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The Malik Report

Red Wings afternoon news: ‘ignore the problem’ theory and other tidbits

As Red Wings GM Ken Holland discussed the implications of Brian Rafalski’s early retirement in terms of building the Wings’ blueline going forward, he never suggested that the Wings would overpay for an Ehroff, Wisniewski, Bieska, Pitkanen, etc., suggesting to MLive’s Ansar Khan that it’s entirely possible that the Wings could sign two defensemen if they wish to spread their salary-capped dollars around. That being said, the Wings do believe that the team needs to replace Rafalski’s offensive production, which kind of makes the theory posited by the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau a moot point:

The Red Wings had no trouble with their offense this year, finishing second in the league in goals-for per game (3.13). On the other hand, their goals-against average was considerably worse (2.89 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL). They don’t need a puck-moving, offense-generating type. They need a defensive defenseman, someone you wouldn’t have to break the bank on and pay the same amount as Rafalski.

I mean, what, are you going to spend $5 million of your cap space on Joni Pitkanen? He’s one of the top unrestricted free agent blueliners on the market, but here’s what one veteran hockey observer recently said about him:

“There’s a bit of a misunderstanding about this player,” said an NHL GM, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think he’s as much of a high-end offensive player as he is an all-around, puck-moving guy. I guess if he played for Washington or one of those high-powered teams, 40 or 50 points (a season) wouldn’t be out of the question. But if you’re expecting him to carry the load on your power play or be your big point guy, I don’t think that’s him.”

What, are you going to acquire Mike Green from the Caps? If you want a player whose confidence and effectiveness (especially in his own zone) has never been lower, knock yourself out.

Assuming Lidstrom returns, Detroit’s top four would be Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Jonathan Ericsson (who averaged slightly more shifts per game than Rafalski this year). There are GMs who would hold their owner hostage for that type of defense corps.  A $6-million salary for Lidstrom would give Holland roughly $12-16 million in cap space (depending on what the knew level will be) to address his other needs. And frankly, I think those needs are more important than making an already-above-average blueline even better.

Look at Detroit’s goalie situation. Would you not want to spend a little extra on a capable, veteran backup such as Johan Hedberg, who could work in a semi-platoon with incumbent starter Jimmy Howard and take some pressure and workload away from the 27-year-old? I would.

And would you not want to use some of that cap room to shore up the quality of your bottom two forward lines? I would. Mike Modano and Kris Draper are at the end of their admirable NHL careers and it would behoove the Wings to pursue a younger type of bottom-six forward, the way Vancouver did last off-season with Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres.

Uh, the Wings have intimated that if Chris Osgood wants to return, he will, and while I agree that the Wings need to add a “top nine” guy, they’re going to fill their need for a big, fast forechecker either via the free agent bargain bin or by simply abandoning the size aspect and hoping that Jan Mursak can crash and bang while working his way onto the Wings’ roster on a full-time basis.

The Wings want and need a puck-moving defenseman. Whether that’s Pitkanen or someone else remains to be seen, and whether the Wings spend Rafalski’s $6 million on one player or two or three remains to be seen, but the Wings’ puck possession game suffered when Rafalski was absent, and simply turning one’s back on that fact makes no real sense.

They don’t need Andreas Lilja. They hope to bring Lidstrom back, keep Jonathan Ericsson and add someone who can provide offense.

Also of Wings-related note: No foolin,’ via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon:

Brian Rafalski’s exit was something of a surprise for the Red Wings. If Nicklas Lidstrom also packs it in, that juggernaut will have some major issues on the blue line. Skilled offensive defensemen have long been an important ingredient for that team.

“We need great news on Nick Lidstrom,” general manager Ken Holland, according to NHL.com. “If we get great news on Nick Lidstrom, we need a defenseman or two (in free agency), depending on where their salary is at. We’re kind of done up front. Our top three lines, for the most part, are in place. Our No.1 goal is defense and we’ve got to rebuild a little bit now. We’re hoping on Nick Lidstrom (returning).”

Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovksi can become an unrestricted free agent and he grew up across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario. He could provide some stopgap offense and tougness.

But Rafalski’s retirement and Lidstrom’s advanced age makes player development especially critical in Detroit.

“Is Jakub Kindl ready for a bigger role? Is Brendan Smith ready to play in the NHL?” Holland said. “These are things we’re going to have to find out. Certainly we need one or two more veterans signed this summer. We’re going to sign somebody. It’s a matter of how much and who and how big of a role. Obviously, Nick’s decision is going to factor into how active we are on July 1 (the first day of NHL free agency).”

