The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/29/12 at 06:59 PM ET
Red Wings GM Ken Holland has some serious needs to fill on Sunday, but he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness (via RedWingsFeed) that his team does not believe that it’s dealing from anything other than a position of strength going into July 1st:
“We’ve got cap space, we’ll explore the market, but it’s got to make sense,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said Friday. “We have lots of pieces in place, players ready to step up and play a bigger role. Some of this has to be internal evolution.”
And Detroit has some major holes to fill, namely on the blue line and perhaps another top six forward. This offseason the Wings lost defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (trade). They could also lose Jiri Hudler to another team that’s willing to offer the winger more money.
“We don’t have as many holes as some people think,” Holland said. “I attribute that to the development of Brendan Smith. You’re not going to replace Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s going to be replaced by all defensemen picking it up. Brad Stuart is a loss. I look at the addition of Kyle Quincey, the development of Brendan Smith, Jonathan Ericsson. We got Nik Kronwall, Jakub Kindl is 25, Ian White had a good year. We don’t have big names, but we have good players. Jonathan Ericsson is developing into a shut-down defenseman.”
So what does Holland’s assessment mean given that Nicklas Lidstrom’s retired?
“Life without Nicklas Lidstrom will be difficult, but (others) are waiting for a bigger role,” Holland said. “That’s what’s got to happen in the evolution of a hockey team.”
“We need another defenseman,” Holland said. “We’re going to explore the market and make a decision. We have 12-13 forwards, but do we have the right 12-13 forwards? That’s the question.We’d like to make a move, another skilled forward or a bottom-six guy that gives us size or another dimension,” Holland added. “We do plan to be involved, hoping to make a move or two, but we got internal things going on.”
As for up front, “We’ve been developing Gustav Nyquist, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader are ready for a bit of a step,” Holland said. “Do we need to make a move or two on July 1? Absolutely. Do we need to make a major splash? I don’t think so.”
The two most coveted players in this year’s unrestricted free agent class, if they both don’t sign with their previous teams before noon on Sunday, are defenseman Ryan Suter (Nashville) and forward Zach Parise (New Jersey).
“Teams don’t have to have big-name defenses, you need to have a good team,” Holland said. “I’ve heard how old we are for two to three years. We’re not old anymore. We got younger players.”
Update: Red Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke to NHL Live’s E.J. Hradek and Bill Pidto yesterday…
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose transcribed the “talking points” of Babcock’s conversation:
“I’m in a position to fly [from Saskatoon to] wherever they want me to fly,” Babcock told the NHL Network Thursday from his home in Saskatchewan. “We’re a work in progress, so we’re talking each and every day about the moves that we’re trying to make, and we kind of have an A Plan, a B Plan, a C Plan, and we’ve probably got even a D Plan. I’m just going to be ready to go.”
The lose of defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to retirement in the last 12 months, and the recent departure of Brad Stuart – who signed with San Jose – are reason enough for the Wings to make an expected serious run at Suter, who produced seven goals and 39 assists for the Predators last season. Detroit didn’t have a defenseman compile 39 points last season, let alone 39 assists. The 27-year-old Suter would give the Wings two top pairings and help Nicklas Kronwall quarterback the power play. But regardless of what the Wings’ front office does in the coming days in the open market, it will remain important that the team’s home grown players, like Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, continue to develop so they can contribute at the NHL level, Babcock said.
“I think it’s a big real opportunity for both of those guys and it’s going to be competitive for them and they’ll have to come in and take jobs,” Babcock said of Smith and Kindl. “Smith, to me, has been a player that we felt made our team out of training camp and as a coaching staff really felt like he could have helped us when he came up. Right now he’s a player that generates offense for you and a little bit for the opposition. We want him simply generating offense for us, he knows that. But we think he has upside potential. Kindl, on the other side, I think has really taken some steps in the last couple of years. He could be a puck-mover at the NHL level, he’s 22-pounds, he’s 6-foot-3, he can shoot the puck, it’s now time to grab a job and be an every day player that makes a contribution.”
While the Wings thought Lidstrom still had some good years left in him, Rafalski’s unexpected retirement last summer freed up some cap space, which the Wings still have available. It’s that money, along with the new windfall from this summer’s departures that will allow the Wings to pursue Parise and Suter. Currently, Detroit has 19 players under contract for the upcoming season at a cap hit of a little more than $46 million.
