The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/06/13 at 06:13 AM ET
Updated with Drew Miller talk at 7:07 AM: After doing this blogging thing for six-plus years, I can tell you for an observed fact that the two "deadest" periods of the Red Wings news cycle year involve the first week to two weeks after the Wings' season ends and early August. It's particularly understandable this year as the Wings' press corps suddenly found themselves caught up in a 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby and then two seven-game playoff series, including one that involved as much time spent flying commercial as it did covering Red Wings stories.
So this week and this month are the busiest of the Red Wings' off-season, with each and every one of the Red Wings' players not still playing for the AHL's Western Conference Champion Grand Rapids Griffins taking part in exit interviews with the team's coaching, training staff and management, the coaches and management reviewing the Wings' regular season and playoff performances, and the management preparing for its annual pre-draft and pre-free-agency powwow, which will include the team's amateur scouts, pro scouts, prospect mentors and everyone from Jimmy Devellano to (possibly) Al Sobotka.
Okay, maybe not Al, but close.
As such, people like me are finding themselves taking deep breaths and catching up on five full months' lack of sleep (okay, minus the norovirus fun, but that was actually horrific) whether we want to or not, and many of you are passionately arguing about the worth of Johan Franzen and obsessively building potential Wings rosters on Capgeek.
So while the press coverage takes a brief pause, you can be assured that the front office will be putting in hundreds, if not thousands of hours into the next couple weeks' worth of negotiations with player agents (based upon those exit interviews), probably dozens of mock drafts, free agency scenarios as the cap compliance buy-out market plays out, extensive reviews of the team's play over the past season and reports from the Grand Rapids Griffins' Calder Cup Final, as well as the NHL's Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.
All of the front office's hours of work will, regrettably, boil down to seven educated guesses at the draft, attempts to convince UFA's-to-be Damien Brunner, Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary and Valtteri Filppula and their agents to take less than market value to remain in Detroit, to sign RFA's-to-be Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson before there's a remote possibility of any of them receiving offer sheets on July 5th, possibly flipping a free agent-to-be's rights at the draft, moving a body or two up front and/or on defense to account for Nyquist, Andersson and Tomas Tatar being full-time Wings and Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi returning to health (via cap compliance buy-outs, hello Mikael Samuelsson, and/or trades, i.e. bye bye, Carlo Colaiacovo), assuming that the team doesn't just deal with a bloated roster and exceeding the cap until the last day of the exhibition season to let players decide who stays and who goes for themselves...
And of course making bids for a couple of free agent forwards and defensemen on and after noon on July 5th. And preparing for the summer development camp. And accounting for the playoff performances of the Griffins. And then rebuilding the Griffins' roster because some of the veterans will leave and some of the prospects won't be re-signed(see: what to do about AHL-only-signed Luke Glendening and Chad Billins, UFA-to-be Francis Pare and RFA's Tom McCollum, Jordan Pearce and Brent Raedeke, who may not be re-signed, as well as the AHL-only-signed Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan, Nathan Paetsch, Brennan Evans and Brett Skinner).
In terms of what we learned over the last 24 hours while the behind-the-scenes work goes on in private, Jimmy Devellano dropped quite the bomb regarding Johan Franzen's contract to Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner...
“Every contract we do isn’t going to be perfect,” said Jimmy Devellano, Red Wings senior vice president. “We have Franzen on a long-term contract. We’ve made a commitment to him, so he’s somebody we have to live with. But at least once in a while he scores a few goals. That he does do.”
Holland spoke to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness about Damien Brunner...
“It's a hard league to score goals in,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He scored a lot of goals early and then he went through a stretch where he didn't score very much and then he seemed to get a second wind. I think he got five playoff goals in 14 games which is a lot of goals. Again, meet with the coaches. My initial reaction is we probably want to re-sign him but I've got to go through the process.”
As well as the incredibly high likelihood that the team will retain Jonas Gustavsson's services...
“He didn't work out because he didn't play,” Holland said. “I would say to you first off, over 82 games, there's a little more opportunity to try things when you get into a 48-game schedule, and you’re trying to stay afloat. Sometimes we get into a position, we can do trial balloons, we can try things out. We were trying to eke out a win every night to stay afloat.”
