The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/13/14 at 02:59 AM ET
This time of year isn't exactly delightful for those of us who are "on watch" for actual news. Depending on the day, mid-June's feast-or-famine, and over the course of the last 24 hours, I've accumulated a significant amount of disparate "tidbits," but that's all I can really call them.
The audience has spoken--or not spoken--about interest in the brewing war of words between Slava Fetisov and Vladislav Tretiak ahead of the Russian Hockey Federation's elections on June 18th, but the usual level of arguing in the comments section's increased, so that suggests that y'all need something to chew on. As such:
For the record, the Rangers' win on Wednesday did allow the Wings to hold on to a Stanley Cup Final record, per from the Sports Network's Dan Di Scullo:
After watching two goals hit off his own players before beating him on Monday, Lundqvist and the Rangers had the bounces on their side in Game 4. As a result, the Detroit Red Wings remain the last NHL team to a earn a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals with their four-game win over Washington in 1998.
Ditto for ratings, according to the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire:
By drawing 3.383 million viewers to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, NBC Sports Network announced it broadcasted the most-watched Stanley Cup playoffs in 17 years.
An average of 1.098 million viewers watched the 77 playoff games on NBCSN, a rise of 10% from last year's viewership. The ESPN-televised playoffs in 1997, won by the Detroit Red Wings, drew a 1.211-million average.
Average viewership for this season's final is 4.652 million, the highest since the 2002 Detroit-Carolina final (4.726-million average).
Regarding players that the Wings might be interested in--especially in terms of free agents on defense--I will readily admit that Anton Stralman's Cup Final performance prior to his goal-line save has proven that he's not exactly "overrated" (though I still don't believe that the 27-year-old, who earned all of $1.8 million this past season, per Capgeek, is exactly a top-pair offensive defenseman). According to Sportsnet's Tyler Delow, Stralman's "Fenwick" and "Corsi" numbers are fantastic, but that's not necessarily good news for his availability come July 1st...
It will be interesting to see how Stralman’s career progresses from this point. He seems to have come into his own over the past year and a half in New York, although it’s gone under the radar. He’s enjoyed a very good final, in keeping with his season but continues to be basically unnoticed. It will be fascinating to see where he ends up this summer and the impact he has next season. If he continues to have a similar impact on games, he won’t go unmentioned the next time he’s on a team that goes deep in the playoffs.
As NHL.com's Corey Masisak agrees:
Stralman's next contract will be something of a litmus test of where analytics are in hockey. He had one goal and eight points this season, no goals and five points in the playoffs.
Dig a little deeper and Stralman's value becomes more apparent. There are checks in all the boxes that get checked for someone who could be undervalued.
The Rangers had a low shooting percentage while he was on the ice, helping depress his traditional numbers. He starts more shifts in the defensive zone, which can depress goals and points. All of his advanced statistics are better relative to New York's team average, and the Rangers were a borderline-elite team in the regular season based on those metrics.
Stralman has other advantages in what doesn't appear to be a deep class of unrestricted free-agent defensemen. He is 27 years old, and fewer potential impact players are hitting the open market at that age because of long-term contracts signed by restricted free agents that buy out UFA seasons.
He also is a right-handed defenseman, which is a little like being a left-handed pitcher. There aren't as many of them, so demand often outreaches supply.
A player with Stralman's profile could be undervalued, but given the proliferation of teams giving more credence to analytics, it is a good bet a bidding war is coming if the Rangers do not sign him before the market opens.
"I did think about it earlier this season, but there's still a week left in this season," Stralman said. "Whatever comes after that, I'll deal with it. There's no real reason to think about it right now. We've got plenty to think about. It's fun, and I just try to enjoy it as much as I can."
Here's my problem with Stralman: I still believe that he's at best a second-pair guy, a very reliable defenseman who will take care of his own end, but he's not exactly an elite puck-mover. Given the thinness of this summer's free agent crop, if Stralman gets to market, I wouldn't be surprised if someone pays him $5 million, and I would suggest that such a significant chunk of cap space might be better-invested in an honest-to-goodness offensive defenseman.
