The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/11/12 at 03:36 AM ET
Updated at 4:13 AM: If Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement was a punch to the heart, a staggering loss that’s left Red Wings fans literally grieving the departure of a legendary player and person, the Wings’ decision to trade Brad Stuart’s rights to the San Jose Sharks for a conditional 7th-round pick and a player the Wings probably won’t re-sign in would-be Griffin Andrew Murray was a punch to the gut, reminding those of us who were still wrapping ourselves in warm, fuzzy memories about Lidstrom that the Detroit Red Wings will experience more painful departures this summer…
And that the losses of Lidstrom, Stuart, the probable retirement of Tomas Holmstrom and Jiri Hudler’s likely bolting for more free agent bucks leave the Red Wings with some massive holes in their roster and place an inordinate amount of pressure upon Ken Holland and the Wings’ front office to ensure that said departures don’t leave the Wings anything less than ready to continue to compete with the Western Conference’s elite teams by engaging in a free agent-signing overhaul.
As of today, the Red Wings’ “top six,” as noted by Capgeek.com, consists of Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, restricted free agent Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl and graduating Grand Rapids Griffin Brendan Smith.
That obviously isn’t going to cut it going forward, and now that the Wings know Stuart’s gone, they’re going to have to not only target the Ryan Suters, Matt Carles and Dennis Widemans of the free agent marketplace, but they’ll also have to look at—this time, taking a gander at Capgeek.com’s list of free agents—players like Bryce Salvador, Ted Kulfan’s favorite in Barret Jackman, Pavel Kubina, Filip Kuba, Matt Gilroy and Bryan Allen, the kinds of physical defensemen who can help Kronwall, White and free agent target #1 carry the Wings offensively while providing some size, grit, physicality and penalty-killing acumen.
The same might be said for the Wings’ forward corps, despite the fact that subtracting both Holmstrom and Hudler still leaves the team with thirteen forwards, RFA’s Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader included, with a goal-scoring forward and possibly a bottom-six guy with size and grit in the mix…
And we already know that the Wings are probably leaning toward snagging a back-up goalie as they’re concerned about the state of Joey MacDonald’s back.
For the Red Wings, the concept of welcoming two defensemen, one or two forwards and a new goalie, or up to five new players, is nothing less than a stunning level of roster turnover by Detroit standards, especially given the quality of the players who’re leaving and the marquee value of the players the Wings hope to land, and again, if Lidstrom’s retirement allowed us to reminisce, what happened on Sunday reminded us all that the 2012-2013 team will look incredibly different from the one we watched on the ice this past season, and…
The change that’s still to come is going to be painful. It’s going to hurt for you and me because we care about these players, and it’s going to make us nervous as all hell get out because we won’t know whether Ken Holland and the Wings’ front office can meaningfully address these players’ departures until the draft—almost two weeks from now—at the earliest, with more substantial change likely to not happen until July 1st, three weeks from yesterday.
In terms of losing Stuart, he wasn’t the incomparable Lidstrom, nor is he the blue-collar folk hero that is Tomas Holmstrom, or even the sometimes maddening, mercurial little Czech we associate with all sorts of in-jokes, but Stuart was the consummate “good soldier,” coming to this team at the 2008 trade deadline, winning a Stanley Cup and then choosing to stay for four more seasons.
We only found out belatedly that Stuart’s family remained in San Jose, and that in addition to having two young sons, he had a stepdaughter, and that California’s divorce laws require the “ex” to remain in the state, and sometimes in certain cities, lest they lose custody of their own children, so his family simply couldn’t relocate to Detroit, and wouldn’t do so until Ciera finished high school. That’s not going to happen until after the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season.
So Stuart spent the past four-and-a-half years jetting to and from San Jose, and on Sunday…
The Wings didn’t make a hockey deal. They made a loyalty deal, giving Stuart and the San Jose Sharks lots of time to reach a contract agreement and ensure that one of the Wings’ most important defensemen finally finds himself playing in a locale where he can finally cease playing the role of absentee dad.
Getting a seventh-rounder if he signs with the sharks is a bonus, and it is possible that the Wings might sign Andrew Murray—a 30-year-old, 6’2, 210-pound center who spent this past season bouncing between the Worchester Sharks and San Jose, and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st—to bolster the Grand Rapids Griffins’ lineup, but if there was any politicking or positioning for the free agent sweepstakes inherent in this move, the message sent was a simple one:
“We’re so loyal to our players in Detroit that we’ll gladly send their signing rights to a competitor if it means doing the right thing for a loyal foot soldier.”
The Sharks were delighted to add Stuart to the mix, as the Sharks’ own press release very bluntly stated…
San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has acquired defenseman Brad Stuart from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Andrew Murray and a conditional draft selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Stuart is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Sharks now maintain the exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract with him until that time.
“We are very happy to acquire Brad’s rights prior to July 1 and are hopeful that we come to an agreement on a new contract,” said Wilson. “Brad is a player we are very familiar with – a physical, team-first defenseman who is tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of mentality we want our team to possess.”
Stuart, 32, has spent the last four-plus seasons with the Red Wings. Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26, 2008, Stuart made back-to back appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals with Detroit in 2008 and 2009, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.
Last season, Stuart posted 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) and was +16 in 81 regular season games for the Red Wings. He was first on the team in hits (177, T-16th among NHL defensemen) and second in blocked shots (115) and played in his 800th career NHL game on Oct. 21, 2011 vs. Columbus.
