The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/13/14 at 03:21 AM ET
The Red Wings' front office has probably wrapped up its exit meetings with the Wings' players by now, and as the Under-18 World Championships wrapped up, the amateur scouts may have a finalized their list of draft picks...
But the Wings' scouts are still very busy. Some of the European scouts are doubtlessly in Minsk, Belarus, watching Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser, Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl and possibly the next Damien Brunner-style free agent at the World Championships;
Tonight, at least one or two of the team's amateur scouts will be in Baie-Comeau, Quebec to watch Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs play in Game 7 of the QMJHL's President's Cup Final, and then said scouts will head to London, Ontario to watch Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm and prospects from the Edmonton Oil Kings, London Knights and whoever wins tonight's Drakkar-Foreurs match-up play for the Memorial Cup;
At the minor pro level, more than a few of the Wings' Detroit-based front office representatives will watch the Grand Rapids Griffins attempt to dig their way out of a 2-games-to-none hole against the Texas Stars tonight, tomorrow and Friday at Van Andel Arena;
And there's definitely at least one pro scout attending the four remaining playoff series to engage in a little "R&D" (as Mike Babcock calls it, "Rob and Do").
The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that enough of the Wings' scouts have gathered in Detroit to take part in the Wings' first pre-draft powwow, one of two meetings that the front office will hold prior to the draft on June 27th and 28th in Philadelphia (the second meeting also involves the Wings' final decisions regarding re-signing players and a discussion of their free agency options):
General manager Ken Holland and his amateur scouts, plus Sweden-based Hakan Andersson, are gathering starting today to discuss options for the June 27-28 NHL draft, which will be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The Wings have the 15th selection, the highest they’ve picked since using the 10th pick in 1991 on Martin Lapointe, a forward who helped them win Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998.
The Wings have undergone a change in philosophy after years of using first-round picks to trade for established NHL players. The 2012 first-round pick that was used to bring in defenseman Kyle Quincey at the trade deadline marked the 10th time since 1997 the Wings didn’t have a first-round pick. Now there’s more of an emphasis on development from within — which is also why the meetings have been set up to coincide with the Grand Rapids Griffins’ home playoff schedule.
(for the record, the player the Lightning selected with that pick, Andrei Vasilevskiy, is the organization's brightest goaltending prospect; again, the Wings "dropped down" to the 20th overall pick and grabbed both Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi with their "bonus" second-round pick last summer, but the Sharks' pick at 18th overal, Mirco Mueller, isn't chopped liver)
Holland and staff will be in attendance tonight for Game 3 of the Griffins’ second-round series against the Texas Stars. The Griffins lost both games at Texas. Game 4 is Wednesday, with a possible Game 5 Friday also at Van Andel Arena.
Wings management is evaluating several top prospects, including goaltender Petr Mrazek, forward Tomas Jurco, and defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet. The one Griffin already penned onto next season’s Wings squad is Riley Sheahan, a first-round pick from 2010 who has two points after four games and is a minus-4.
Even the Red Wings have posted videos discussing Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco's return to Grand Rapids, as well as the bright futures awaiting Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet, but in the more immediate future, the Wings have to consider whether the non-waiver-exempt Landon Ferraro, Mitchell Callahan or Adam Almquist (who's currently injured) are going to fit into the roster or need to be traded instead of lost on the waiver wire in the fall; Alexey Marchenko and Teemu Pulkkinen are also injured, but their professional hockey pedigrees may mean that the 6'2," 212-pound Marchenko and the 5'11," 185-pound Pulkkinen are "closer" to the NHL than the names that've been batted around so regularly of late.
While the team has to re-sign a trio of restricted NHL free agents in Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser and Tomas Tatar, a glance at Capgeek's organization chart points out that the Wings have to decide whether to tender qualifying offers to a gaggle of prospects who aren't waiver-exempt next season. Ferraro, Callahan, Almquist, Max Nicastro, Gleason Fournier, Willie Coetzee, Andrej Nestrasil and Trevor Parkes are all RFA's-to-be who might not have spots with the organization going forward. Tom McCollum's on an AHL-only contract, too...
The Wings are likely to welcome at least the majority of Zach Nastasiuk, Andreas Athanasiou, Jake Paterson, Mattias Janmark, Mattias Backman and the aforementioned Mantha into the professional fold (free agent signing Colin Campbell will be a Griffin next year, too), so not every prospect can stay given that every just-listed prospect save Nastasiuk's guaranteed to be skating for the Griffins or Toledo Walleye next fall. Bertuzzi will probably remain with the Storm as he's completing his senior year in high school, too, but one never knows.
