy-outs, the Penguins are always aggressive, the Kings are "getting there" in terms of courting players, and playing in Vancouver, for John Tortorella, would place Lecavalier as far away from Tampa Bay as he could get.
It's going to come down to money and term, and while nobody's going to pay Lecavalier the $7.727 million he was earning each season, he's going to want $5+ million per year, and again, the Wings have to re-sign four restricted free agents in Joakim Andersson, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith, they want to re-sign Damien Brunner, who apparently wants to stay, and sans cap-making player moves and buy-outs of their own, the Wings are going to spend the vast majority of the cap space they currently have on retaining their own players (and we don't know whether Daniel Cleary will take a pay cut to stay, either).
Lecavalier wants term as well as $, and the Tampa Tribune handicapped Lecavalier's destinations as follows:
1. Detroit Red Wings: Believe it or not, Lecavalier grew up watching the Red Wings and idolizing their captain, Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings are perennial playoff contenders, but lost the 2013 Western Conference semifinals in seven games to eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago. Detroit also could be in the market for a second-line center. The Red Wings likely will part ways with pending free agent Valtteri Filppula, who is seeking roughly $5 million a year in his new contract.
2. Montreal Canadiens: Any time trade rumors cropped up about Lecavalier - and it happened plenty - Montreal was at the forefront. For years, Habs fans have yearned for a homegrown, French-speaking star. Lecavalier was born in Ile Bizard, a suburb of Montreal. He loves his home city. Interestingly, the general manager of the Canadiens is Marc Bergevin, a former teammate of Lecavalier. But the Montreal spotlight shines brightly on high-profile hockey players, something Lecavalier has long avoided in low-key Florida. Would he be up for a homecoming?
Many folks think that the Habs are the "right fit."
3. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings were frequently on the periphery of Lecavalier trade rumors. The franchise won its first Stanley Cup in 2012, but fell short in its efforts to defend, losing to eventual champ Chicago in the Western Conference finals. The Kings already have Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar at center, but Kopitar was demoted to the third line because of his lack of production during the playoffs. Lecavalier could be an interesting addition if the Kings find the salary cap space.
4. Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers consider themselves perennial playoff contenders. They also have the necessary salary cap space to sign Lecavalier after buying out the contracts of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and forward Danny Briere. Philadelphia would seem to have greater needs - their top six forwards are pretty solid, but they lack a No. 1 goaltender. Still, never count the Flyers out when it comes to making a splashy move.
5. Vancouver Canucks: C'mon. Who wouldn't like to see a reunion of Lecavalier and fiery former Lightning head coach John Tortorella, who just took over the job in Vancouver earlier this week?
ESPN's Craig Custance threw the Maple Leafs, Capitals and Rangers into the mix, as did ESPN's LeBrun, and I'm sure that there's a long list of teams that you can add to that mix, regardless of their cap situations...And here's TSN's Darren Dreger's take on the situation:
Tampa Bay's loss will most certainly be another team's gain.
On the open market, provided the term is right, Vinny Lecavalier will be highly sought after.
Toronto, Montreal and Detroit are expected to be among the heavy-hitters in the line-up, offering somewhere in the neighborhood of three years at $4.5 to $5 million per season. However, if that's the going rate the list of teams interested will grow considerably.
Free agency will definitely be more chaotic thanks to those exercising amnesty buyouts.
The Sports Forecaster's estimation of the 33-year-old center's talents is worth noting, too:
Assets: Possesses tremendous reach, excellent vision and creativity, as well as a deadly shot. Skates very well for a 6-4 center. Has good hand/eye coordination and a winning attitude. Is somewhat physical and a willing combatant.
Flaws: Can go into prolonged scoring funks from time to time. Is in offensive decline, in general. Since he will occasionally drop the gloves, that penalizes his team more because he's needed more on the ice.
Career Potential: Quality, big scoring center on the decline.
What will happen?
I don't know.
The Wings, we have been told, plan on replacing Filppula with another second-line center, and that may or may not involve Lecavalier or someone else whose rights they can acquire or who they can sign as a free agent starting on noon at July 5th--and the "fits" are going to be determined by the players, their agents and the Wings, all of whom can begin negotiating with each other starting on July 1st...
And I would simply encourage you to take all the Twitter chatter and "scoops" from those who write for the sake of web hits and generating buzz (the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi's sensationalization of what is already a tricky situation in terms of the Penguins' negotiations with Kris Letang serves as a prime example thereof) with bags of rock salt. For every 100 "scoops" from "insiders," maybe one or two will actually take place, regardless of whether we're talking about draft-day trades or free agent signings. Please bear in mind that agents and GM's are often talking through those "insiders," too, and that muddling the picture and/or furthering certain agendas is part of their business.
We've got a ways to go before all is said and done, and the Wings aren't going to sign eight gabillion free agents or move half their damn roster. It only seems that way given what's going around.