And while my stupid-ass internet service provider decided to conk out, Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil thankfully provided updates from the Stuart conference call with reporters—a conference call that sounded like it had been planned out several days in advance…
Stuart: “At this point in my career, i want to be on a winning team, a team that contends… family to consider also” #sjsharks
Stuart: “It would be nice if this (San Jose) is the final destination” #sjsharks
Stuart on differences since he left #sjsharks: “Focus has changed, taking pride in being physical & effective” More defensive emphasis now.
Stuart says he learned a lot from playing with Lidstrom, he can pass it along to younger players today: “setting an example”. #sjsharks
Stuart on making the deal before July 1st: “I’d like to”. #sjsharks
Stuart: times during the year he was away from his family & thoughts of coming back to #sjsharks entered his mind
And the Mercury News’s David Pollak stated the obvious:
Not big surprise: #Sjsharks have acquired rights to D Brad Stuart from DET for conditional draft pick. If he doesn’t sign, DET gets nothing.
If Stuart does sign with #Sjsharks, they give up 7th-round pick down the road. Stuart made clear last season that he wanted to play . . .
closer to his family, which has continued to live in San Jose area, when his current contract expires June 30. #Sjsharks see him as Top 4.
More complete info now: #Sjsharks also send Andrew Murray to DET.
“Not a surprise” only meant Stuart indicated he wanted to play closer to family in SJ area; makes sense for #sjsharks to go this route.
Stuart on trade to #sjsharks: “I don’t know if it’s going to be my final NHL contarct, but I hope it is my final destination.”
Stuart on parting with Red Wings: “I’m a better player because of my time there.” If no deal cut w/#Sjsharks, he says he’d consider return.
That’s a heartwarming thought for Wings fans and all, but it’s not going to happen.
I got the feeling that the Stuart trade gave many Sharks fans an immediate and guttural response—“Eew, why did we need to pick up some guy from those icky Red Wings?”—so after Pollak fired off in informational blog entry, he explaned the “whys” of the deal while quoting Stuart more extensively from his conference call:
Forget Andrew Murray. Useful as he was centering San Jose’s fourth line early in the season, he fell out of favor and wasn’t considered part of the future here. Word out of Detroit is that the Red Wings have no intention of signing him either. Just a semi-educated guess as I haven’t done the math, but Murray’s departure may have had more to do with clearing an off-season roster spot than anything else. All of which means that if Doug Wilson does sign Stuart, the only cost is a seventh-round pick in the 2014 draft. And that’s worth the opportunity to have three weeks to work out a deal before the free-agent frenzy of July 1 kicks in. And while things could reach the point where the Sharks find themselves involved in a bidding war next month, it was pretty clear Sunday afternoon that Stuart likes the idea of playing in San Jose again.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be my final NHL contract, but I hope it is my final destination,” Stuart said of what comes next. “I’ve lived here in the off season every since I was traded and I have a lot of respect for the organization.”
In terms of his family situation…
“It’s draining. I’ve done if for three years now and it’s at the point where if I could make it better, I want to at least know I tried,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out, so be it, but I wanted to at least know I tried. Maybe this can be the solution.
“We tried to never go too long without seeing each other if only for a day, but it does kind of wear you down mentally,” he said, adding that he would wonder what his step-daughter and two sons would be doing. You wonder about what’s going on,” he said. “The day-to-day problems that everybody has, we still had. A lot of times I wasn’t there to do anything about it and that’s frustrating. My wife’s been outstanding throughout the whole thing and she’s done a great job, but I needed to at least see if I can make this thing better for everyone and this is an opportunity to do that.”
In terms of his tenure with the Wings…
“I went to Detroit and I wasn’t really counted on for any kind of offensive output so I just focused on other parts of my game,” Stuart said. “I started taking pride in being a good, physical player who’s hard to play against, working hard every night and being one of the guys that the coaching staff and other players can count on to be giving it his all every night. I was able to focus on those things and consequently I’ve become a better rounded player,” he added. “I don’t put up as many points as I did in my first few years in the league, but I think overall I’m a better player.”
In terms of his contract…
“We’ll go from there,” the 32-year-old defenseman said. “We’ve got time. We didn’t go into the details or anything, but it’s nice to know they’re excited about a chance to get me back and I feel the same way. Hopefully we can work it out.”
“The goal of making the trade was for that to happen,” he said. “We’ll work on it for the next three weeks or however long is left and try to work it out. If it doesn’t work, I don’t know. Nothing’s changed till I actually sign the deal, but we have some time to figure that out.”
And in terms of his future role…
“It was a real good thing for me to be around him every day and now there are things you can pass on to younger players now that I’m one of the old guys, I guess,” Stuart said. “I think the biggest thing is setting an example for the younger kids coming up. I know when I was a young player, I had a guy like Gary Suter to look up to and the way he was working hard every day.”
Pollak reiterated the details of the trade and some of Stuart’s comments in his main story...
“I hope it is my final destination,” Stuart said after being picked up by San Jose. “I’ve lived here in the offseason ever since I was traded, and I have a lot of respect for the organization.”
Stuart had 36 goals and 117 assists in 377 games with the Sharks before being traded to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005, as part of the deal that brought Joe Thornton to San Jose. He had short stints with the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings before landing in Detroit at the 2008 trade deadline.
Stuart said he has loved his time in Detroit, where he helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2008. He had six goals and 15 assists in 81 games last season, while leading the Red Wings with 177 hits—51 more than any Shark. But spending more time with family became a higher priority than returning to the Red Wings.