The Wings rode Jimmy Howard all season.
“We got hit with so many injuries and had so many things going on, I've heard many managers talk, it was a different year,” Holland said. “It was fast. It was 48 games in 99 nights. With the last 15 games, if you're the coach, you're going to the same guys over and over again. We couldn't afford to lose a game. It might have put us out. I think that has to factor into the evaluation and assessment of not only the team, but also of some individual players. It was a unique year. The longer the season, the more opportunities you have to try things. This was a sprint.”
And this morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James weighed in as to whether Brunner, Miller, Cleary and Filppula will stay or go:
The Wings have four forwards in that group: Damien Brunner, Daniel Cleary, Valtteri Filppula and Drew Miller. There are 11 forwards (including Tomas Tatar) already under contract for next season, and at some point, deals will be worked out with restricted free agents Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson. That brings the number to 13, one below the 14 the Wings plan to carry.
Add in Bertuzzi, Helm and Samuelsson, and the Wings have 17 forwards, which is...A problem.
Teams don’t have to worry about roster limits in the off-season, and the Wings do want to keep several of their UFAs. Brunner and Cleary are the top priorities. Miller is versatile and has done a very good job for the Wings, but given the scarcity of jobs, Miller may well want to test the market himself.
Miller is 29 and could very well earn twice to three times the $850,000 the Wings paid him as he can kill penalties, deliver 10-12 rock-solid defensive minutes on the 3rd line and occasionally sub as a second-line forward. It's really up to him. The fact that Andersson, Helm, Eaves and Emmerton all have regular spots on the current roster as defensive forwards, that Jordin Tootoo will be retained, and the fact that Tatar is going to join the mix (that's six of the 12 forwards who will dress every night, though Emmerton and Eaves may be deemed expendable depending on how the roster crunch shakes out) may help push Miller out the door.
Filppula certainly is headed in the same direction, unless he wants to take less to stay in Detroit. This is his first time as an unrestricted, and despite subpar numbers this season — or numbers that mirror all but his 2011-12 season, when he reached 66 points — some team will offer him financial largesse and long term. The Wings might go as high as $4.25 million a season, but Filppula and his camp knows he’ll get $5 million on the market.
I adored the USA Today quip about there being a league-wide and likely payday-ensuring romance regarding Filppula's talent as opposed to his results, and yesterday, I talked about Filppula's chance to cash in as a 29-year-old who made $3.5 million and could definitely earn $5 million from somebody who looks at his 66-point 2011-2012 season, ignores his point-per-every-other-game-max status for the balance of his career, and sees the crop of free agents and falls head-over-heels in love with the Flashy but Streaky and Frustrating Finn.
He made $3.5 million in real-world money this past season, and he's going to get a lot more from a team that's not Detroit.
G-o-n-e. Especially with Datsyuk likely to re-sign and even the Fourth Period's suggestion that discussions between the Wings and Datsyuk's agent, Gary Greenstin, are underway as a probably accurate report. At best, Fil's flipped for a draft pick.
Holland said one of the areas in which the team wants to improve is in “scoring more goals,” and Brunner fits into that plan in spades. He cooled off in the second half but that was partly because of a sore hip flexor, plus he was adjusting to the hectic pace of an NHL lockout season after the leisurely pace of the Swiss league. Brunner rebounded with five goals in the playoffs, the most among his teammates.
Staying, probably at up to or around $3 million a season. Way more than the $1.4425 million he earned last season.
Cleary’s stock soared in the playoffs after topping the team with five points in the Chicago series and finishing second on the Wings with 10 points. He brings good size, net-front presence for power plays, and his intangibles include great leadership in the locker room.
I don't know what to think about Cleary. He obviously won't want to take less than the $3 million he earned this past season, he was fantastic in the playoffs and he clearly loves being a Red Wing, but he's 34, he's a point-every-other-game player who was invisible at times when the Wings really needed him to compliment Justin Abdelkader's skills, and the man has some incredibly, incredibly hard miles on his body.
His degenerative knee issues and chronic groin problems are scary, and while the Wings love their good soldiers...