Gordon’s referring to Brian Hedger’s report...

• As noted by Sportsnet’s Chris Nichols, the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren believes that Brad McCrimmon’s in the running for at least an interview with Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray for the club’s vacant head coaching job;

• In the multimedia vein, via RedWIngsFeed, the Wings’ website posted an in-arena profile of Brian Rafalski (with House of Pain’s “Jump Around” as his theme song)...

• Red Wings social media coordinator picks the following game as the fourth-best Wings tilt of the 2010-2011 season…

GAME FOUR – RISE ABOVE THE FLAMES!
November 21, 2010
Red Wings 5, Flames 4 (OT)

Little did we know at the time, but the 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings were going to turn the comeback into an art form.

Henrik Zetterberg tied the game with 3.2 seconds left in the third period and Nicklas Lidstrom scored in overtime, giving the Red Wings a 5-4 victory over Calgary in the last game at the Joe before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Wings trailed 3-1 in the second period and 4-2 midway through the third before Zetterberg lit the lamp twice to even the score. Detroit also received a goal and two assists from Pavel Datsyuk, three assists from Brian Rafalski, and went three for seven on the power play in the win.

• And finally, for now, anyway, the Canton Observer’s Helen Niemiec informs us of the following about Canton, Michigan’s IKEA store:

Swedish members of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team make regular visits to the store to pick up items that they had in Sweden but are difficult to find locally. They’re most usually dropping in to buy food items, [deputy store manager James] Organ said. There is a variety of herring and salmon products, as well as lingonberry jam and cookies, a Swedish mainstay.

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Comments

Ajax19's avatar

Proteau makes some decent points.  Based on the available UFA’s, I don’t think there is any defenseman out there worth $6 million.  Not a one.  Realisitically, the Wings would look to spend, at most, around $4 million or so on a defenseman.  With Stuart and Kronwall currently making less than that, they have to be mindful of next summer when both become UFA’s.  Things could get dicey quickly.

Using some of the spare cash to address a need at forward or improve the back-up goalie position if Osgood can’t go.  I really don’t want to see Howard have to play so much over the regular season again.

Posted by Ajax19 on 05/26/11 at 05:42 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

2nd in goals, 23rd in goals against. Why get a puck moving dman? Defense wins playoffs.
Ericsson has been awful most of the regular season, but good in the playoffs. I’d hate him to sign a 4/2.5 contract and then just suck.
How do we if kindl or smith are ready if we don’t give them a chance?

Posted by Keyser S. on 05/26/11 at 05:48 PM ET

monkey's avatar

The Red Wings had no trouble with their offense this year, finishing second in the league in goals-for per game (3.13). On the other hand, their goals-against average was considerably worse (2.89 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL). They don’t need a puck-moving, offense-generating type. They need a defensive defenseman, someone you wouldn’t have to break the bank on and pay the same amount as Rafalski.

This assessment completely fails to take into account Rafalski’s contribution to the offense.  However, it is true that the defense was terrible this past year.

Posted by monkey from Finland on 05/26/11 at 05:55 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

This assessment completely fails to take into account Rafalski’s contribution to the offense.  However, it is true that the defense was terrible this past year.
Posted by monkey from bat country on 05/26/11 at 03:55 PM ET

Good gravy, look at our PP when he was out of the line up. Not that he was the cure all for the Whiskey laden PP, but he sure as hell gave it some life.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 05/26/11 at 06:19 PM ET

Avatar

i have seen Nick Lidstrom at that Ikea.  Noone out of the hundreds of people walking by recognized him. I just gave him the manly “nod”. He didnt return it…...

Posted by dude on 05/26/11 at 07:04 PM ET

11B4PF7 in MN's avatar

After years of reading the garbage that flows out of Adam Proteau’s mouth at THN.com, the following statement hurts to say—it hurts a lot: Proteau is right about this:

Mike Modano and Kris Draper are at the end of their admirable NHL careers and it would behoove the Wings to pursue a younger type of bottom-six forward, the way Vancouver did last off-season with Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres.

Posted by 11B4PF7 in MN on 05/26/11 at 08:11 PM ET

Avatar

Why bring Ericsson back? He’s a prospect, not an NHL defenseman. Problem is he’s a UFA prospect. Unless you can get him on a 2way deal, it’s problematic.

