The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/26/14 at 03:54 AM ET
On Friday night, the Red Wings are more likely than not to make some sort of pick in the first round of the draft (though it wouldn't be surprising if they traded down), on Saturday, the team will pick seven more players, and on Tuesday, it's more likely than not that the Red Wings will sign an unrestricted free agent defenseman (one of the players whose agents the team is likely wining and dining presently) to bolster their blueline.
After making an unwise detour into the comments section on Wednesday, however, I was reminded of two axioms:
The first was made by Ken Holland during the Wings' locker room clean-out day, with Holland pointing out that Wings fans, like most sports fans, "Fall in love with everybody who isn't here";
And the second comes from me: when someone asked me what the pulse of the fan base sounds like at this time of year, I said, "Well first there's a lot of anger, and then on July 1st, the great disappointment."
No matter what Ken Holland and the Wings' management do or don't do, it's pretty evident that Wings fans (and pundits) won't be satisfied with the result. It won't be "enough," no matter how boldly they sign veteran after veteran or how timidly sign no one and stick with "the kids" as a "fallback plan" (which is in fact not timid at all).
Yesterday, the Detroit News's John Niyo suggested that the Red Wings shouldn't sign a free agent, but instead, parlay some of their young talent into a trade for more meaningful help--it's a wee bit ironic that the same people who said, "Trade all the veterans, play all the kids!" four months ago are now suggesting that it's time to, "Trade all the kids, get all the veterans!"--and today, the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo made the same plea while taking a nearly mournful tone:
Grit is an issue. Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and the Red Wings other smaller, young players were swallowed up by the big, bad Bruins in the opening round.
The Red Wings don’t need an enigma like Tomas Vanek.
Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik are quickly gone off the unrestricted list, re-signed by Tampa Bay and Los Angeles to huge, long-term deals.
Iginla is kind of an updated, forward version of Ray Bourque in trying to drink from the Stanley Cup for the first time after a long, distinguished career. He couldn’t do it with Pittsburgh, losing in the finals to the Bruins. He signed with the Bruins. That didn’t work. But the Bruins want to retain him, and Colorado, with its slew of young talent, is reportedly interested and seemingly more suited to currently make a Cup run than the Red Wings.
Iginla is not looking for a “transition” team. Neither, likely, is Boyle.
Free agency isn’t going to buy the Red Wings another Stanley Cup, though. They need Datsyuk and Zetterberg to display there is still all the tread left on their tires. They need goalie Jimmy Howard to be what they expected him when they gave him a long term deal. They need their younger players to build upon their breakout seasons in ’13-14, and a significant contribution from celebrated junior star Anthony Mantha, last year’s first-round pick, sooner instead of later.
But they can’t afford to waste at least $15 million salary cap space, either. Because true greatness is falling deeper into the rearview mirror for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings, from coach Babcock (see: his awards show comments) to Holland to director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright, are well aware of the fact that the team's underperformed in the post-season--after all, Babcock, Holland, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall all suggested that first-round-and-out springs are far too short...
But the team doesn't believe that abandoning the "drafting and developing" philosophy simply because there are free agents possibly available is the way to go. Holland preached a steady message to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, who set up the draft via his conversation with the Wings' GM...
“When a player hits free agency, there’s 10 or 12 or 15 teams bidding for these players now,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Sometimes it’s not about money. There’s so many different things involved in these decisions now (families, cities, taxes). That’s what the (salary) cap is about. You have to have young players because they’re cheap. Everybody can’t be high-priced.”
The Red Wings pick 15th in the first round but don’t have a second-round pick, having traded it to the Predators for David Legwand.
The Red Wings also pick 76th (third round), 106th (fourth), 136th (fifth), 166th (sixth), 196th and 201st (seventh).
Having acquired prospects such as forwards Anthony Mantha, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, and defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet, the Red Wings have considerable depth to play with. But it’s unlikely they will offer up any of those players.