“We tried to never go too long without seeing each other if only for a day, but it does kind of wear you down mentally,” Stuart said
The third player taken in the 1998 draft, Stuart was considered an offensive-minded defenseman at the start of his career. That has changed.
“I went to Detroit and I wasn’t really counted on for any kind of offensive output,” Stuart said, “so I just focused on other parts of my game. I take pride in being a good, physical player who’s hard to play against, working hard every night and being one of the guys that the coaching staff and other players can count on to be giving it his all every night.”
“I don’t put up as many points as I did in my first few years in the league,” Stuart said, “but I think overall I’m a better player.”
And the Associated Press’s story about the move more or less reiterated the talking points of his conference call, with Stuart stating, again, that he wants to latch on with the Sharks long-term:
“That’s the goal of making the trade,” Stuart said. “We’ll work on it for the next three weeks and try to work it out. We have some time to figure that out. For the Red Wings to give me time to figure that out shows what a class organization they are. I owe them a lot.”
San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said he is hopeful the two sides can agree on a deal before the end of the month, which would give San Jose another top-four defenseman to upgrade a leaky penalty kill unit. Stuart played more short-handed minutes than any other Red Wings defender this past season. San Jose had the second-worst penalty-kill unit this season, a major factor in their first-round exit from the playoffs against St. Louis.
“Brad is a player we are very familiar with—a physical, team-first defenseman who is tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of mentality we want our team to possess,” Wilson said.
Stuart said his priorities were finding a team that would be a title contender and one that was closer to his family. The Sharks fit in both categories, posting the second-best record in the NHL since the lockout.
“It’s nice to know they’re excited to have a chance to get me back,” Stuart said. “I feel the same way. Hopefully we can work it out.”
Stuart was drafted third overall by San Jose in 1998 before being traded to Boston on Nov. 30, 2005, along with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau for current Sharks captain Joe Thornton. Stuart, 32, had six goals and 15 assists in 81 games last season. He had a plus-16 rating and led the Red Wings in hits with 177 and was second in blocked shots with 115. He has played in 876 career games in 13 seasons with San Jose, Boston, Calgary, Los Angeles and Detroit, recording 74 goals, 231 assists and 489 penalty minutes. He’s also added nine goals and 28 assists in 124 career playoff games.
“I take pride in being a good physical player who is hard to play against and works hard every night,” Stuart said. “I want to be a guy the coaching staff and others can count on to give his all every night.”
And the Sharks’ website was very kind in posting both a press release and an audio report from Sharks broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky about the move. The clip happens to include Stuart’s comments from the conference call:
“You know, we’ll work on it, for, I guess, three weeks, and if it doesn’t work, I don’t know…I guess it’s, as far as right now, a paper transaction, I guess, and nothing’s changed until they actually sign a deal, so…But you know, we have some time to figure that out, and for the Wings to give me time to figure it out, shows what a class organization they are, and again, I owe them a lot.”
If you want to read Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Brazil’s take on how Stuart’s acquisition might effect the Sharks’ blueline, that’s fine and dandy, but I’m going to suggest you do so as “further reading.”
From the Red Wings’ perspective, as WXYZ’s Tom Leyden suggests, the move was about accommodating the needs of a very, very good soldier…
Brad Stuart, who joined the Red Wings at the trade deadline in 2008, was traded to the San Jose Sharks this afternoon in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2014 and forward Andrew Murray.
Technically, the Red Wings traded the rights to Stuart to San Jose, as Stuart is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. It is expected the Sharks will craft a deal to keep Stuart in San Jose for the 2012-13 season and beyond.
Stuart joined the Red Wings in 2008 after playing 63 games with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2007-08 season. He was a key contributor to the Red Wings title run in 2008 and a consistent force on the blue line for the last four seasons.
This year, Stuart made it clear he wished to return to the west coast to be closer to his family, and as recently as 10 days ago, Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock all but confirmed Stuart would not be back in 2012-13.
But as Leyden notes that the team expected Stuart to leave, let’s be honest here.
Stuart was…distracted…by his family situation this past season.
Distracted to the point that he struggled to stay focused on what was going on the ice during certain points over the second half of the season, and distracted to the point that even positive George can only describe his play during the playoffs as “difficult.”
Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji duly notes that Stuart’s skates were out the door when the Wings cleaned out their lockers and spoke to the media…
Stuart, who played five seasons for the Wings after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in February 2008, had said at the end of this past season that he wanted to be closer to his family, which remained in San Jose.
“I’ve been living here, my family’s been in California,” Stuart said after the Wings cleaned out their lockers. “I’ve got a stepdaughter that needs to finish high school so that’s how it is. There’s really no way to get around that. My boys are getting older now, they’re four and five, so it’s getting harder to be away from them.”
Stuart said that if it were simply a hockey decision, he would love to remain with the Wings. But being away from his family so much took its toll on him.
“Definitely the last four-plus years that I’ve been here have been great and I felt like I belonged here,” Stuart said. “If it’s all a hockey decision, I don’t want to leave but there’s other things to think about. Again, it’s a game, it’s a part of my life and it’ll be gone one day and I’ll be left with my family so that’s obviously going to be more important than the game of hockey.”
And MLive’s Brendan Savage took note of Stuart’s comments on the conference call to that effect…
“It was important for me to see if I could improve my family situation and continue to be on a contending team and a team I was excited about going to,” said Stuart, 32. “San Jose is definitely that place. The team is good. It’s high on my list of things that are important to me at this point in my career. I want a chance to win every year. I’ve been around it in Detroit and you don’t want anything else once you’ve been around it. That was very important. And, of course, my family as well. They were pretty open about my living situation the last three or four years and this is the perfect fit for both of those things.”
