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Red Wings in ‘wait and see mode’ regarding free agents

Updated 2x: with Holland speaking to Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom about Dick Axelsson and free agency at 10:56 AM: On the jitteriest day of the year for Red Wings fans, Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan regarding the team’s free agency plans, and it sounds like the Wings are, like the rest of us, waiting to find out who actually reaches the marketplace on Friday before making their decision as to whether they’ll spend money or make a trade to replace Brian Rafalski:

“We got money, but we got a lot of our pieces in place,” said general manager Ken Holland. “We don’t want to spend for the sake of spending. We will explore the market. A lot of (would-be) free agents have signed, and I anticipate more will (prior to Friday). We’ll work the phones, see what happens.”

The Red Wings will spend up to the cap if necessary, but they won’t overpay. They would like to have some money at their disposable at the trade deadline.

“Part of it is we want to be the best team we can be right now, but we also want to be flexible for the trade deadline,” Holland said.

If Christian Ehrhoff and/or James Wisniewski either don’t reach the marketplace or ask for gigantic salaries, Khan suggests that the Wings have several options, including a trade but excluding an offer sheet (Holland doesn’t believe in employing that tactic)...

The other higher-priced defensemen in the pool are Kaberle, whose stock dropped following a late-season trade from Toronto to Boston, and Washington’s Scott Hannan, a stay-at-home defender who did not register a single point on the power play last season.

If the Red Wings opt for a lower-priced alternative, the possibilities include Ian White of San Jose, Anton Babchuk of Calgary, Jan Hejda of Columbus, Steve Montador of Buffalo and Andy Greene of New Jersey. If the Red Wings opt for a short-term stop-gap—an aging veteran unable to get a long-term deal—the possibilities include Ed Jovanovski of Phoenix, Sami Salo of Vancouver, Roman Hamrlik of Montreal and Bryan McCabe of the New York Rangers.

“We definitely need to do something on defense,” Holland said. “Do we do a bigger money, long-term deal, or is it in our best interest to go with (older, less-expensive) veterans?”

Khan also confirms that the Wings will look for a back-up goalie on the UFA market, but he believes that it’s “Jagr or the bargain bin” in terms of a free agent forward, and Holland suggests as much:

“Up front, all our significant pieces are in place,” Holland said. “We’re looking for secondary pieces.”

Update:  As an FYI, the Port Huron Times-Herald reports that the Wings’ alums raised $140,000 for charity on Monday.

Update #2: Ken Holland also had a chat with Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom this morning:

Red Wings praise Axelsson’s move

St. Paul. Detroit Red Wings management isn’t upset that Dick Axelsson turned down the opportunity to play NHL games with them this fall. They believe the talented fowrard
ST. PAUL. Detroit Red Wings management is upset that Dick Axelsson turned down NHL games with them this fall. They believe that the talented forward will get a boost from playing for Modo Hockey.

“We just want to make sure that we retain our NHL rights to Axelsson. [Modo coach] Ulf Samuelsson could be the right man to help Dick’s talent develop, says GM Ken Holland to Sport-Expressen.

Holland was disappointed when Dick Axelsson left the Wings’ farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, and went back to Sweden in the middle of the [2009-2010] season.

After suspending Axelsson for some time, Detroit allowed him to play for Farjestad. Now, Holland believes that Axelsson might have come over [to the NHL] too soon.

“Yes, it might have very well been that way. He wasn’t quite ready for the move and that’s why things happened. I have no problem that he wants to play for Modo now and spend the season there.”

Do you think that Ulf Samuelsson might have an impact on Axelsson’s career?

“Absolutely. Samuelsson played in the NHL for many years and was an assistant coach in Phoenix for several seasons, so if anyone knows what it takes to succeed in the NHL, it’s him. I think this is a good solution for everybody.”

Will you follow Dick in Modo this season?

“Yes, our scout in Sweden, Hakan Andersson, will be in contact with Samuelsson and Modo, so we’re comfortable with the upcoming season.”

Could Axelsson play for the Red Wings in the 2012-2013 season?

“Sure, but we’ll see how things go this winter first. That being said, I think this is good for Axelsson’s development.”

How important was it to get Nicklas Lidstrom to sign for another year?

“Extremely important. And I’m glad that Nick signed before winning his seventh Norris Trophy, because his asking price probably would have gone up!”

What is the state of your negotiations with Jonathan Ericsson?

“We want to keep him and I will meet his agent after the draft here in Minnesota. I know that Jonathan has done well in Detroit and would prefer to stay, so I hope we can solve the money issue to everyone’s satisfaction.”

And you have a hole to fill after Brian Rafalski [retired]?

“That’s right, so we need Ericsson. And then we’ll try to find an established defenseman for the team that will be a free agent on July 1st.

