The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/20/11 at 10:56 PM ET
Updated at 9:20 PM with Ken Kal and Bob McNamara on WBBL: Given the wars of words in the main Lidstrom post, I must politely and respectfully ask my readers to please give the arguments about the Red Wings’ captain supposedly harming his team by taking his full $6.2 million salary a damn rest. As NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted via Twitter, the Wings aren’t exactly in cap trouble because their best player still expects to be paid like their best player at 41 years of age:
#Redwings in good shape heading into free agency on July 1. W/Lidstrom back @ $6.2M, they have 17 signed for $48M. New cap $64M
That means Ken Holland will have about $15M in cap space to fill out roster w/6 players. #Redwings in market for 1-2 top D and maybe Jagr.
Those players include a back-up goalie, Patrick Eaves and/or Drew Miller, possibly Jonathan Ericsson, that #1 defenseman and either Jagr or another top-six forward. Lidstrom is not slighting his team, nor is he proving that he’s not as good a captain as the gentleman who took a lesser salary when he was a 3rd-line player in his last season, when the salary cap was down by the cap floor.*
As the Wings’ press corps and many out-of-town experts noted, Lidstrom remains supremely motivated to play at his present, Norris Trophy-finalist level, and play on a team which will contend for the Stanley Cup, and nothing less.
Lidstrom made sure to tell the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff that even with Brian Rafalski retiring, he would not have returned to half-ass his way along…
“Coming off (the previous) season, I thought I could’ve played better,” Lidstrom said. “I wanted to prove I could still play at a high level and be an impact player. It was important. If I’d taken another step back last season, it could’ve been a difficult decision for me.”
It now appears the deciding factor, outside of family approval, is his ability to handle the demands of the off-season workout program he puts himself through. He started training a week after the season ended.
“The reason it’s taken so long is I wanted to make sure I found the motivation to make the commitment to work out all summer to be ready for next season,” Lidstrom said. “Preparing for a long year, you have to start in June. As I get older, it gets even harder. I’ve learned you can’t cut corners. You have to be ready to play in October and you have to be ready to keep doing it in April and May
“I knew Ken and Mike (Babcock) really wanted me back with Brian leaving, but my motivation was the most important factor,” Lidstrom said. “We’ve talked about future plans. I’ve never had any doubt Ken and Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch would put the best product on the ice.”
Lidstrom knows there’ll some personnel changes, but feels the team has room for improvement beyond changing players.
“Our goals against can be better,” Lidstrom said. “Special teams, especially in the playoffs, has to step up. These things have to improve. That might not be personnel issues. It might be playing our system better.”
And as Lidstrom spoke like a wise captain, Holland openly suggested that the Wings are ready to wheel and/or deal, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted…
“Today’s announcement is a big step towards building a defense that allows us to be competitive,’’ Holland said.
The Red Wings have four NHL defensemen under contract: Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall and Jakub Kindl. Holland is continuing contract talks with Jonathan Ericsson, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He said a decision on whether to offer veteran Ruslan Salei a contract will come in the next 10 days.
The club is counting on top prospect Brendan Smith to make the team next season after one year with the Grand Rapids Griffins. And veteran Doug Janik, who has a one-way contract for 2011-12, could make the roster as the seventh or eighth defenseman. Holland said they’re considering carrying 13 forwards and eight defensemen instead of the usual 14 forwards and seven defensemen.
The Red Wings will look to acquire a top-four defenseman through free agency.
“We got some cap money,’’ Holland said. “We plan to be aggressive on July 1 and sign a defenseman or two. But we’re not going out there to spend a bunch of money just to have a press conference. We’re going to find players that fit our team, fit our system.’‘
Holland also expects trade talks to heat up Friday and Saturday at the entry draft in St. Paul, Minn.
“Teams know we have a need on defense and we have cap space,’’ Holland said. “I received a few calls last week. We’re going to explore ways, either on the trade front or free agency.’‘
And Holland has this to say about Jonathan Ericsson to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
“We’re going to make a decision on him in the next 10 days,” Holland said of Ericsson, who is free to shop his services to the highest bidder come July 1.
Holland talked excitedly of the potential of former first-round pick and American Hockey League all-rookie team member Brendan Smith.
“We’re going to give him every opportunity to make the team in training camp,” he said of Smith.
Journeyman Doug Janik, who downed a cup of coffee in Detroit last season, could fit into the mix as the seventh defender.
“We’re going to give him opportunity to fight for one of the spots on defence,” Holland said.
“We’re going to explore ways either on the trade front or through July 1 free agency,” Holland said. “We want to be active, we want to make some additions to our team, and we’re open-minded going in.”
“We’re looking to be active, but at the same time, we’re not looking to spend a bunch of money and have press conferences,” Holland said. “We want to find players that fit our team, fit our system and with salaries we think will help us continue to be competitive in a cap world.”
