The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/05/13 at 01:58 AM ET
Given the last couple of months' worth of comments from the Red Wings over the past couple of months, never mind the last couple of weeks or days, or taking the team's cap situation and roster crunches into account, it's very evident that Detroit won't be particularly active today, save attempting to re-sign Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary and attempting to bring in a second line center.
Given the hundreds and hundreds of comments made over the past couple of days, there is an assumption that everything would be different if Jim Nill were in charge instead of Ken Holland.
Such suggestions do not take into account a simple fact: the Detroit Red Wings are not a team whose decisions are solely made by Ken Holland. The Red Wings are run by a management team which consults its pro scouts, its ownership, and yes, its coaches before making major moves, and while Holland has the final say, he is not some lone cowboy going on his gut feeling.
The Red Wings have a defacto assistant GM in Ryan Martin, who's also the team's capologist and now the GM of the Grand Rapids Griffins, and Martin has to make sure that moves make sense going forward in both CBA-constrained terms and in terms of the "pushes" that the Calder Cup-winning Griffins may make for roster spots over the next three to five seasons.
Martin has director of player development Jiri Fischer, player mentor Chris Chelios and goalie coaches Chris Osgood and Jim Bedard, as well as the Grand Rapids' coaching staff in Jeff Blashill and Jim Paek, to serve as reality checks in that department.
They have a GM-in-training in Kris Draper, who's been working with the team for two years now, and, if we are to believe what's been said about him, Draper's well on his way to being someone's assistant GM sooner than later.
The Wings have a team of pro scouts who answer to Mark Howe, and their ranks include a former player in Kirk Maltby, and they have a group of amateur scouts who answer to Joe McDonnell--who just brought eight new prospects into the Wings' system--and their ranks include Swedish super-scout Hakan Andersson.
The team has Jimmy Devellano's decades of experience at their beck and call, the team has ownership that will never turn down a move that the Wings believe will make the team better in Mike, Marian and Chris Ilitch...
And yes, the team does consult its coaching staff in Mike Babcock, Tom Renney and Bill Peters regarding player personnel needs.
The Wings' front office held a powwow with all of the aforementioned members in attendance prior to the draft, and I'm sure that they've held meetings and conference calls with the vast majority thereof since the draft and over the past couple of days, as the cap compliance buy-out market has changed the face of the free agent class that's officially going to start signing crazy-money deals at noon EDT today.
Since the Wings front office reluctantly began to embrace a youth movement that delivered a two-round, 14-game playoff run, they've stated that the team plans on sticking to its guns for the most part.
Danny DeKeyser's signing and performance all but assured that the Wings would not be adding a defenseman unless they can find one via a trade, and someone like Alex Edler would cost a top-four defenseman and a top prospect in return. The Wings essentially bought out Carlo Colaiacovo because the growth of Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and DeKeyser made Colaiacovo redundant at best.
Between extending Pavel Datsyuk's services and the fact that Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar have all earned full-time promotions for this upcoming season, there was little doubt that the team would feel a distinctive need to add much more than a goal-scoring winger, and as we have been told by the beat writers, the team's free agent focus has shifted to replacing Valtteri Filppula with another second-line center.
Cap-wise and roster-wise, the Wings have enough money to re-sign Nyquist, Andersson and Brendan Smith as restricted free agents, to attempt to retain Damien Brunner and perhaps Daniel Cleary's services, and in terms of a team admittedly perilously close to the 50-man roster limit, enough space to add another free agent forward, especially given that the team's crossing its fingers about Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi returning to health (and there isn't a market for Cory Emmerton or Jordin Tootoo given the number of similar players availiable for free at noon today).
Maybe, if they really feel excited about a free agent defenseman being an upgrade to Kyle Quincey, they'll add a body on the blueline as well as a forward. Otherwise?
This team didn't have the assets to go after someone like Tyler Seguin (the Wings dont have a second-line, goal-scoring forward that would have interested the Bruins to begin with, the Stars gave up the equivalent of Ryan Sproul, Tomas Jurco and Landon Ferraro, and the Stars will not be playing the Boston Bruins six times during the 2013-2014 season like Detroit will), and making a Shawn Horcoff-style deal (giving up a Jakub Kindl in return) would have blown the team's cap space.