That’s a remarkable endorsement for the dedication to excellence the Wings impart upon their players…
But family rules, it always does, and playing in the Midwest isn’t easy when your family’s over 2,000 miles away:
“It’s hard,” Stuart said. “We made the best of it. We tried to never go too long without seeing each other, if only for a day. But it does kind of wear you down mentally. Anybody who has kids knows the energy of your kids kind of rubs off on you. When you don’t have that around, it can be a little bit draining, wondering what they’re doing, what’s going on. It’s frustrating.
Again, that was very evident in his on-ice play.
“My family situation can’t change for next season ... so I would have had to do the whole living apart from my boys and wife for another year at least. I’ve done it for three years and I was at the point where if I could make that better I wanted to at least try. If it didn’t work out, so be it. But I wanted to at least know that I tried to do that. Hopefully, this will be the solution. My wife has been outstanding throughout the whole thing. She’s done a great job throughout the whole thing. I at least needed to see if I could make this better for everyone. This is an opportunity to do that.”
Savage reveals that the Wings simply chose to toss off a cursory contract offer and then call it a day:
“He did not want to engage in contract negotiations,” Holland said. “He was a good player for us. We would have liked to have re-signed him. He gave us four good years, five really good playoffs. We wanted to engage him in negotiations to keep him. I know it’s been a real difficult time for him and his family. They were going back and forth. He needs to find a home for all of them together.”
Stuart said he’s grateful for the way he was treated by the Red Wings. Not only did the Red Wings give him a chance to reunite his family through the trade, they also allowed him to fly home during the season when the team had a few off days between games.
“I’ve got nothing but great things to say about my time there and the organization and everybody involved with the team,” he said. “Making the decision to leave wasn’t easy. Definitely my family factored into that. Again, Detroit was a great experience for me. I learned a lot being around some of the best players in the game. I had a chance to play with Nick Lidstrom, the best defenseman, I think, of his generation. All those things made me a better player. The organization itself was more than understanding of my family situation and always bent over backwards to make sure that I was given the opportunity to make things work. I’ve got to thank them for all the things they did for me. I’m a better player because of my time there. I owe them a lot.”
Again, big endorsements of the Wings’ program going forward…
As DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose made sure to note:
“I’d like to [sign]. That’s the goal in making the trade was for that to happen,” said Stuart during Sunday afternoon’s teleconference. “We’ll work on it in the next three weeks or however long we’ve got. Try to work it out. If it doesn’t work, then I don’t know. I guess as far as right now, it’s a paper transaction. Nothing has changed until I actually sign the deal. We have some time to figure that out.”
Stuart also thanked the Red Wings, particularly general manager Ken Holland, for his help in facilitating the deal that sent a 2014 seventh-round conditional draft pick and forward Andrew Murray to Detroit.
“For the Wings to give me time to figure it out shows what a class organization they are,” Stuart said. “I owe them a lot.”
The Wings acquired Stuart from Los Angeles at the 2008 trade deadline. He made an immediate impact in helping Detroit win the Stanley Cup that spring, collecting seven points with a plus-15 rating in the playoffs. For the most part, Stuart was paired with Niklas Kronwall most of the time during his four-plus seasons with the Wings. But getting the chance to practice and play on the same team with a legend like Nicklas Lidstrom was extra special, Stuart said.
“When you play around players like that every day is a chance to get better,” Stuart said. “I never saw him take practice off and you never saw that. It was a real good thing to be around. He is setting an example for the younger kids coming up. For me being a younger player he was someone to look up to in the way he was there every day, working every day.”
With the current schedule, Stuart could get home at least twice in a season when the Wings would head to the West Coast. However, over the last few seasons, the Wings were very accommodating in allowing the defenseman to fly home when the schedule permitted.
“I have great memories from my time there with the organization,” Stuart said. “Detroit was a great experience for me. I learned a lot from being around some of the best players in the game. I had a chance to play with Nick Lidstrom, who I consider one of the best defensemen ever. All those things made me a better player. The organization itself, was more than understanding of my family situation. They always gave me an opportunity to make things work. I have got to thank them for all those things they did for me and I became a better player there because of it.”
With that, let’s switch gears permanently to the Wings’ side of the story. First and foremost, via MLive’s Savage, who is this Andrew Murray guy, anyway?
Murray (6-2, 218) split last season between San Jose and Worcester of the AHL. In 39 games with the Sharks, he had one goal, three assists and four PIM. In 10 games with Worcester, he had one goal and two assists.
Murray, 30, is a five-year veteran who was the Columbus Blue Jackets’ eighth-round pick (242nd overall) in the 2001 Entry Draft.
In other words, at best, depth…
And, according to the Free Press’s Helene St. James, Murray’s the kind of depth the wings aren’t even interested in attempting to retain the services of:
The Wings get forward Andrew Murray, a pending unrestricted free agent, and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014 in return for surrendering the rights to a guy they knew would not stay in Detroit.
The Wings don’t have interest in Murray, so basically this trade is them getting the chance at something—a draft pick—if Stuart signs with the Sharks. Stuart had made it quite clear he wanted to relocate, so the Wings didn’t have much of a bargaining position.
“I talked to Stuie several times over the course of the season and over the past month,” general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press. “He wants to play closer to his family, so we decided to trade his rights. If something doesn’t work out with San Jose by July 1, we’re still interested, but we’ll see what happens.”