Frankly, if you have an hour to spend watching Ken Holland and Tom Wilson talk about the Wings' on and off-ice fortunes, you might find more clarification than anything, and Holland spent the vast majority of his time reinforcing the, "We're going to build from within" theory than anything else (though he suggests that the Wings may look for a top-three defenseman, but that trading is the only way to find them at this point; Tom Wilson reports that HBO's 24/7 cameras will follow the Wings leading up to the Winter Classic):
In other news, I can only offer a smirk in NHL.com's Corey Masisak's suggestion that Pavel Datsyuk would have been the 1st overall selection had the 1998 draft, which involved Lecavalier being taken first by the Bolts, been re-held in retrospect. That's a good reminder of how inexact a science drafting remains, and how important the "player development" part of the equation is in terms of determining which picks ultimately mature into pro hockey players.
In foreign-language news, part 1: Valtteri Filppula told YLE.fi's Jaakko Perttila that there have been "some" contract discussions with the Wings, and he'd love to remain with the team that drafted him, but once free agency hits, he's not required to do so (thanks for the news flash, Fil);
In foreign-language news, part 2: Tomas Jurco spoke with Hockej.sk on Thursday, and again, as Slovak is not my strong suit, here are the highlights of his interview:
1. Again, as noted last night, Jurco readily admits that he struggled mightily through the first half of his rookie season, and that it took until January for him to really hit his stride;
2. He's very grateful for the Griffins' Calder Cup win and was very happy with the level of support the team received from the fans in Grand Rapids;
3. He had a rough time celebrating on the plane ride home as he was sick and nursing an injured elbow that required antibiotic treatment, so he was cuddled up under a blanket while his teammates had their fill;
4. Flying on Red Bird III versus having to take a 12-hour bus ride to Syracuse was huge in terms of giving the Griffins an edge for Game 6;
5. He's literally crossing his fingers regarding getting the size of his championship ring right, because his QMJHL championship rings are so big that they fall off his fingers;
6. He says that the AHL is a very high-paced league in which there isn't much time to make plays, and it's very hard to get the puck back when you lose it, which wasn't the case in the QMJHL;
7. Among his many difficult opponents, he says that Paul Mara looked like a player who'd played in 700 NHL games as he couldn't beat Mara in terms of skating or passing, and he couldn't beat Mara's strength;
8. He thinks that the AHL's a better league than European pro hockey due to the pace and dimensions of the rink;
9. He's hoping to simply get in a couple of games with the Wings this season as a call-up because he knows he's got a long way to go in terms of developing as a professional hockey player;
10. Again, he feels that winning two QMJHL titles, a Memorial Cup and a Calder Cup during his first three seasons in North America boils down to good fortune;
11. Tomas Tatar helped him learn that players must constantly work on improving their skills and conditioning while being patient and waiting for their NHL opportunities;
12. The Wings are very happy with his progress but want him to get stronger and gain some weight, which he plans on doing after the Slovak pre-Olympic gathering on July 2nd;
13. And he knows that being invited to said powwow doesn't guarantee him a spot on the team.
Speaking of last night's Slovak gabba, ahem:
In foreign-language news, part 3: Igor Larionov spoke with Sports Day by Day's Tatyana Chernova recently, and he stated that:
1. He was impressed by the Blackhawks' puck-possession style of play as it reminds him of the way the Wings play(ed);
2. He brought top prospect Valeri Nichushkin to the Wings' series against Anaheim to allow his client to see the pace of NHL hockey and meet Pavel Datsyuk, and he had stated that Ildar Telyakov would be attending the Wings' summer development camp as well;
3. As an agent, he tries to mentor his players and impress upon them the concept that making the NHL involves both significant physical, mental, nutritional and time commitments.
Larionov is very, very serious about preparing his clients for the rigors of professional hockey as well as trying to ensure that they become responsible adults in what he acknowledges is a media-saturated world where mistakes are magnified and the Don Cherrys of the world now lurk on Twitter and blogs (of course) as well as newspapers and on TV, so...He does his best to ensure that his clients know what they're in for.
In charitable news, from the Griffins:
The Grand Rapids Griffins’ “Put A Lid On It!” bike helmet program is encouraging kids to participate in two great local bike races this weekend.
Friday’s inaugural Zeeland Criterium will kick off with a 6 p.m. kids’ race, while Saturday’s Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium in downtown Grand Rapids will feature the 3 p.m. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Kids’ Race, which will immediately precede the men’s pro race.
Both kids’ races are free to enter and allow children the opportunity to ride on the same courses as the professionals. Helmets must be worn.
On Friday in Zeeland, kids can register (with a parent) starting at 5 p.m. at Main Street Bicycle Company (201 E. Main Ave.). Kids 7 and under will ride a 100-foot section of the course, while those 7 and older will ride one full lap (.7 miles).
On Saturday in downtown Grand Rapids, registration begins at 1 p.m. near the intersection of Ionia and Weston, next to Van Andel Arena. For the sixth consecutive year, the first 150 kids who don’t own a helmet can receive and be properly fitted for a free one, courtesy of the Griffins’ “Put A Lid On It!” program and Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids. The kids’ race will consist of three heats: Heat 1 (one .8-mile lap) for ages 6-9; Heat 2 (one lap) for ages 4-6; and Heat 3 (200 meters) for ages 4 and under.
And in less-than-charitable news, the fundraising drive for the Wings' development camp is still on:
I would like to attend the Red Wings' summer development camp from July 9-16 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, email@example.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.