As independent journalist Greg Eno states—regrettably, via Bleacher Report—Lidstrom’s presence makes Detroit that much more attractive a place to play for everyone from Ericsson to the player they plan on targeting on July 1st, and the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff made an intriguing comment about the Wings’ other assured target to hit the market aside from Jamews Wisniewski via a Twitter answer to a question by @bmaggiemay:
@bmaggiemay @georgemalik #redwings brass are not fans of [Joni] Pitkanen.
Barring Kevin Bieksa or Christian Ehrhoff hitting the market, the top of the thin heap is Wisniewski. He’s probably their main target right now.
As far as the rest of the Wings’ roster changes are concerned, coaching included, things got a little weird today. The Hockey News’s Ken Campbell reported that Ken Hitchcock turned down the Wings’ offer to join the team as an assistant coach, meaning that the favorites of those who remain available are still Bob Boughner and Pete DeBoer…
Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy confirmed via Twitter that, again, the Wings have not let Kris Draper know whether he’ll be brought back, and the same will be true of Chris Osgood as Holland told Khan, St. James and Kulfan that the Wings will look at the free agent marketplace on July 1st and determine whether there are better options before making their final decisions on Draper and Osgood…
And then there is Jaromir Jagr. Per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun...
Jaromir Jagr and his agent, Petr Svoboda, were scheduled to meet in their native Czech Republic on Monday to discuss the next plan of action.
Svoboda told ESPN.com before the meeting that Detroit and Pittsburgh remained in the mix, plus a few other NHL teams. The KHL, of course, also remains an option for Jagr.
Another source told ESPN.com on Monday that Detroit had coach Mike Babcock speak with Jagr over the weekend.
Jagr, 39, is an unrestricted free agent. He can make more money staying in the KHL, but told ESPN.com last Friday that a return to the NHL is very appealing to him.
It appears that Montreal’s dropping out of the mix, and as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi noted, Jagr’s chasing the Penguins, not the other way around—and the Free Press’s Helene St. James believes that Jagr’s talking to the Capitals, too.
As Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski suggests, if Jagr wants to earn more money, Avangard Omsk can definitely give him more than Detroit can (Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov said on Sunday evening that both Detroit and Omsk are offering him $2.5 million, but there are few, if any taxes on athletes’ salaries in Russia)...
But the whole concept of Jagr soliciting other offers kind of bothers me.
LeBrun also offers this up:
The agent for pending UFA blueliner Christian Ehrhoff, Rick Curran, told ESPN.com Monday he has had a conversation with the Vancouver Canucks since the Cup finals ended and the two sides plan on meeting in Minnesota this week to continue that conversation. Maybe it’s just me, but with the Detroit Red Wings openly flaunting their intention to be aggressive July 1 on the blue-line front, I’d be keeping all my options open if I were Ehrhoff, even though he does love playing in Vancouver.
Shifting focus back to the captain and the resulting possible roster moves, if you missed it, thanks to the Red Wings’ website’s Flash player and the Detroit News, you can listen to Lidstrom’s presser…
Via RedWingsFeed, NHL On The Fly distilled Lidstrom’s comments from the 26-minute presser into about five minutes worth of listening…
And Wings GM Ken Holland spoke about both Lidstrom and a “Red Wings kind of move” in possibly signing Jagr on The Fan 590 before Bob McCown begged Holland to suggest that it’s “unfair” that the cap’s so high:
In the further reading department, if you’re interested, Scotty Bowman’s offering new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan some advice through the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts…
But the focus of this entry remains on a player who I believe has every right to earn every penny he wants to…
Actually, let’s not, not yet.
I should have said this a long time ago. I know that A2Y was a free-for-all comments-wise, but since I began working here, it’s been my assumption that I am writing to an audience of informed hockey fans who are just as smart as I am and whose opinions are just as valid as mine are, and that we’re talking at a big, round table, where there is a seat for everybody, and no opinion is “greater” or “lesser.”
Moreover, I don’t mind one bit if you call me out, tell me that I’m misinformed or plain dumb, and I appreciate constructive criticism, even if it’s harsh, but I’m just not cool with the concept of people ripping into each other and having pissing contests to mark territory or engage in testosterone wars. Even if somebody says something that you or I might think is downright stupid, as long as it doesn’t include a personal insult toward another commenter or involves obscene language, I’d ask that you disagree politely.
The Chief is a better blogger and better writer than I am and he’s a fantastic pied piper. I’m just the Tomas Holmstrom of the blogging world, trying to bat down stories as they roar in, trying to make following the Wings easier in the process and hoping to start discussions amongst Wings and hockey fans whose opinions I value greatly. I don’t have charm or aplomb, and I’m a verbose and sometimes awkward writer (I am also, like Homer, a little grumpy, a little over-emotional and, perhaps only as I can be, a bit high-maintenance; Paul’s the Nick Lidstrom of blogging, trust me). But I expect that you treat each other as you would want to be treated, and I’d ask that you leave the verbal hacking and whacking to my ankles as it’s my job to take them.
Okay, back to hockey: Lidstrom spoke to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman at length about his return, and here’s a rough translation of his article…
Will play in his 20th season
Palm Springs: If someone had told him that he would still be playing NHL hockey at the age of 42 ten years ago, Nicklas Lidstrom would have laughed. But now he stands as the oldest Swedish player ever to play in the world’s best league.