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Comments

RWBill's avatar

George, the Samsung dual zone side by side refrigerator is a good one and energy efficient.  It has separate cooling systems and temperature controls for the freezer and refrigerator.  I don’t know what models they make anymore and maybe it would be more refrigerator than she needs, but I’ve really been pleased with mine.

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 06/30/11 at 12:16 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Although this easily exceeds the time horizon of we fans who wanted trades and contracts done right after Rafi’s retirement news conference, one cannot overestimate the importance of what is right around the corner in the form of a renegotiated CBA.  We can’t say for certain what conditions and gauntlets it will throw down in front of GMs, but we can be sure that NHL, Inc., will attempt to punish success and prevent any franchise from achieving excellence through its own ingenuity and strategies.

Impatient as we are, some way more than others to the point of scratching their hair out, franchises that tie themselves down to long term, excessive contracts could end up in severely tight conditions with few options but to disband and blow themselves up after the new CBA. 

What separates Holland and The Braintrust from us is the ability to avoid such traps and keep the Red and White Ship of State not only afloat, but always on course for the Stanley Cup.

All who want the Wings to blindly throw max dollars to keep up with the Joneses will have zero accountability and responsibility when that inevitable time comes to recover and adjust to the new CBA. 

Holland and the Wings will do any reasonable and affordable move to increase their chances at a Stanley Cup this year, short of risking the chance of later having to blow up the franchise just for one blind shot at winning.  That is not how they roll, and Thank God for that.

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 06/30/11 at 12:35 PM ET

Ajax19's avatar

George, the Samsung dual zone side by side refrigerator is a good one and energy efficient. 

I recently had to buy a new fridge myself.  I went with a Maytag.  Solid fridge and, since Maytag is owned by Whirlpool, it’s a Michigan company.

I had a Samsung fridge and liked it, but it eventually broke down and the fridge repair guy told me that Samsung fridge’s were overly complicated that Samsung should stick to TVs.  That’s just one guy’s opinion though.

Well, enough on that sidebar…

None of what’s going on in free agent land is terribly surprising.  Given the increase in cap space, the need for some teams to spend money just to get to the cap floor and the thin free agent market, one would have to expect that this year’s “Silly Season” would only be that much sillier. 

Holland and the Wings, rightfully so, have never bought into this madness.  They realize that the long term deals have implications beyond the immediate year.  You have to look at what your cap space will look like in the future and how the deals you sign impact your own internal salary structure.  The Wings have shown a lot of patience in both regards.

They signed Hossa to that big one year deal, but checked with Lidstrom first about the internal structure - since Hossa was going to make more than him - and by signing a one year deal they didn’t need to worry about future years. 

They signed Rafalski to be their #2 guy and paid him accordingly.  The deal was very reasonable and, up until Rafalski started to wear down and break down last year due to unjury, he played up to his contract.  Heck, even last year he put up great offensive numbers.

This year is no different.  If the Wings sign Erhoff or Wisniewski to a big money/long term deal how will that impact future negotiations with guys like Stuart and Kronwall?  If such a deal raises the salary bar, then will the Wings have enough left to sign Lidstrom’s “replacement”?

If the Wings sign a guy like Joel Ward to a big deal, how will that impact the impending Darren Helm negotiations?  There is taking a “home town” discount when you compare your salary to players on other teams and it’s a different analysis when you’re asked to do the same when the guy in the stall next to you is making more than you and doing less.

The problem, however, is that the Wings need to make some moves.  They’ve been knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by San Jose two years in a row.  Despite the fact that I thought they were the better team this year, what they currently have isn’t enough.  It’s a solid foundation, but they need to add to it.  To change things up a bit.  They can’t stand pat.

I do love this time of year.

Posted by Ajax19 on 06/30/11 at 12:53 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

For the sake of internal salary structure, that might just be why a guy like Ian White or Cam Barker is a better target.

White doesn’t offer the offense the Wings would like to replace from that position, be he gives you a near Brad Stuart clone. Barker has shown the potential to give some good power play offense, but obviously had a hard time in Minnesota. Some of that is probably the system and lack of continuity they’ve had up there the last few seasons, but some of that may have also been Barker still being raw.

To me, there is only one guy on this year’s UFA market that you can pay top dollar for by any measure—skill, track record, how it will fit in with the team’s current salary structure—and that is Brad Richards. If you pay Richards between $6 and $7 per year, he falls right around Datsyuk and Lidstrom, and given his abilities, that would be fair and wouldn’t upset anything. Darren Helm can compare himself to Brooks Laich or Joel Ward, but he can’t compare himself to Brad Richards.