Stuart made it clear to the Wings at the end of the season that he wants to play closer to his family in San Jose after spending the last 4 1/2 seasons playing for the Wings. His family, which includes a stepdaughter who has a year left in high school, was unable to move to the Detroit area.
The Wings acquired Stuart via trade in the spring of 2008, and he made an immediate impact paired with Niklas Kronwall, helping the Wings to win the Stanley Cup that June.
“I’ve got nothing but great things to say about my time there, the organization and everyone involved with team,” Stuart said. “Making the decision to leave wasn’t easy. My family tied into that. Detroit was a great experience for me. I learned a lot being around some of the best best players in the game, including Lidstrom, the best defenseman of this generation. The organization was more than understanding—they bent over backwards to make sure I was given the opportunity to make things work. I have to thank them for the things they did for me. I’m a better player for my time there.”
Stuart said “it was a combination of things” that prompted his decision not to re-sign with the Wings, and that “I have my family to consider. It was a few different things I was trying to balance.”
So now what? Holland told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he would have preferred to retain Stuart’s services…
“We wanted to engage in negotiations to keep him,” said Holland, who added he made Stuart a contract offer. “He did not want to engage in contract negotiations. I wanted to get into a discussion. Brad’s feelings are he wants to get to July 1. His family has lived the entire time in San Jose. He was a good player for us,” Holland continued. “We would have liked to have re-signed him. He gave us four good years, five really good playoffs. I know it’s been a real difficult time for him and his family. They were going back-and-forth. He needs to find a home for all of them together.”
“We’re going to try to do something on defense,” said Holland, who has just over $26 million to spend this offseason. “We’re younger. The only defenseman in his 30s is Kronwall. It’s become obvious coming out of the work stoppage that this was going to be an ongoing reload. A big part of the reason we made the deal for Kyle Quincey was in the event Lidstrom retired and we couldn’t re-sign Brad Stuart,” Holland added. “We’ll explore free agency. We got six NHL defensemen on our roster.”
Put bluntly? In retrospect, sure, it wasn’t pleasant to watch the Wings “shoot their wad,” if I may use an indelicate term, on Quincey especially given the fluid nature of this year’s entry draft, but that 19th overall pick that didn’t end up being turned into a fourth-line forward who did little other than win key faceoffs and trash talk in one Paul Gaustad…
Well, it prevented the crater-sized hole on the Wings’ defense from reaching a point where free agency simply couldn’t fill it, and surrendering that 1st-round pick to Tampa Bay allows the Wings to spend less money to both retain Quincey’s services and sign a #4 defenseman than they probably would have had to spend had they chosen not to stack their blueline.
In retrospect, even as nothing more than a reclamation project, acquiring Quincey was and is an integral move in terms of guaranteeing that Lidstrom and Stuart’s departures do not present an unsolvable problem.
Rookie Brendan Smith, who saw some action last year, is expected to be on the roster next season.
“Part of being successful in the new (cap) world is you have to be homegrown,” Holland said. “You have to have homegrown players. We need to give Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith an opportunity. I thought Jonathan Ericsson made good strides last year. Niklas Kronwall is a real good NHL defenseman. Ian White turned out to be a real good player for us. Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart took a lot of pressure off everybody,” Holland continued. “They ate up a lot of minutes. They had a lot of experience. We’re not going to be as experienced.”
Holland added that has not had any talks yet with other team regarding acquiring anyone’s rights.
That kind of talk will happen closer to the draft, but for now, as MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests, the Wings have to prepare to very, very aggressively pursue the players which interest them while, again, thanking their lucky stars that while the Colorado Avalanche would never trade Kyle Quincey to Detroit, Steve Yzerman had no problem doing so:
“A big part of the reason we made the deal for Kyle Quincey was in the event Lidstrom retired and we couldn’t re-sign Brad Stuart,’’ Holland said. “We’ll explore free agency. We’re going to do something on defense.’‘
Regardless of Stuart’s decision, the Red Wings planned to be aggressive in the free-agent market. Their primary target is Nashville’s Ryan Suter, the premier defensemen among potential free agents. If the Red Wings are unable to land Suter, alternatives include Dennis Wideman (Washington), Matt Carle (Philadelphia), Jason Garrison (Florida), Bryce Salvador (New Jersey), Barret Jackman (St. Louis), Filip Kuba (Ottawa), Shane O’Brien (Colorado) and Justin Schultz, a rookie out of Wisconsin and Anaheim draft pick who is destined to become unrestricted.
This is just my gut talking, but I think the Wings will go after two of those players, not one.
“Part of being successful in the new (cap) world is you have to have homegrown players,’’ Holland said. “We need to give Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith an opportunity. I thought Jonathan Ericsson made good strides last year. Niklas Kronwall is a real good NHL defenseman. Ian White turned out to be a real good player for us.’‘
The Red Wings attempted to open contract negotiations with Stuart, a potential unrestricted free agent, during the season but he wasn’t interested. Holland gave it one final shot.
“I talked to his agent a couple of times over the last two days,’’ Holland said. “I made a contract offer, wanted to get into a discussion. He did not want to engage in contract negotiations. Brad’s feelings are he wants to get to July 1.’‘
Stuart didn’t rule out the possibility of coming back to Detroit if he’s unable to get a deal done with San Jose. But that appears highly unlikely. Stuart, in all likelihood, will sign with the Sharks before July 1. Stuart’s wife and three children live in San Jose and are unable to relocate due to a custody issue with his step-daughter. It was difficult being away from his family during the season, having to commute a long distance during rare breaks in the schedule.