“It’s still tremendously exciting to play hockey, and I still believe that we can win the Stanley Cup in Detroit,” says Lidas to Sportbladet.
On Monday news came that allowed all of Detroit to exhale. Nicklas Lidstrom will continue to play. The legendary defenseman has agreed with the Red Wings upon a new one-year contract, worth as much as the last one—[$6.2 million (over 40 million Swedish Kronor)]. But it took him a while to decide to play in his 20th season in the NHL.
“Yes, I took my time. At first I was tremendously disappointed that we’d been knocked out of the playoffs, and then I wondered whether I still had the motivation to play at this level,” he says.
Still so much fun
So why did you?
“Hockey’s still so much fun that it’s worth another summer of dry-land training.”
Is that what’s the boring part, the dry-land training?
“It’s difficult. It can be enjoyable in itself at times, but you have to work very hard, and the older you get, the more important it is. You can’t cheat. I’ve already been training for a while, I began doing so at the endof May, actually. You can’t do otherwise.”
You’re going to be 42 at the end of the next season. Did you ever think that you could play at that age?
“Absolutely not. If someone said so ten years ago, I would have just laughed at them.”
But a few years ago you said that you’d never play for as long as your friend, Chris Chelios, but now you’re getting closer to his age…
“Ha ha, well, I’m grateful that he was able to do what he could until he was 48, it gives [all of us] hope. But at 48, I won’t still be playing, I promise you.”
Don’t say that we’re going to have this discussion again in a year…
“Ha ha, yes, the reporters in Detroit believe that, too. We’ll see. I signed for one year, and then I’ll decide [again] depending on how I feel. But now I’m focusing on this year.”
You’re already the oldest Swede to play in the NHL. Only Tommy Albelin was in the same territory.
“Is that so? I hadn’t thought of it. But, as I said before, it’s still fun to play.”
Did the fact that things went so well last season play a role in your decision?
“Yes, to some extent. Most importantly, I was disappointed in my game the previous season, and I wanted to prove, especially to myself, that I can still perform at this level. In that sense I managed to do so and it feels good.”
And the team’s still competitive. How important is that?
“It’s very important. We have two superstars in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, and a great team overall, which makes it easier to continue playing. When you realize how small the margin for error is, you could suggest that we might have made the finals again this year. If you look at Vancouver, they were forced to play in overtime in Game 7 of their first round. But we simply didn’t play well enough in our series against San Jose.
Did your family play a part in your decision?
“Yes, Annika and I talked continually about this during the season, and my children have also been involved in our discussions.”
And did they encourage you to continue playing?
“Yes, they still think it’s fun to go watch hockey at Joe Louis Arena.”
There are many who think that it’s exciting to see them, too.
Relief among “Lidas’s” teammates is huge.
“Yes, I’d say that all of Michigan can exhale now,” says defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “I didn’t even want to think about the concept that he could have retired, and believed all along that he would decided to do this, especially considering the season he had. But I thought about it again a while ago…What happens if he retires? You can’t really imagine the Red Wings without Lidas.”
Kronwall says that his captain is a unique player.
“We’re so spoiled to have him here year after year. He’s the best player on the team 82 games out of 82 in the regular season. He’s at his best in every game in the playoffs, too. There just aren’t players like him,” [Kronwall] says.
By tomorrow morning, I’m sure that Mitch Albom (he asked a question on the conference call) and other talking heads will weigh in upon Lidstrom’s return, but I’d argue that the best beat writer without a Red Wings beat is former Free Press writer Nicholas J. Cotsonika (he’s tied with Craig Custance and USA Today’s Kevin Allen of course!) in this instance, so let’s give Yahoo Sports’ resident NHL guru the last word for now:
I’m sure Lidstrom wouldn’t approach being a sixth or seventh defenseman. He’s a No. 1 defenseman, period. Lidstrom at, say, 75 percent of his prime might be better than much of the NHL, but might not be good enough for him.
Who knows how long Lidstrom can keep playing at a level high enough to satisfy him? Who knows how long the Wings can keep contending for the Cup? Logic says both should have fallen off a long time ago. But Lidstrom is still playing as well as he ever has, and the Wings still have a core that includes Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in their primes.
Holland now has rare flexibility to make off-season moves and will explore trades and free agency. He has Rafalski’s $6 million to spend, and Lidstrom accepted the same salary he made last season – $6.2 million – which is actually a smaller piece of the pie now because the cap is increasing to about $64 million.
So Lidstrom will train, Holland will make his moves and we’ll see what happens next season.
“When it’s over,” Lidstrom said, “you re-evaluate how you played, how your body feels, how your mind feels, and then you kind of set your sights [on] if you’re ready to do it again.”
One day, he won’t be ready, and neither will we.
Now that he’s back, this Red Wings fan is ready to watch his favorite team reload instead of rebuild.
Update: WBBL‘s “Huge Show’s” Bill Simonson spoke to Ken Kal…
And Grand Rapids Griffins GM Bob McNamara:
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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.