I’m obviously not saying Richards is a totally realistic possibility, just making a point that the UFA crop is thin, and IMO, he’s the only guy from the entire class that will probably deserve his high-priced contract (or at least come close to deserving it). We’ve already seen a handful of guys get pretty dramatic overpayments.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/30/11 at 01:04 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Not to mention White is a eighty…

If they bring in a cheap reliable vet defender I could see them going for Richards if they thought they could get him here but heard he wants 5 yr deal and the new cba is right around the corner.. also issues with bringing in another forward without shipping at least one out

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/30/11 at 01:24 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Righty *

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/30/11 at 01:25 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Yeah sure I immediately wrote up that reducing the GAA should be the main objective of the Wings this off season, but would anybody be upset at signing Brad Richards for that roughly $6M instead of a defenseman?  After all, none of the few elite defensemen available are billed as shut down, they’re all described as offensive minded, good on PP, etc.  Those few Dmen described in the stay at home category would all cost way less than Rafalski’s $6M.

Richards, one time Stanley Cup MVP and a ppg career playoff performer, is now just over 30 and in the distance sees the end of his career and has stated a very strong desire to have another shot at a Stanley Cup, bemoaning the Dallas failures.

“It’s been too long since I had that chance to win the Stanley Cup. I kind of thought we’d have a couple more cracks at it by now. That will be the main focus.”— Brad Richards

The “main focus is winning the Stanley Cup”.  Detroit has money;  greed and top dollar aren’t the main objective for him.  He’s at the right time in his career and maturity level to take less than max market worth and would buy into the Detroit structure.

Given that none of the Dmen are top notch shut down players, even if you threw $6M at them that wouldn’t make them any better defensively, why not make a serious play for Richards?

Yes I know, Holland said “all the primary pieces up front are in place”.  That could be smoke screen, as you don’t hear a word about Detroit going after forwards.  Signing Richards would not hurt attempts to make the blue line better.  Babcock one time said he wants a top 6 forward.  Maybe Holland told him not to be public about it.

Most likely things are what they appear to be, but adding Richards would sure as Hell make the Wings a better team.

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 06/30/11 at 01:30 PM ET

Avatar

but would anybody be upset at signing Brad Richards for that roughly $6M instead of a defenseman?

I f*cking hope people would be upset if they signed Richards instead of a defenseman.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/11 at 01:38 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Our highest paid players

(yes, the ones who took the home town discount)

must remain our highest paid players.  If Kenny was to sign a UFA at a higher salary it would destroy the Wings credibility and he can kiss the home town discount goodbye.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 06/30/11 at 01:40 PM ET

Avatar

must remain our highest paid players.  If Kenny was to sign a UFA at a higher salary it would destroy the Wings credibility and he can kiss the home town discount goodbye.

No it wouldn’t.  The market has changed since they signed their deals.  KH knew this was a high probability, that’s why he signed them for 10+ years.  Kronwall will get $6M for 6 years, probably during training camp. 

Don’t you worry about hometown discount crap blowing out the payroll structure.  The NHL’s high revenue to percentage of players did that.  Players know the marketplace just like the GMs do.  For example, Eaves will likely get 1.5M from somebody b/c the marketplace has determined that he’s worth that.

Posted by jkm2011 on 06/30/11 at 01:57 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

No it wouldn’t.  The market has changed since they signed their deals.

He just signed this years Norris Trophy winner for 6.2 and you wannabe GM’s are throwing around 7 mil figures like you are paying the paperboy.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 06/30/11 at 02:08 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

For example, Eaves will likely get 1.5M from somebody b/c the marketplace has determined that he’s worth that.

The Blues just signed TJ Oshie for 2.35.  I would put Eaves in the same category because if his ice time were the same as Oshie, his production would have matched.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 06/30/11 at 02:13 PM ET

Avatar

Still unsure why I haven’t heard Antti Miettinen’s name mentioned in regards to the Wings. I feel he would give us more upside than someone like a Jagr or lower end men like Talbot or Ward.

Love the thought of Richards in the Winged Wheel, but can’t think of how we could acquire him in anything other than a sign and trade with another team, shipping out Filpulla in the process.

Posted by Drew from Holland, MI on 06/30/11 at 02:19 PM ET

Avatar

If Kenny was to sign a UFA at a higher salary it would destroy the Wings credibility and he can kiss the home town discount goodbye.

I heartily disagree.

A hometown discount is just that, giving your team a break on your salary because you’ve come up in the organization and want to stay with them.

Hometown discounts should have not affect what you’re willing to pay for incoming free agents.  Those guys shouldn’t be expected to take hometown discounts if they’re not hometown boys.

Our highest paid players must remain our highest paid players.

Well, Zetterberg is being paid $7.75M this year and his salary is at least $7M through the 17-18 season, so I guess as long as we’re not paying over $7M per year we’re fine.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/11 at 02:20 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

I can’t find where I read it, but Richards is looking for a 5 yr $30m deal with a cup contender. I think that fits in very well with the Wings structure.