The Wings have (and have to extend) Danny DeKeyser already, a healthy Jonathan Ericsson will help the two-way cause, and the Wings aren't going to jettison Jakub Kindl or Brian Lashoff to simply make room for Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Mattias Backman, Alexey Marchenko, Nick Jensen or possibly Adam Almquist--they're going to have to steal jobs, just as Tatar, Nyquist and Sheahan bumped Bertuzzi, Cleary and Eaves from the lineup.
From there, we're looking at one, maybe two moves on the blueline, and I really don't know if the Wings need to spend the kind of money Kyle Quincey is going to get elsewhere to replace him instead of looking to meaningfully reinforce the team's puck possession system of play (again, I'd look toward Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle or Tom Gilbert in that department).
If anything does help improve the middling free agent crop, it will involve cap-compliance buy-outs, and Pro Hockey Talk's Joe Yerdon let us all know when we should start to see teams making difficult decisions as to whether they want to keep under-performing players:
The buyout period begins 48 hours after the end of the Stanley Cup Final or June 15, whichever comes first, and ends June 30. The Sabres owe Leino $11 million and a buyout would cost them $7.3 million (two-thirds of the amount owed). The Sabres signed Leino to a six-year, $27 million deal in the summer of 2011.
The Wings may or may not use their one remaining get-out-of-jail-free card to buy out Jordin Tootoo, but no, Ken Holland repeatedly said that he's not getting rid of Johan Franzen, so don't get your hopes up.
Regarding a restricted free agent, Yerdon also burst a bubble regarding restricted free agent-to-be Adam Larsson, who the Swedish press reported was headed to Skelleftea AIK.
The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti reports that the most reliable source possible, Larsson's agent, says that his client will be playing for the Devils next year:
“We’re talking to Lou [Lamoirello] and just trying to figure out what his role would be for next year and what’s best for him developmentally,” [J.P.] Barry said. “I don’t know where that (the talk of him going to Sweden) came from.”
Barry repeated what Larsson said after the Devils’ season ended, which is that he wants to play in North America for the Devils in 2014-15.
“We’ve started talking to Lou already and we’ll keep talking,” Barry said. “I just talked to Adam this week, so I expect to make progress here.”
Regarding the draft in Philadelphia, which takes place on June 27th and 28th, especially in terms of "Getting One's Hopes Up," I want to posit a word of warning: people with absolutely no connection to players, player agents, NHL teams or anything or anyone else are getting into the rumor-mongering business, big time.
You and I have both heard that we should expect to see a significant amount of draft-day trades, and I hate to give this guy any press at all, but this gentleman from the Calgary Journal made a massive claim...
And then his assertion fell apart:
The Red Wings do NOT need Ryan Kesler. IF they make a trade, they need another defenseman, not another center, and every indication from the Canucks' media corps suggests that new general manager Jim Benning and team president Trevor Linden plan on "winning" a Kesler trade by demanding an established, young NHL center in return, two or three prospects, and a first-round draft pick--not a Sheahan + a 1st + goodbye Kesler-type deal.
That's honestly where I went, "Uh, no"--my understanding from reading the Canucks' press corps as opposed to hunches is that the team doesn't want to engage in another situation where they let a Corey Schneider go for all of a first-round pick, so as unrealistic as Kesler coming here might be, the kind of package this guy's talking about is...Incorrect. You'd better *#$%@& believe that Nyquist and/or Mantha would have to be involved.
Just as importantly, everything I've read from Vancouver suggests that the Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers and the cap-strapped Pittsburgh Penguins are the players we're talking about here.
Long story long, if you're on Twitter, you're going to see a TON of these so-called experts get oodles of retweets regarding "hunches" over the next two weeks. Unless they're beat writers, the Pierre LeBruns, Renaud Lavoies and Bob McKenzies of the world, or they're player agents, DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE.
People keep trying to trade players to teams that don't fit, and as Kesler is 1. from Metro Detroit and 2. The Wings had some level of interest in Kesler at the deadline, everybody and their monkey's brother's uncle assumes that Kesler's a "fit" here.
He's not. Especially with an unknown in Stephen Weiss taking up $4.9 million (if it makes you feel any better, the Wings' initial target, Vincent Lecavalier, has been a bust with Philadelphia), with the Wings having Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Sheahan, Helm, (for better or worse) Glendening and something of a spare part in Joakim Andersson all in the lineup, and Landon Ferraro likely to battle for a spot in training camp--and with that damn hole on defense--there's no real "fit."