“We’ve worked hard to try to build up our pool of young players,” Holland said. “Our scouts have done a great job of selecting and (Grand Rapids coach) Jeff Blashill has done a great job in developing our young players. We do have a lot of young kids. We feel that we’ve got a pretty good nucleus to be competitive.”
Kulfan continues, but we're going to shift gears toward the free agent front now.
Holland was also blunt about the "wining and dining" period in a conversation with the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness (pardon the repetition)...
“I like it,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s excellent for the players.”
The time to “wine and dine” free agents began Wednesday. Teams can begin signing players on July 1.
“Before you’d get to signing day and the player and team would have to make a decision in like an hour or two,” Holland said. “Now teams have the opportunity to let players know they have interest and to tell them how they would fit in on our team.
“It’s an opportunity to see what’s out there, to talk to players we got some interest in, let them know what we’re thinking,” Holland added. “It’s an opportunity to sell your program.”
“Ideally, we’ll make a move on the back end and add one more forward,” Holland said. “We’re going to wait until June 30 to see if we’re going to do anything with our guys.”
MLive's Ansar Khan went the intimation route:
General manager Ken Holland will meet face-to-face with the agents for Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle, among others, Thursday in Philadelphia, the site of this weekend's entry draft.
Niskanen is the premier defenseman in a shallow pool of free agents set to hit the market on Tuesday, unless he re-signs with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He likely will be seeking the maximum seven-year deal (teams can sign their own players for a maximum of eight years). That's not likely a deterrent for the Red Wings because Niskanen is 27.
Money appears to be the issue. The Red Wings have ample salary-cap space even after projecting what it will cost to sign restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan. But they're not likely to get into a bidding war for Niskanen and surely will take into consideration that their best defenseman, Niklas Kronwall, is earning ($4.75 million per season).
Niskanen earned $2.5 million this past season, when he produced career-high totals of 10 goals and 46 points.
You already know that Dan Boyle's been wined and dined, but Khan lists some alternatives...
The Red Wings' main focus is acquiring a defenseman, preferably a right-handed shooter. Other potential free-agent options include Anton Stralman (Rangers), Tom Gilbert (Florida), Stephane Robidas (Anaheim) and Derek Morris (Phoenix). The club hasn't ruled out the possibility of re-signing Kyle Quincey (who shoots left), though he's likely to get a better offer in free agency.
The Red Wings also reached out to the agents of some top-six forwards.
Along those lines, you should know that the Boston Herald's Steven Conroy reports that the Bruins are probably aware of the Wings' interest in one Jarome Iginla...
Don Meehan, the agent for the unrestricted free agent-to-be, wrote in a text to the Herald that he will meet with B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli today in Philadelphia, the site of this weekend’s NHL draft.
With the B’s tight against the salary cap and still needing to sign restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug, they would like to have Iginla sign a similar deal to the one-year, incentive-laden contract that paid him $5.5 million this past season but had a cap hit of only $1.8 million. Iginla, who turns 37 next month, could be looking for a longer deal.
If the B’s can’t sign Iginla, it would leave a big hole in their top six forward group.
The Detroit Red Wings, who are still not sure if Daniel Alfredsson and his aching back will give it a go next season, are believed to have interest in Iginla.
Dan Boyle and his agent, George Bazos, did indeed speak with many teams, as noted by TSN's Darren Dreger...
Is Dan Boyle about to get a lot of legitimate offers?
Dreger: It was a brisk day in the Boyle camp, at least eight teams have made contact with Boyle's representatives, and many of those teams will meet with his representatives on Thursday and that of course includes the Maple Leafs.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun (repeat warning)...
"Good deal of interest, there are going to be good options for him," Boyle’s agent, George Bazos, said Wednesday. "We’ll sift through it the next few days and see where it all leads."
All they can do is talk, nobody can sign a free agent from another team until July 1. But within the rules of the UFA talking window, teams can certainly lay out the parameters which they’d be willing to agree to.