As for re-signing Lidstrom to 6 million, that would be terrible. He has plenty of money. He’s coming back to win if he’s coming back. If you offer him 6 mil off the back, he’s not going to turn it down, of course, but if you talk to him about taking a discount so as to help his team win one more cup, I’m sure he’d be open to something like that. I would try to get him in the 4 million range.

As for the puck-moving defenseman vs stay at home debate, I think you need both, and another strong, canadian-style top 6 forward or two. Brad Richards seems like the one option, and that would allow Z and Datsyuk to play together all the time, while still leaving the Wings with the best 2nd line center in the league, and by extension, the best depth in the NHL, which is what the Wings are suppoesd to be all about. They haven’t been the last two years, which is why getting Brad Richards is so important. Getting him makes the Wings the Wings again. I’m not sure much else does.

But regarding defenseman, Pitkanen would be fantastic. 4.5 mil per year caphit or so, that’s very fair and a good signing. He’s not going to be Scott Neidermayer in his prime or some other 65 point guy off the bat, but he’s got more size than the average puck-moving defenseman, and he’s still improving. He’ll give you 50 points and just add skill and depth to the backend. Markov is another option. I personally would sign Pitkanen for 4-5 million, Markov for 5.5 or so, Brad Richards for a frontloaded 5-6 million cap hit deal (that pays him closer to 8 per season), and then one stay at home defenseman (maybe in Ericsson’s stead) like an Eric Brewer, except would probably have to be a cheaper option. And I’d also add a cheaper forward ala Raffi Torres or someone like him who maybe is a little more versatile.

Whatever Holland does, it’s time to become the Red Wings again. And that means always going after the best players, spending big money (but with good cap hits), and really just not being shy about improving the roster, and adding elite talent. Replacing Rafalski with Pitkanen, and doing nothing else, adding no Brad Richards, is a lot like standing pat. Maybe Pitkanen is better than an aging, injured Rafalski. Maybe he’s still learning. Either way, the difference is negligible. The way you get better is you don’t just replace what you’ve lost, you then add much more. Pitkanen replaces Rafalski, now you’re back to where you were (which wasn’t good enough). How you now get better is by adding Markov and Richards too, or Richards and Bieksa, or whoever else. If they make the right decisions in the offseason, they should have massive, massive cap room, enough for 3 all-star calibre players. I think adding 3 more all-star calibre players on top of Datsyuk, Z, Lidstrom, and Franzen might make the Wings a pretty good team, don’t you?

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/26/11 at 10:31 PM ET

thethirdcoast's avatar

After years of reading the garbage that flows out of Adam Proteau’s mouth at THN.com, the following statement hurts to say—it hurts a lot: Proteau is right about this:

  Mike Modano and Kris Draper are at the end of their admirable NHL careers and it would behoove the Wings to pursue a younger type of bottom-six forward, the way Vancouver did last off-season with Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres.


This is why losing Ritola to Yzerman and Tampa Bay really, really sucked. I thought he provided a nice physical edge when he took the ice for DET in the ‘09 playoffs. His play and 5’11” 205 stature reminded me of a bowling ball.

The worst part is that he’s only 24 and making $500k versus the $1.25m we paid Modano. Yeah, Modano had a freak injury, but think about the long term upside. Modano was never going to be more than a 1-year rental. We probably could’ve had decent production from Ritola for 3 years in the $500-$1m range.

Posted by thethirdcoast from Algiers, DZ on 05/26/11 at 11:59 PM ET

Avatar

Getting Brad Richards would be retarded.

Posted by Garth on 05/27/11 at 01:46 AM ET

Norskirama's avatar

Nick has been playing for the Wings at a discount for the past 10 years, at least, as some other team would have paid him more. Why would you ask him to take even more of one now?

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 05/27/11 at 01:30 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 05/27/11 at 11:30 AM ET

Absolutely right.

In fact, if Nick decides to play, I bet there’s not even any negotiation.  Holland will ask him what he wants and Nick will get whatever he asks for.

Posted by Garth on 05/27/11 at 01:50 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I believe the negotiation has been officially explained by Babcock—Nick comes in and asks Holland for a number, Holland tells him what the team can afford based on its needs, Nick decides what he wants and that’s that.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/27/11 at 02:03 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

In fact, if Nick decides to play, I bet there’s not even any negotiation.  Holland will ask him what he wants and Nick will get whatever he asks for.
Posted by Garth on 05/27/11 at 11:50 AM ET

Yes. This is how I’ve heard Holland explain his contract negotiations with Lids has transpired the last couple of occasions.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 05/27/11 at 02:06 PM ET

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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.