The Wings are not a rebuilding team that had the cap space and prospects to burn that Dallas did. The Wings are not willing to spend for the sake of spending (Nathan Horton is not a $6 million-plus player and David Clarkson is not a $5-6 million player).
The cap's gone down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, and that changes everyone's situation.
And if you're wondering where this, "The Wings are worried about Lecavalier/Iginla/Morrow's ability to keep pace with the game Detroit plays" line of thinking comes from, it's not Ken Holland talking.
That's Babcock. And if he doesn't believe that a forward can keep up, the management listens.
So the management team will move cautiously on a day that throws caution to the winds, and that's probably going to piss most of you off.
I don't necessarily agree with the team's lack of movement going into free agency or what will probably be a lack of moves over the next two weeks, either, but I'm not running the damn team.
But none of this is "new news." None of this is something dropped on us like a meteor from above.
As MLive's Ansar Khan suggests, the team is also understandably concerned with the fact that signing any of the avaialble UFA's they're interested in to long-term deals might hurt the team down the line--because the Wings are already going to feel the pinch from not being able to buy out Samuelsson, for starters...
The NHL's free agent crop gets thinner and less appealing every year as teams lock up their best players to long-term deals. What remains is a small group of noteworthy players that many teams bid for, inflating their prices (money and term).
Weiss may not be an option, as it turns out...
The Red Wings' primary need is a second-line center. Florida's Stephen Weiss, 30, has been their main focus for weeks. But, they may not be willing to meet his contract demands, expected to be at least five years and more than $5 million per season.
Washington's Mike Ribeiro is seeking a similar deal. That's more than the Red Wings would be willing to give a 33-year-old.
Detroit might seek lower-cost options like Tyler Bozak (Toronto), Matt Cullen (Minnesota) or Derek Roy (Vancouver). The Red Wings spoke to Senators captain and franchise mainstay Daniel Alfredsson on Thursday, as did the Boston Bruins, but he is expected to re-sign with Ottawa.
And the asking prices are kind of silly right now, Valtteri Filppula's included:
This free agent class is void of bona fide superstars. The closest would be Boston center Nathan Horton. But, his reported asking price of six years at $6 million a season, coupled with injury concerns (concussion, shoulder), make him a risky acquisition.
New Jersey right wing David Clarkson has a nice combination of scoring ability and toughness, but he is seeking a seven-year deal worth between $5 million and $6 million per season. The Red Wings aren't getting into a bidding war for him.
The club has not made any headway in talks with Valtteri Filppula because the enigmatic forward wants a seven-year pact in excess of $5 million per season. He is generating a lot of interest. Tampa Bay and Columbus are possible landing spots.
What's the plan if they don't retain Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner?
The Red Wings have spoken to the representatives of wingers Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow, both formerly of Pittsburgh. They were high on Chicago's speedy Viktor Stalberg, but that was before he disappeared in the playoffs (no goals, three assists in 19 games).
Other available wingers include Ryane Clowe (Rangers), Mason Raymond (Vancouver) and Peter Mueller (Florida).
And, as Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner notes, there is Mikhail Grabovski...and, to a lesser extent, Alfredsson:
Grabovski, 29, is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 183 pounds, skates exceptionally well, has terrific playmaking ability and, perhaps most important, is extremely close to the Wings' Pavel Datsyuk. Three times in his five-year NHL career, Grabovski has scored at least 20 goals, with his best season being in 2010-11, when he had 29 goals and 58 points.
Grabovski was placed on unconditional waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and must clear waivers on Friday at noon before the Wings can approach the creative Russian forward. If Grabovski goes unclaimed, which is a distinct possibility, he'll become an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team but the Leafs.
It’s not a stretch to think that the Datsyuk connection would make Detroit the frontrunners; however, after he was placed on waivers, Grabovski unleashed a profanity-laced tirade toward Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle in an interview with TSN.
You have to wonder how Grabovski’s volatile personality would mesh with Wings coach Mike Babcock, regardless of his relationship with Datsyuk.
Alfredsson is a completely different story. The captain of the Ottawa Senators, it’s hard to imagine that the Swedish legend would finish his NHL career with any other team but Ottawa. Alfredsson, 40, has spent his entire 17-year NHL career with the Senators, but according to reports, Alfredsson is entertaining offers from other teams, including the Red Wings.