"We’re just trying to figure out what the place for me would be and there’s definitely a few options out there," Boyle said.
Getting a two-year deal is very important and Bazos is confident he can make it happen for Boyle, who turns 38 on July 12. Contracts signed by players who are 35 and over count against the salary cap regardless of whether the players complete them or not. That’s why there’s risk involved.
"I still think he can really help a team, he’s still a great skater and a terrific character guy," said one Eastern Conference team executive Wednesday.
While neither Boyle nor Bazos would divulge which teams had already shown interest, other sources around the league confirmed Toronto, Detroit and the New York Rangers were among the several teams that have shown interest in Boyle.
One source described the Maple Leafs' interest as "serious." And the Rangers are also very interested, especially pending the outcome of talks with UFA D-man Anton Stralman.
Via Pro Hockey Talk's James O'Brien, TVA Sports' Renaud Lavoie...
And as so many of you are wondering what Matt Niskanen might command, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo, who's a little more familiar with Niskanen's agent, Neil Sheehy, wondered aloud what Niskanen might command should the Minnesota Wild want to sign Niskanen and/or Thomas Vanek:
t’s not believed the Wild had any formal sit-downs yet, but General Manager Chuck Fletcher contacted at least the agents of defensemen Matt Niskanen and Willie Mitchell, goal scorer Thomas Vanek and center Paul Stastny, NHL sources confirmed. At a minimum, Fletcher is expected to meet with Niskanen’s agent, Neil Sheehy, and Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, while they’re all in Philadelphia this week for the NHL draft.
Vanek, 30, the former Gophers star who lives in Stillwater, might have to consider a one- to three-year deal from the Wild if he wants to play at home in Minnesota.
That’s because it’s clear the Wild has significant interest in Niskanen, who lives in Tower, Minn. The 27-year-old right-shot blue-liner had a career year with the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring 10 goals and finishing 13th among defensemen with 46 points. He led all defensemen with a plus-33 rating.
Niskanen would command a long-term deal likely north of $5 million annually and the Wild wants to be, as Fletcher has said, “mindful” handing out too many long-term contracts to veterans. The Wild must re-sign a number of its youngsters the next two summers and hopes to have several young forwards entering their prime in the next three or four years.
I think that $5 million is particularly low...
And I simply can't believe that teams and agents are actually following this rule:
During the free-agency interview periods, teams can talk in general parameters about a contract but can’t make any binding offers or promises.
We'll wrap up this part of the entry by going back to Kulfan...
Three players the Red Wings — and others — contacted were Dan Boyle, a top-four defenseman who could run the power play, and defensemen Matt Niskanen and Anton Stralman.
Because the reality of the situation is that we're all playing a game of hurry up, wait, and hope here. The wining and dining period basically makes trading for an unrestricted free agent-to-be's rights useless unless you've got a contract worked out (that's against the rules unless you're the Edmonton Oilers).
We're going to end up reading who-met-with-whom for five more days, but we won't have a good indication of who will end up going where until Monday evening at the earliest, if not Tuesday, July 1st around 12 PM EDT.
In the interim, I suppose you can make your argument for the Wings taking a particular course of action as loudly, emphatically, eloquently or angrily as you wish.
The Red Wings' history suggests that we're going to see the team make no trades, save perhaps a drop-down in the first round, and after that, they'll probably sign a top-four defenseman, maybe a top-six forward (very probably Daniel Alfredsson), and after that, I hope they just re-sign Tatar, Sheahan and DeKeyser and call it a day (and I'm looking at you, Daniel Cleary ).
I'm sure you'll disagree, and I'm sure that we've got the time to do that.
The disappointment for the majority of Wings fans and the satisfaction for the minority of Wings fans will come soon enough.