“There are times during the year when you haven’t seen your wife or kids for a couple of weeks and you think about ways things could be better,’’ Stuart said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Detroit. I was always committed to that team. I really feel like I learned a lot there. But they gave me an opportunity to make things better, and hopefully it works out.’‘
“For the Wings to give me time to figure it out shows what a class organization they are. I owe them a lot.’‘
Murray was a throw-in in the deal, to prevent the Sharks from exceeding the 50-man roster limit. The Red Wings have no plans to re-sign the unrestricted free agent.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan retierates the list of names the Wings might be interested in after noting that Stuart knows he may end up facing his former team next April…
“I know it,” said Stuart, a potential unrestricted free agent, who was traded to San Jose for a conditional 2014 seventh-round draft pick (if Stuart signs with the Sharks) and forward Andrew Murray. “Both teams are committed to winning, and they’ve been very successful. We’ll see what happens in the future.”
Holland said he had brief discussions with other general managers at the GM meetings two weeks ago, but nothing interested him. Players such as Ryan Suter (Nashville), Matt Carle (Philadelphia), Barret Jackman (St. Louis) and Dennis Wideman (Washington) are potential unrestricted free agents that will attract the most attention, with Suter the undisputed No. 1 target of teams.
There’s also Justin Schultz, an Anaheim draft pick who has gone unsigned. Schultz will become an unrestricted free agent later this month and will attract a lot of interest — the Wings included.
“We’ll be active,” Holland said. “We’ve lost two quality defensemen.”
And what’s going to happen with Tomas Holmstrom? Kulfan says we’ll find out this week:
Holland said he’ll meet with forward Tomas Holmstrom this week.
Holmstrom, 39, could be headed toward retirement, as was the choice of his good friend, Lidstrom, a couple weeks ago. Holmstrom said at Lidstrom’s news conference he was close to making a final decision.
While we’re talking about potential subtractions, what happens to Jiri Hudler? The Macomb Daily’s Pleiness provides some insight into that situation...
Wings GM Ken Holland said he has me with Jiri Hudler’s agent, Petr Svoboda, and that they’re prepared to offer him a contract.
“He’s 28, he’s coming off a 25-goal season,” Holland said. “He’s got the right to go to free agency. We’ll see what happens. Right now Jiri will continue take time to determine what he wants to do.”
Holland plans to meet with Tomas Holmstrom sometime this week regarding his status for next season.
Holland said he’s had a few conversations with the agents for restricted free agents Quincey, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm and will do so again before the draft.
When the Colorado Avalanche signed forward David Jones last week, they might have set the market for Jiri Hudler. Jones passed on free agency to sign a four-year, $16 million deal after collecting 20 goals and 37 points. Hudler had 25 goals and 50 points for the Detroit Red Wings in 2011-12, so he can command more than $4 million per season as a free agent.
When Red Wings general manager Ken Holland was in Montreal last week for his daughter’s graduation from McGill University he met with Petr Svoboda, the agent for Hudler.
“We’re prepared to offer him a contract,’’ Holland said. “He’s got the right to go to free agency. We’ll see what happens. Right now Jiri will continue taking time to determine what he wants to do.’‘
Hudler, 28, surely would get more lucrative offers on the open market than what the Red Wings would be willing to pay him. Detroit isn’t apt to offer Hudler more than what Johan Franzen is earning ($3.95 million salary cap hit) or what they project paying Valtteri Filppula on his next deal (he’ll earn $3.5 million in 2012-13, the final year of his pact).
Khan also confirms Holmstrom and the Wings’ RFA’s situations…
– Holland will meet with forward Tomas Holmstrom early this week. Holmstrom is contemplating his future (seek another contract or retire). Even if he wants to return, it will be the team’s decision.
– Holland said he’s had preliminary conversations with the representatives of his restricted free agents (Kyle Quincey, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader) and will talk again before the draft on June 22-23.
But before I post the inevitable button and get this one out early for my fellow night owls, if you don’t believe what I’ve said about the “message-sending” PR aspect of this move, especially in terms of the free agents the Wings will be trying to sign three weeks from yesterday, here’s what Yahoo Sports’ Harrison Mooney had to say about the deal:
As for the Red Wings, don’t think they did this all that willingly. They just lost Nick Lidstrom, and this is another blow to their top four. Knowing Stuart’s desire to make like the Joad family and head West, they were wise to get something for him before he did, but now they’re down two top-four defensemen.
Hands up if you think they’ll be active in free agency.
Um, yes, they did do this willingly, Harrison. They weren’t happy about losing a player of Stuart’s caliber, but when someone wants to go play closer to home so that they can be closer to their family…
In Detroit, anyway, you accommodate them. That’s how it works here.
The Chief says so, too, and he’s the charismatic one here:
Even more evitable than the inevitable loss of Nick Lidstrom was the one that sent Brad Stuart west. We knew it. He knew it. So did San Jose. But Ken Holland took it a step further. He, once again, demonstrated to Stuart, all Wings and any players who may consider Detroit in the future that this organ-I-zation takes care of those who play the right way, the Wing Way, while in Detroit. A conditional pick and a guy who’ll never see Traverse City, much less Detroit? Didn’t matter. This deal was not designed as a give-and-take. It was giving Stuart the chance to get signed as early as possible, get re-settled and start living his life, finally, as a guy who can go home and see his family a heck of a lot more than he has the last several falls, winters and springs.