Detroit GM Ken Holland spoke to Alfredsson’s camp on Thursday and was informed that the right-handed shooting center will make his decision Friday morning. From all accounts, it’s down to three teams for Alfredsson: the Wings, Senators and the Boston Bruins. He's been in negotiations with the Senators throughout this process, which makes you believe he will remain with them.
Alfredsson is looking for a one-year deal, which appeals to the Wings, who are apprehensive to commit to a long-term deal with any of this year’s crop of UFAs.
Unlike other teams, the Wings aren't as optimistic about the salary cap rebounding to $70 million in short order, as Holland suggested to USA Today's Kevin Allen...
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he is hearing lot of teams would like to add some pieces, "but they are squeezed" by the new salary cap.
"We have a move or two left," Holland said.
The Red Wings would consider a move to add a defenseman to play in their top four, but Holland said concedes that he doesn't see many options in the marketplace. The Red Wings are also looking for a player to move into their top six forwards and Weiss seems like a likely target.
Take note from Mr. Clean, folks:
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he doesn't see much difference between how the teams are managing their cap this summer and how they have in the past.
"They are adjusting their practices accordingly," he said.
The big question for the teams is what's going to happen next season and beyond in the new CBA, which takes the owners and players to a 50-50 split of revenue. [Player agent Allan] Walsh predicts the salary cap will be at $80 million within three years. Daly has a different take.
"There is no expectation that the cap will grow dramatically next year," he said. "We expect growth, but relatively modest growth."
In "the spirit of the thing," the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa suggests that the Wings aren't as small, as old or as non-physical as those who fear the team's move to the Eastern Conference yielding a Wings team being manhandled up and down the ice might indicate...
First, the Red Wings are not among the smallest teams in the NHL, and Western teams are not significantly smaller than those in the East. But a lot of the stuff about physical aspects of the game is generally true.
There is not a statistic for physical play, but there are statistics that suggest physicality: hits, fights, blocks and penalties. Eastern teams generally hit and fight more, block more shots and take more penalties. But the quicker, skilled teams in the East, like the Penguins, Canadiens and Capitals, vied for the top playoff spots last season. So does it much matter?
Asked if the Red Wings must adjust their game to win in the East, coach Mike Babcock said he talked to one of his former assistants, Paul MacLean, who moved to the East two seasons ago to coach the Senators. MacLean justly won the 2013 Jack Adams Award for the coach who contributed most to the success of his team.
“I asked him the same question,” Babcock said. “He says it’s more physically demanding right from the get-go, as far as fighting and physicality. But he told me that he just did what he always did. And so, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to understand that might be part of it, but we’re going to get prepared.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has acknowledged in recent years the two big criticisms of his roster are size and lack of belligerence. In some of the new, young players in the lineup, the choices last weekend in the draft and perhaps in any signings of free agents beginning at noon today, the Red Wings clearly are getting bigger. But are they rougher and do they need it to compete successfully in the East?
“Boston is a big team and has had lots of success,” Holland said. “Montreal had a lot of success and they are not quite as big. Toronto is fast ...We’d like to get five percent better.”
It may surprise some, but the Red Wings do not seem to need much more size. Not counting goaltenders, the average weight of a player in the West last season was 203.1 pounds. In the East, 203.7 pounds. On the Red Wings roster, the average was 204.4.
That was sixth-heaviest in the West, where the Kings were largest at 207.3. The Red Wings would have been seventh-biggest in the East, where the Lightning were largest at 209.3.
He continues at length, with stats and such...
And all I can say is that while I understand that some of you are slightly dissatisfied with the team's free agency plans, and that most of you are moderately to incredibly dissatisfied with the team's free agency plans...
Before the 2013 season began, many of you were lamenting the fact that the "kids" didn't get to play. The Wings' moves this past summer certainly indicated that Mikael Samuelsson and Carlo Colaiacovo would be playing instead.
They got hurt, and on defense, Jakub Kindl proved that he's an every-day defenseman, Brendan Smith was an adventure but has promise, and Danny DeKeyser essentially was the team's unrestricted free agent signing--which we were told at the time.
Up front, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist were supposed to play for the Griffins, and instead, they became indispensable players, booting Jordin Tootoo and Todd Bertuzzi to the press box in the playoffs. Ditto for Damien Brunner, who the Wings desperately want to retain, and now the team's going to make room for Tomas Tatar.