Just as importantly, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock have repeatedly stated that the team is going to be looking for a right-shooting and/or top-pair defenseman, and whether we like it or not, they're relentlessly consistent in terms of what they say at the end of the season and what the Wings actually do in terms of player personnel decisions come June and July.
So this is the last time I'm going to address this kind of bullshit.
Regarding the draft in terms of actual draft picks, I've read mock draft after mock draft, including MLive's Brendan Savage's note that McKeen's Hockey has the Wings picking Dylan Larkin with the 15th overall pick (quite conveniently, Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples also posted a Q and A with Larkin on Thursday).
The best of what I've seen comes from the Buffalo Sabres, who are conducting something of a countdown-style draft interspersed with highlights and scouting reports. It's very easy to go back and forth from their articles to NHL.com's final rankings of North American and European skaters and the same split regarding goaltenders to read a little more about said players.
NHL.com's got a draft site up as well, and Yahoo Sports' Buzzing the Net blog includes articles about prospects penned by people who follow junior hockey almost exclusively; Hockey's Future's posting some profiles and interviews with players from the scouting combine as well.
We know that Ken Holland stated that he's going to pick "a skater," so that's where I'd suggest making yourselves familiar with the skaters' rankings over the goaltenders' rankings is a wise idea.
Regrettably, there's little to no consensus as to who goes where after the top five picks, so I'd be hard-pressed to guess who the Wings are interested in (though I'm assuming it's a forward).
Just as importantly (pardon the repetition of this phrase), if I were to look back at the Red Wings' draft record as opposed to making a "hunch," the team has regularly "traded down" if the players they're interested in have been picked, so I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Wings drop down to the final five picks of the first round to snag a second-round pick to replace the one they lost in the Legwand trade. The Wings have traded down in some form in 2009, 2011 and even last season, so my advice regarding your favorite potential Wings pick is this: don't get too attached to any particular prospect.
The Wings asked fans what they thought about player-specific "goal songs" on Twitter, so JJ From Kansas penned quite the creative set of suggestions on Winging it in Motown;
On Twitter itself, Tomas Tatar engaged in an exchange with Gustav Nyquist after winning TSN's Play of the Year Award (the Slovak press is calling it, "The Most Beautiful Play Award," which is cute):
Tatar professed his loyalties for the World Cup of Soccer as well...
Is this a good sign?
The Red Wings sent out an email to fans on Thursday, and here was its highlight (a reference to a Bill Roose article about Anthony Mantha,which may or may not suggest that he's not heading to Vancouver any time soon):
I want to posit something of a "here's the facts" regarding this entry, the Lidstrom-Fetisov fandango and everything else I write on supposed "slow days" (they aren't slow for me): contrary to some opinions, I'm not particularly enamored with writing anything to "hear myself talk." I try to find stories that I find interesting and I try to start conversations among Wings fans.
I happen to find Fetisov's candidacy for the Russian Hockey Federation's chairmanship and the nuts and bolts of Lidstrom's involvement in a community-owned hockey organization to be fascinating. So I tried to explain that stuff. It bombed, but I'm cool with that.
Finally, you know what's coming. There's just no way that I can afford to get up to Traverse City on July 4th frickin' weekend (I'm starting to wonder if there's somebody in management who hates my Hawaiian shirts with a passion) on my own. If you can lend a hand, I'd be incredibly grateful.
Over the past three years that the Wings have held development camps in Traverse City, I've asked for your help in raising the finances to cover my hotel and gas bills, and you've been amazingly and remarkably kind in affording me the opportunity to "work for you"; due to my present financial circumstances, I'm afraid that I have to ask for your assistance again.
If there's any way that you can lend a financial hand in my attempts to get up to Traverse City for the summer development camp and/or eventually to attend the prospect tournament and main camp in the fall, I would be incredibly grateful for any help.
I'm sticking with Paypal as it's the most direct route (though I will also do the whole, "Give me your address and I'll send you a check or a few bucks in the mail" thing, too), and you have to use my email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, as the recipient.
Here's the button:
If you can aid the cause, I'd be incredibly grateful; if you can't, I understand, and as usual, literally any amount helps. You'd be surprised how many $5, $10 and $20 donations end up paying my way. Thanks.
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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.