Regarding the draft's first round, more mock drafts have hit the wires, and we're finally starting to get some "consensus picks":
On Tuesday evening, Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp had the Wings picking US NTDP forward Dylan Larkin with the 15th overall pick, while TSN's Bob McKenzie suggested that diminutive HV71 Jonkoping forward Kevin Fiala is the 15th-best prospect, and the Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief picked Sodertalje SK forward David Pastrnak;
On Wednesday, USA Today's Kevin Allen went with Larkin (who's from Waterford)...
15. Detroit Red Wings: Center Dylan Larkin (U.S. under-18). The dependable two-way forward would fit perfectly into Detroit's puck-possession offense. He's a good skater.
Buzzing the Net's Neate Sager went with the 5'9" Fiala;
And this morning, CSNNE's Joe Haggerty made another pick entirely:
15. Detroit Red Wings – Alex Tuch (USNTDP): The 6-foot-4 power forward is headed to Boston College, and will be a long range prospect for a Wings team that’s getting younger all the time.
Tuch's the 12th-ranked North American skater, and NHL.com describes him as follows:
• In 2013-14, his second season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Tuch tied for the under-18 team-lead with seven game-winning goals and a plus-35 rating. He ranked third on the club with 64 points (29-35—64) in 61 games.
• A two-time medalist with Team USA, Tuch won gold at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship (0-3—3 in seven games) and bronze at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (1-3—4 in 6 games). He was also part of the U.S. Under-18 team that finished first at the 2012 Four Nations Tournament.
• Growing up, he idolized his neighbor, Tim Connolly, a Syracuse native who played 11 NHL seasons with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
• In 2011-12, Tuch set the Empire Junior Hockey League scoring record with 101 points (44-57—101) in 40 games as a 15-year-old.
• He has committed to Boston College for the fall of 2014: “Boston College has always been my dream school. I can remember watching them in the Frozen Four when I was six years old.”
NHL Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen: "He's a big body and that's something you can't teach. He's got some grit to his game, is good around the net and physical.”
In terms of restricted free agents, I know that some of you are worried about Tatar, Sheahan or DeKeyser fielding offer sheets, so I would point you to two places:
First, Sports Illustrated has a list of both notable unrestricted and restricted free agents-to-be (Cageek's list of RFA's includes everybody on a team's depth chart, so it's hard to pick out the Subbans from the Trevor Parkeses), and I'm simply going to quote the names NHL.com's Dan Rosen believes could be RFA offer sheet targets for comparison's sake:
Ryan O'Reilly, C/W, Colorado Avalanche
P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens
Ryan Johansen, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
James Reimer, G, Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Schultz, D, Edmonton Oilers
Derick Brassard, C, New York Rangers
Torey Krug, D, Boston Bruins
Reilly Smith, RW, Boston Bruins
Jaden Schwartz, RW, St. Louis Blues
See also: Jakob Silfverberg, Devante Smith-Pelly, Reilly Smith, Jordan Caron, Cory Conacher, T.J. Galiardi, Jared Staal, Erik Gudbranson, Dimitry Kulikov, Dwight King, Nino Niederreiter, Darcy Kuemper, Lars Eller, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Ellis, Adam Larsson, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, John Moore, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Jason Demers, Tommy Wingels, Jake Gardiner, Zack Kassian, etc.
It's a target-rich environment, and that's 34 names in addition to the Wings' RFA's. I think they're going to be OK, especially given the UFA fun that takes place.
And finally, it's close...Too close:
Over the 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.
Update: Jonkopings Posten posted a combined interview with Adam Almquist and David Ullstrom after both players signed with Severstal Cherepovets on Wednesday morning, and the translation is awkward, so I can't tell you what this means per se:
" I do not know much about the city or the team, but it feels very good to have Ullström along. He has had little contact with some Swedes who have played here before so it feels good," says Almqvist, who also explains that he wants to stick around for the game abroad a few more seasons.
Does that mean that he wants to fulfill his two-year contract? I have no idea.
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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.