Brad Stuart was going to San Jose. The deal, in the way that deals like this are already made months before they’re legally and formally signed, was already done. Holland just allowed both parties to hasten the logistics. 4 years of grit and badassery, blocked shots, big hits and steady, tough play in the Winged Wheel earned this guy what Holland gave him today.
Good luck Disco Stu.
Now Kenny? Tick Tock. We now know for sure you’re still in the office. No reason not to be on the phone with a couple of high-priced agents finishing deals that were, like Stuart’s, done long ago.
If we’re putting our hands up? The nerdy one with OCD would like to offer you some gratuitous T&A (for both the ladies and the gents) via Fedde Le Grand’s, “Put Your Hands up for Detroit”..
And this one’s for the nerdy, socially awkward types like myself. Methinks the Brett Domino Trio does a better job of playing the kind of arena tunes that the Wings like to use to pump up the crowds up than the original artists do…
Here comes the button: I’m about a third of the way there thanks to some incredibly kind donators, but it’s the $5, $10 and $20 donations that get me to Traverse City, and those are the ones that have been in short supply as I try to raise the bucks to pay for a hotel or sublet in Traverse City so I can attend the Wings’ summer prospect camp. If you’re able to lend a hand in terms of affording my stay from July 7-14, I’m about a quarter of the way there, but that leaves three quarters of the way to go.
You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, and I don’t mind sharing the mailing address of my secret blogging lair via my other email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Now I’m going to go look around the net and the Russian/Swedish/Czech/Slovak/Finnish sports sites to see what else is up that’s Wings-related this morning.
Update: The Free Press’s Helene St. James reveals that Ken Holland more or less decided that he would ask Stuart whether he had any interest in returning to the Wings on Sunday morning, and when Stuart declined, Holland pulled the trigger on a deal with the Sharks:
“I’ve talked to Brad Stuart several times over the last couple of days, made him an offer—Stuie wanted to hit July 1,” Holland said. “Everybody is aware he missed his family in California.”
Holland spoke with San Jose general manager Doug Wilson last week, and the two worked out a deal that gives the Sharks a leg up on signing Stuart, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“If they don’t sign Brad, we’re certainly still interested,” Holland said. “We’ll see what happens.”
St. James also reveals that the Stuart family did try to make the cross-continental move, but if you’re looking for someone to blame, apparently Ciera had a rough go, and from there on out, Stuart was more or less destined to head out West, especially as his sons started to grow up:
“I missed quite a few milestones with my little sons, and that was hard,” Stuart said. “Playing in Detroit was great for my career, because I learned a lot the last four-plus years. I’m a better player for having played in Detroit. The organization treated me first-class and did everything they could to make sure I was happy, and I give them credit for that. It’s tough to leave a situation like that. I’ve got mixed emotions about this. But the opportunity to be with my family is important to me. For Kenny to make this move, to see if it will work out for me and my family, speaks volumes for the organization and how classy they are. If it doesn’t work out, Ken indicated they’d still like to have me. I appreciate that.”
Now, as St. James notes, the Wings have to make some significant moves to replace Stuart and Lidstrom:
Stuart was a leading minute-muncher who was a key part of the penalty kill. His departure comes 10 days after the retirement of captain Nicklas Lidstrom, leaving the Wings down two top-four defensemen. They have five blue-liners under contract for 2012-13 in Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl. They traded for Kyle Quincey this past spring partly to offset the likelihood of losing both Lidstrom and Stuart, and while Quincey is a pending restricted free agent, the Wings are confident they’ll re-sign him. They plan to otherwise re-stock via free agency, starting with a determined effort to add potential free agent Ryan Suter.
Stuart will be missed on and off the ice. Todd Bertuzzi called Stuart “one of the best teammates” and Kronwall credited his own growth to his long-time partner.
“He’s one of those guys who encourages you to go for it, to do what you need to get better,” Kronwall said. “He helped me take my game to the next level, and I’m very thankful for the years I got with him. I hate to see him go, but at the same time, this gives him an opportunity to be closer to his family, and I think we all understand that.”
Also of Red Wings-related note, from large to small: Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill spoke to the Free Press’s George Sipple about the Devils’ resiliency and Martin Brodeur’s superb play as the Devils have begun to make the Kings sweat:
“You look at the whole series and the first two games went to overtime,” Nill said. “Really, New Jersey could be ahead right now. That’s how close it is. L.A. went up, 3-nothing, but everyone forgot that the first two games are overtime. If New Jersey wins both of them or splits, it’s a whole different series.”
The last team to force a Game 6 in the Stanley Cup finals after losing the first three was the 1945 Red Wings. The Maple Leafs went on to win the series in seven games.
“I think both teams are really what the new world is,” Nill said. “It’s about playing as a team. Everybody is going to have the same level of talent. It’s about who is going to come together as a team, who is going to play their systems right.”
Nill said he has a lot of respect for how well 40-year-old Martin Brodeur has played in net for the Devils.
“Here he is a potential Conn Smythe winner,” Nill said of Brodeur. “You can’t give enough respect to these older players, how good they are.
The Wings certainly had their share of aging stars that helped them to Cup titles over the years. Nill was quick to mention players like Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper, among others.
“People underestimate how much will and drive these guys have,” Nill said. “You look at what Brodeur has done. He’s gone head-to-head against Quick every night. That’s all you can ask for.”