In goal, the team's sticking with Jonas Gustavsson very specifically because they've got a goalie who can either salvage himself with one year and $1.5 million remaining on his deal, or he'll give way to Petr Mrazek, who the team believes is too valuable to sit on the bench for 50 games while Howard continues to live up to his contract.
Kindl, Smith, DeKeyser, Andersson, Nyquist, Tatar, hopefully Brunner. They're all going to play.
The Wings managed to keep Pavel Datsyuk around for what will be a total of four more seasons, too, and that was the other panic-inducing worry. His extension is very reasonable.
Drew Miller came back at a silly discount, too.
In terms of dead weight, Colaiacovo's been bought out, and it sounds like the team would have bought Samuelsson out if it could have done so.
I am as disappointed as anyone that the Wings didn't flip Valtteri Filppula's rights to another team, but they didn't.
It sounds like Daniel Cleary wants more term than the Wings are willing to offer him given his degenerative knee issue and his history of groin injuries.
I simply can't blame the Wings for hanging on to Emmerton and Tootoo for insurance purposes lest Helm or Bertuzzi remain on the sidelines, but we know that their names were in play, and that their futures in Detroit are less than secure if they do anything less than prove that they're worth roster spots during training camp and the exhibition season. The same could be true for Patrick Eaves--and that's all because Andersson, Nyquist and Tatar are going to be playing on regular bases.
The optics look terrible, but the lack of moves this summer can be directly attributed to the team's commitment to sticking with the young players you wanted to see them play, the free agent defenseman and last-year-of-his-contract forward you wanted to see them sign, and because every playoff game the Wings played gave credence to the concept that the present roster mix,warts and all, can get the job done with a few positive tweaks.
Is that the "right way to go?" *#$%@& if I know. But it's not one person making these decisions. It's a *#$%@& team, and we can only hold them accountable based upon their results or the lack thereof as they play out over the season to come.
I understand that many of you don't like the "we've had enough growth from within" line, but it's what you and me both demanded to see after last year's spectacular flop that was not signing Zach Parise or Ryan Suter and not having any back-up plans save some lateral moves because the Wings' back-up plans went elsewhere while the Wings and you and I waited.
So it's not going to be a particularly exciting free agent period because we got what we hoped for. The Wings will probably sign some sort of Filppula replacement today, and if they don't keep Brunner, they may go after a winger.
While other teams spend and hold press conferences and commit long-term cap dollars to players who may or may not pan out, we're going to watch the Wings commit to what they've got and to financial sense.
That ain't fun. But when you look at the team's decision-making as coaching and management team making a collective decision as opposed to one GM against the world, you can at least come to some peace with the management team's decision to very consciously and conspicuously bank on team continuity and a mix of veterans and younger players that fell a make-up non-call short of the Western Conference Final this past season.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
Via RedWingsFeed, part 2: It's a dead link now, but the Wings tipped their hat regarding something that is inevitable--Chris Chelios being named a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee on Tuesday:
(Recall the Kirk Maltby, Kris Chelios and Chris Osgood photo galleries leaked before their retirements)
If you find yourself in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on September 14th, Soo Today reports that the Wings' alums will play a charity game to raise funds for charity:
The Soo Eagles will face-off against a legendary opponent on Saturday, September 14, when the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Team meets them on the ice at Sault Ste. Marie’s Pullar Stadium.
Organizers are planning the perfect combination of hockey excitement and community support at this charity event being sponsored by the Sault Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
Proceeds from the event will benefit the KDR Challenge, the Soo Eagles, and The Sault Events.
"The KDR Challenge is so excited to be a part of bringing the Red Wing Alumni Team to the Sault. Kelsey was a huge hockey fan,” said Bonnie Raffaele, KDR coordinator and Kelsey’s Mom.
Tickets are on sale now at a variety of locations, including the Sault CVB office, the Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, Neville’s Superette, and the Soo Eagles office.
Tickets purchased before September 1 will cost $16 For adults and $12 for kids under 18.Ticket prices will increase after September 1.
For more information about the event, call the Sault CVB at (906) 632-3366 or visit http://www.saultstemarie.com.
And I'll weigh in as possible today, but I'm helping Paul given that the first day of free agency is nuts. N-V-T-S.
I did book my hotel room on Thursday, though, so I'm planning on heading up to Traverse City on Tuesday and will be attending the Wings' summer development camp from its official on-ice start on Wednesday until its conclusion the following Monday.
So goodnight and good morning.
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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.