On Thursday, the league and the players’ association announced that the team payrolls have been adjusted up for next season with the cap floor set at $54.2 million and the ceiling set at $70.2 million. With so many clubs expected to make lucrative offers to both Parise and Suter, getting them in Detroit isn’t a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination. But, even if the Wings don’t land either – or both – of this year’s big free agency fish, there will be other tangible options out there for general manager Ken Holland. Possible forwards include Shane Doan, Alex Semin, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, and Ray Whitney, a 20-year veteran who played for the Wings in 2003-04. Defensively, there’s Jason Garrison, the 27-year-old left-handed shot, who finished second in the league with nine power-play goals among defensemen.
“We’re fortunate that there will be people on the market and we’re going to have to improve our hockey club,” Babcock said. “We were in a situation last year where we played $6 million under the cap on purpose to kind of be set-up for going ahead and that’s what we’re trying to do to secure the best people that we can possibly secure and then go from there.”
Injuries and the lack of depth certainly cost the Wings last April when they were bounced out of their first-round playoff series against Nashville. But if the Wings can secure one or two new players in free agency, then, Babcock said, he sees his team back in the thick of next spring’s Stanley Cup race.
“We think that we’re set-up to have pretty good depth. We just have to add a couple of people in spots and we’ll have that right back,” Babcock said. “To me, at playoff time, depth is everything. All you have to do is look at the team that wins at the end with four lines that can play. The way it worked out for us, we had guys at minus-5 in five games in the playoffs up front; depth didn’t work that way for us, so we’re going to try and address that. Now obviously, the more you can add at the top and slide people into the right spots the better off you are.”
Update #2: Pleiness posted a little more of his conversation with Holland in the Macomb Daily’s Friday evening Wings notebook…
“Do we go out and sign a third goalie to be the Joey MacDonald of the AHL and Joey MacDonald is in the NHL? Or do we sign an upgrade on Joey?” Holland said.
The Wings will decide on Sunday morning whether they go to meet players and their agents face-to-face.
“I believe we’ve got a lot of pieces in place, we’re well-coached, we got players 25-26-27 looking for bigger responsibility,” Holland said.
And I can only shake my head regarding Jiri Hudler, whose time in Detroit was probably borrowed from the moment he returned from Moscow Dynamo. His agent, Petr Svoboda, wants Hudler to be paid $4-plus million, and the Wings won’t offer him that much…
“What happens with the market is an unknown situation,” said Hudler’s agent Petr Svoboda, who would not comment on how far both sides are apart on getting a deal done. “In Jiri’s situation, there’s great communication, great love for the city, the organization, everything else. Kenny made an offer five days ago, we did not take it,” Svoboda continued. “I don’t know if there will be any meetings or calls before July 1. He is still hoping to go back to Detroit. We’ll see what happens.”
Holland said both sides will probably talk again on July 1.
“We agreed earlier in the week that maybe the best fit for both of us is each other,” Holland said. “It’s a chance for us to explore the market, a chance for Jiri to explore the market. Once you hit July 1, things happen fast.”
But there is a bottom line from Holland regarding Hudler and every other potential target:
“There’s a game plan,” Holland said. “You need lots of game plans.”
Update #3: The Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple is confirming that Hudler is more or less gone…
“Kenny made an offer to us, I would say four to five days ago, and we left it at that point,” Svoboda said. “We didn’t close the door. Maybe we’ll be talking before July 1st. But if not, then we can talk though July 1st. Nothing done yet.”
Asked if the sides were far apart, Svoboda said: “I would not make a comment on that.”
Svoboda said Hudler hasn’t closed the door on returning to the Wings: “Absolutely not.”
“Obviously, there’s a difference of opinion, or we’d be working towards a deal,” Holland said this afternoon. “We like him. He did a good job for us. We’d be interested in him coming back. That’s why I made an offer. But they feel that there’s a different marketplace out there than what we’ve offered. Usually, there is. We’ve sort of agreed we’re going to hit July 1st. He can do his thing, and we can do our thing, and if we wake up a day or so into free agency, and we’re still sitting there, maybe the best partners are the ones you know the best. But right now, he can explore and we can explore.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan confirms:
Not a shocker and totally expected…..Hudler to test the market according to Ken Holland.
Again, sorry about the absence I’ve got a head cold and it’s getting better, but I’m still pretty boogery.
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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.