• Now this is intriguing: the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Jeff Johnson reports that Wings coach Mike Babcock was in Iowa on Sunday, as his son Michael (the second? Babcock’s a “junior” himself…) tried out for the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders:
Mike Babcock wasn’t playing the role of nervous father Sunday afternoon.
“What am I going to do?” the Detroit Red Wings head coach said, philosophically.
Babcock’s son, Michael, was one of 40-some players taking part in the final game of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders‘ 2012 tryout camp at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The three-day camp goes a long way toward determining a fall roster for the Riders.
This was the second year in a row trying out for Michael Babcock, 17, who recently completed his junior year at Detroit Catholic Central High School. He was named a Division 1 first-team all-stater by the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association.
“It was long and it was hard, but it was a good experience,” Michael Babcock said.
“The way I look at this is for every kid that came here, if they trained as hard as they could and left everything they had out there (on the ice), there are no regrets,” Mike Babcock said. “If this opportunity closes up, you find another one … I just know my kid will be happier if he’s coming to summer camp than if he’s not. But if he’s not, the sun is going to come up tomorrow.”
RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson said he is looking forward to Babcock coming to town for July’s conditioning camp. Carlson said there was no list of camp ”survivors,” per se. Each United States Hockey League club needs to be down to a working roster of 30 players by July 1, though there is an additional affiliate roster that can be used for younger players.
• In a very different vein, but also regarding coaches’ evaluations, University of Wisconsin coach Mike (father of Patrick) Eaves spoke to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell about the dearth of offense in the Stanley Cup playoffs while attending the Roger Neilson Coaches Clinic at the University of Windsor:
“It’s not entertaining,” Eaves said of what he’s seen in the NHL playoffs. We’re in the entertainment business. As a coach and former NHL player, I can appreciate how hard the guys are working. On the other hand, I’d like to see more offence.”
“The thing about the playoffs is guys are willing to sacrifice away from the puck more than they are during the regular season,” Eaves said. “It really becomes a battle between two forces.”
“I think Wayne Gretzky said something in his interview the other night I think has been a real problem in the playoffs,” Eaves said. “Guys aren’t shooting the puck enough. Offence is what the defence will give you. You start by creating possibilities. Shooting the puck does that because it forces the defence to react to something, to try and find the puck. That’s one thing I’ve noticed in the playoffs. I’m sure coaches are pounding on that.”
I’d continue with Eaves’ take on shot-blocking, but he also spoke about a player he helped develop into someone the Wings and 29 other NHL teams, including his current rights-holder, are interested in signing. Eaves is quite proud of current Anaheim Ducks prospect Justin Schultz’s work ethic:
Badgers’ blue-liner Justin Schultz, who looks like he’ll become a free agent unless he signs with Anaheim in the next couple of weeks, is considered by many the best pickup available this summer after Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter.
“The thing about Justin is, on a day-to-day basis, he’s wired to be the hardest working player out there in practice,” said Eaves, who is also visiting his father Cec who still lives in Windsor. He’s flying every drill, jersey flapping. He’s also a competitive kid.”
Eaves credited Schultz’s good friend Jake Gardiner (Toronto Maple Leafs) with influencing him to play a third year of college hockey.
“His buddy Jake told him he could skate and had the skills, but he’d playing against real strong men,” Eaves said. “The NHL is a man’s league.”
• In philosophical news of a different sort, Igor Larionov gave an interview to Sportbox.ru in which he answered questions from Sportbox readers, and while the original Russian and the Google English and Systran translations don’t line up well because online translators tend to swap out, “NHL,” “KHL” and “CHL” on a maddeningly inconsistent basis, but these three answers, as noted by Sportbox’s Dinara Kafiskna, are particularly intriguing—and these are, of course, roughly translated:
Question: Why do some great players become coaches? (Evgeniy70)
Igor Larionov: “Coaching is a vocation. When I finished playing in the NHL, I received offers from Vancouver and Phoenix to become a mentor for their teams. But, you know, I played hockey for 27 years, and it took a lot. I couldn’t forget that I had a family, children who are still young in my life. This time can’t be returned once it’s lost. So I decided to devote myself to my daughters and son. By the way, just three weeks ago, I got behind the bench for the first time to coach my son’s team. My debut wasn’t bad. We won the tournament—six games, and very competitive ones. I like to see things that you can’t from the stands, and to lead the process from the bench. When it’s necessary, to find the right combinations of payers, and the right words to help the team win.”
Question: “Why has the system of children’s hockey in Russia collapse, is it steeped in corruption? (Sir_Pavel)
Larionov: “It’s probably necessary to speak not only about hockey, but also about life in Russia in general. It’s necessary to understand and dig deeper. If there’s corruption in the upper levels of power, it applies to everything else.”
And that’s why Larionov no longer works for SKA St. Petersburg or the KHL, and that’s why Larionov refused an invitation to be the GM of Russia’s 2014 Olympic team—the Russian Hockey Federation couldn’t promise Larionov that he wouldn’t be subject to making personnel decisions based on KHL politicking or, given that Sochi happens to be Vladimir Putin’s home, requests from #1 Fan himself.
Question: Can the KHL grow toward the level of the NHL? (Alexalma)
Larionov: We need transparency in all respects regarding the sport. It’s necessary that everything is properly placed, in its rightful place. Then we can say that the KHL has a chance to compete with the NHL. Right now, I don’t see that.
• In news regarding another hockey warhorse, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford profiled former Red Wing and Maple Leaf Gus Mortson who was something of a…Goon…
• And let’s close with cheerier competitive s
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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.