But even if the Wings buy out Samuelsson and end up with more than their $11.95 million in cap space (Samuelsson is owed $3 million for the 2013-2014 season), you've got to figure that the 4 RFA's will cost a little over $1 million apiece to retain, Brunner could earn $3 million (4x1 + 3 = $7 million), and if you add Miller and/or Cleary to the mix, the Wings might be taking themselves out of the running both roster and cap-space-wise in terms of bidding for a Bryan Bickell, Nathan Horton or a top-four defenseman, depending on which direction they want to go in this summer.
What are the Wings going to do?
I don't really know. I'm glad they're paid much more than we are to put in what will end up being thousands of man-hours into making a little over a dozen player personnel decisions at the NHL level and half-a-dozen more in terms of rounding out the Grand Rapids Griffins' 2013-2014 season roster.
Regarding those Griffins, as noted last night, the Griffins defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 5-4 in a wild and woolly Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, and they've advanced to kick off what will be a Northeast-ish Division rivalry with Steve Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning by battling the AHL's Syracuse Crunch for the Calder Cup.
The Crunch's roster is largely made up of players from the 2012 Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals, and the series will begin with back-to-back games in Syracuse, NY on Friday and Saturday. Games 3-5 will take place at Van Andel Arena, on Wednesday, June 12th, Friday, June 14th and Saturday, June 15th.
The Griffins website's highlight clip is worth re-posting...
And a very late-breaking recap from the New Holland Sentinel's Lee Lamberts adds a few more quips and quotes to the mix:
[Tomas] Jurco's goal, with 6 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the game, lifted the Griffins to a 5-4 win over the Barons and moved the Detroit Red Wings' farm affiliate into the American Hockey League championship series for the first time in team history.
"I got the puck in our zone and I saw their defenseman didn't have any speed," Jurco said of his seventh postseason goal. "Frankie (Pare) was skating on my right side and I tried to fake a pass to him and I kind of went in the middle of the ice between the two (defenseman), and I shot low under (Danis') blocker. There's no time to think, you just do whatever you feel like. I guess it was lucky it went in."
For his effort, Jurco got a shaving-cream facial from teammate Triston Grant.
"It tastes horrible," Jurco said. "But it's worth it."
Jurco's goal snapped the fourth tie of the game and touched off a wild celebration in front of the Grand Rapids net with goalie Petr Mrazek buried in the middle. Mrazek stopped 35 of the Barons' 39 shots, but Jurco's goal was the difference.
"I think this was my biggest goal ever," Jurco said. "I got a couple of big ones in the Memorial Cup (a trophy awarded for a junior program of the Canadian Hockey League), but I think this is bigger. It's a man league, not kid's hockey like Tomas Tatar says."
Lamberts continues, but Jurco's game-winner is the thrust of his narrative.
And in Swedish, Gustav Nyquist told Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom that the Griffins are well aware of the fact that most of the Crunch's roster is attempting to repeat its Calder Cup-winning performance.
In other news, this quip from Penguins GM Ray Shero, made to the National Post's Bruce Arthur, made me cringe:
“What if Lidstrom scores?” asks Ray Shero, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, in a quiet moment last week. He remembers asking Billy Guerin that question, maybe a year ago or something — what if Lidstrom scored? What then? “He said, ‘don’t tell me that. I don’t want to think about it,’” says Shero. “Who knows?”
Instead, the Penguins won a Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby won a Stanley Cup. Evgeni Malkin won a Stanley Cup. Guys like those, generational guys, are supposed to fulfill that prophecy. And because Nicklas Lidstrom didn’t score in the final seconds of Game 7, because Marc-André Fleury threw his body at the puck like he was shielding a President from an assassin, they did.
Ditto for these quips from Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill, made to the Dallas News's Mike Heika:
On the coaching search
“Sometimes names pop up you don’t think about. It’s been good.”
On if there are guys who are still coaching right now they’re considering
“Yeah, there are some guys still and there are some guys, teams have finished up and they’re still going through the process of exit interviews. So, we’re just taking our time and waiting for things to happen.”