The team can bid farewell to Cory Emmerton by simply not tendering him a qualifying offer, too, but Jordin Tootoo and his $1.9 million cap hit remains "buried" in Grand Rapids.
I know that you and me tend to assume that the Wings' "moving parts" include the NHL-level RFA's and the team's 7 unrestricted free agents-to-be in Daniel Alfredsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Jonas Gustavsson, David Legwand, Kyle Quincey and Mikael Samuelsson, but the Wings aren't just worried about those players, DeKeyser, Sheahan and Jurco.
The team's going to spend this week both discussing the 6 or 7 players the team hopes to welcome to the family on June 27th and 28th, as well as the roster projections of the Ouellets, Sprouls, Mrazeks, Pulkkinens and Marchenkos, as well as their 9 non-NHL RFA's, McCollum and those 8 possilby-or-probably-turning-pro prospects.
That's almost 30 players coming, going, being promoted, demoted, re-signed or bade farewell to, with the Wings attempting to project what their roster will look like this upcoming fall, three to five years from now and even beyond...
And that number doesn't include whether assistant coaches Bill Peters or Tom Renney leave for greener pastures, what happens to Jeff Blashill, whether the Wings will have any say as to who will replace Nick Vitucci behind the Toledo Walleye's bench, or what happens to the Griffins' AHL veterans in Jeff Hoggan, Triston Grant, Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch.
There's a reason that the front office is paid to do their jobs. They have to move in four or five dimensions, accounting for player attrition, possible injuries, player compensation now and in the future, the movement of the salary cap, possible draft picks and free agent additions or trades, the waiver wire and of course how the ownership's vision for the team and the team's financial situation both in the present and going forward.
There are at least a few people who believe that the team's "transitional" phase is in fact something of a ruse: they argue that the Wings' management and ownership are biding time until the new rink's scheduled to open in 2 years (it's estimated that the Wings will take in another $8-10 million in revenues thanks to new luxury suites, a better deal in terms of surrendering percentages of revenues to the City, County or State, and of course inevitably higher ticket prices), when the salary cap's also expected to rise to the $80 million mark, and those who believe that the team's treading water until the 2016-2017 season argue that we'll witness a return to the free-spending, big-free-agent name-signing days of old at that time.
I don't buy that theory for a second, but I'd be remiss to not mention it, and I wouldn't be doing my job if I ignored the fact that some people still believe that the front office and drafting staff are still in flux a year after Jim Nill left and took chief scout Joe McDonnell with him...
And there's the whole question as to whether there's some sort of power struggle going on given that Mr. Ilitch's health is iffy, that the MotorCity Casino's carrying a heavy debt load for Mrs. Ilitch to deal with, that Chris Ilitch is probably the team's voting member of the NHL's Board of Governors but Tom Wilson is the CEO and "face" of Olympia Entertainment's rink push.
I don't buy that, either, but that's out there.
Oh, Ilitch Holdings just hired a new PR director, too, and he's going to have a say in the way that the Wings approach...Making their team approachable, for lack of a better term.
So the chess board has a ton of moving parts, and, lest you forget, Ken Holland's not doing this alone: Ryan Martin and Kris Draper are his right-hand men, Jimmy Devellano may have been muted after that "cattle" remark, but he's in there, too, Mike Babcock's obviously consulted on a regular basis (as are Renney and Peters), and then you get into the pro scouts, Kirk Maltby, Mark Howe, etc., the new director of scouting in Tyler Wright and promoted chief scout in Jeff Finley, the Hakan Anderssons, Vladimir Havlujes, Ari Vouris, et. al, prospect mentors like Jiri Fischer and Chris Chelios and of course the Griffins' coaches in Blashill, Jim Paek and Spiros Anastas.
Long story long, the team has to make decisions regarding as many as 35 players and coaches, it's going to formulate its draft strategy in detail this week, and its still-active scouts will reconnoiter in June as all of the above-named folks hold the big pre-draft, pre-free-agency powwow. Sometimes two or three, in fact, depending on the whims of the cap compliance buy-out market and any other unforeseen fluctuations.
For hockey fans like you and me, this seems like a bit of a "dry" news period save the Wings' prospects and World Championship participants, but this is the time of year that shapes the organization's future, and the behind-the-scenes stuff that you and I aren't privy to will become the foundation for the team's 2014-2015 campaign.
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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.