On if hiring a veteran coach is a prerequisite
“It’s not a prerequisite. A great example is Mike Babcock. He had to come from somewhere. They just don’t fall out of the sky. So, you want to be careful. Yes, you want experience. It’s important but there are some coaches who have been in the minors who have gained experience maybe doing better jobs coaching in the minors than up top sometimes, so we’re looking at all different angles of coaches and all different types of personalities.”
On if there is a huge line between experienced and inexperienced coaches
“No, there’s not. I kind of was talking with a bunch of reporters and where did Mike Babcock come from? He just didn’t fall from the sky and end up behind Detroit’s bench. There’s some great coaches in the minors. Experience is important, yes. But these guys in the minors have gained a lot of experience too, maybe more than some NHL coaches. You start riding those busses and playing four games in five nights, how do you motivate a team? How do you prepare them? There’s some great young coaches in the minors too, so I’m not going to say I’ve got to have experience because those guys they’re experienced also. You’ve got to keep an open mind.”
And again, I really don't understand why the Wings allowed Nill to take an active role in the Stars' draft as he's spent the last 12 months scouting players for the Wings and serving as the nexus for the Red Wings amateur scouts' impressions and reports regarding this year's draft class:
On if he has a good feel for the draft
“We know who we’re looking at. We’ve narrowed it down to three or four players and we have that extra pick in the first, which we can do a lot of different scenarios with that. So, we’re excited about it.”
On what their biggest needs are
“You look at our roster and it’s no secret we need some help down the middle and we need some help in the back end. So, those are probably the positions we’re looking at. Now, if a player comes along that is just so good at some other position, we’ll also look at that.”
On how deep this draft is
“This is a very strong talent pool. This draft reminds me a lot of the draft where [Ryan] Getzlaf and all of those guys, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, the 2003 Draft. That was a strong draft. This reminds me of that. In the end, there’s going to be some guys picked in the second round that are as good as a lot of guys picked in the first.”
In the GM's meetings rule-changing department, there is no news as to whether Niklas Kronwall visor-as-a-sun-shield-wearing will be illegal for new NHL players (Landon Ferraro does a really good Kronwall impersonation visor-wise), but it should come as no surprise that the Associated Press found that there will be some serious give and take between the NHL, NHLPA and equipment manufacturers as to what constitutes legal visor-wearing before the rule's instituted, and as you might imagine, enforcers are more worried about denting their fingers on young whipper-snappers wearing visors than they are about people protecting their eyes...
And, as Sportsnet's Mark Spector noted, the NHL and NHLPA have decided to form a committee to regulate both player and goaltending equipment, and let's just say that the by-committee approach doesn't work very well in terms of instituting real changes:
The same process has bogged down the downsizing of goalie equipment, even though it has been plainly obvious for most of two decades that the inflated gear is intended to stop pucks rather than protect the person underneath all the paraphernalia.
It has been nearly 20 years after Patrick Roy debuted his clown pants and a jersey purchased at Tent City; since Garth Snow and J.S. Giguere and Glenn Healy and every other goalie in the ’90s laughed quietly at the poor fellows sent to measure their gear on behalf of another neutered NHL equipment committee.
And on Wednesday morning, behind the stock visual of a ridiculously tall goalie pad, we heard the TV commentator’s voice warned cheating goalies to “Watch out, you cheating goalies.”
Yes, some two decades after the crime was perpetrated, the hockey police have showed up on the scene, looking for evidence the rest of the hockey world has been examining for most of two decades.
They’ll form a sub-committee that will be tasked with making future decisions on equipment – everything from goalie pads to shoulder pads and helmets. We can’t wait.
Because we’d all agree: The NHL and NHLPA need another joint committee.
Long story long, it may take a couple of years, with the emphasis being on "a couple," before things get sorted out. And I believe the rule is that any player who's played in more than 27 regular season and/or playoff games before the 2013-2014 season begins is exempt from visor-grandfathering, so even Tomas Tatar can choose to doff a visor if he wishes.
In what seems like ironic-in-that-light news, the Grand Rapids Griffins will give away 200 bicycle helmets to kids on June 10th and June 12th at 2 Grand Rapids-area locations;
And I can only react to this picture by saying, "Dear Gord, man, don't hurt yourself!"
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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.