I’m on board with RWBill: it is a good idea to sign Richards and a stay-at-home defenseman.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/30/11 at 02:23 PM ET

Avatar

I’m on board with RWBill: it is a good idea to sign Richards and a stay-at-home defenseman.

I could get behind that, but I would add that with the cap space the Wings have they could sign Richards and a top-flight defenseman.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/11 at 02:26 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Puck-mover. It is the Wings’ blueprint—play defense by utilizing puck-carrying defensemen to lug the puck out of their own zone, get it through the neutral zone speedily and grind it out down low 200 feet from their own net.

Whatever happens in terms of free agents becoming available or getting plucked off the market, the blueprint is the blueprint and the Wings will stick to it. They will sign a puck-mover.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/30/11 at 02:35 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

If Richards will sign 5 years for $30M, I think it would be foolish not to sign him.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/30/11 at 02:39 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

I would be pretty pissed if the wings signed richards.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a top tier offensive forward, but he’s not what the wings need.  They need a top four defenseman.  I don’t know if that can be accomplished through free agency to begin with.  As we all know this is one of the worst free agent classes to come along in a while.  Erhoff and Wisniewski have been essentially captured, and White is good but better suited to a depth role.  Right now the defense would be Lidstrom, Stuart, Kronwall, Ericsson, Smith, and Kindl.  If White could be had for $2 or $2.5 our depth at defense would be helped.  Otherwise a trade for a top-four guy somehow involving Hudler would be ideal.  Kaberle is a role of the dice but for $2 is the only other free agent worth taking a chance on that fits Detroit’s style of play.  I’m thinking possibly re-acquiring Quincey or trading for Ryan Whitney, Kurtis Foster, Corvo, Gonchar, or Kuba.

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 06/30/11 at 02:46 PM ET

Avatar

would be pretty pissed if the wings signed richards.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a top tier offensive forward, but he’s not what the wings need.

If it’s at the expense of a defenseman I would agree, but with the cap space the Wings havw, if Richards can be gotten for $6 or $7 then there’s plenty left for a defenseman.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/11 at 02:54 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

They will sign a puck-mover.

Kaberle is a role of the dice but for $2 is the only other free agent worth taking a chance on that fits Detroit’s style of play.

Gawd! It could very well be Kaberle.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/30/11 at 02:57 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

We could get richards and a defenseman, but is that the best thing to do?  With CBA expiring in the coming year it might be better not to spend to the cap.  Plus do the Wings need to go out and get another top six guy anyway?  Sure depth up front never hurts but I don’t think that’s an investment Holland wants to make.  I know Holmstrom is almost at the end and Franzen is always hurt but if the Wings can compete with the best without another forward like richards then why take on that salary?

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 06/30/11 at 03:37 PM ET

SK77's avatar

If the CBA does get drastically redone there’s no way the owners aren’t going have an out-clause of some sort in there for these longterm contracts. Otherwise half the teams in the league—including some of those with the biggest clout—would be completely screwed and that’s just not happening.

Posted by SK77 on 06/30/11 at 03:50 PM ET

Avatar

I don’t like any of the guys Columbus has acquired, but God Bless ‘em for finally trying.

The Red Wings should forget about the bloated free agent market, wrap up some first round picks and offer-sheet Doughty, who, unlike these other FA D, is an actual game-changer and, unlike Richards, plays at a position they are weak at. Detroit rarely gets their impact players in the first round anyway.

Something tells me Doughty could learn a Hell of a lot more from Lidstrom in his final year(s) than Ericsson ever would.

Posted by steviesteve on 06/30/11 at 03:54 PM ET

CaptNorris5's avatar

They will sign a puck-mover.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/30/11 at 12:35 PM ET

Unfortunately it seems that the guy that best fits that bill on the open market is Kaberle. Wisniewski’s got a rocket shot and can move the puck a bit, but I’d think Kaberle might fit the system a bit better.

I’d imagine he may want to stay with the B’s after one hell of a spring, but his stock dropped dramatically this year. If he could be had relatively cheap, he’d be a decent pickup.

Posted by CaptNorris5 from The Winged Wheel, stuck in Chicago on 06/30/11 at 04:14 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

You have to wonder if the team realizes it doesn’t have an elite back-end that the forwards might go back to playing the defensive side of the system better..

That was a focus Lidstrom had this off-season, he wants to see more team committment to defense.  We have 4 decent puck movers and Stuart, another stay at home guy is what we’re losing in Salei, I could see them signing a more grounded defenseman

I think they’d be stupid not to kick the tires on Richards though.. the guy is only a couple seasons removed from a 96pnt season.  Gives us the ability to play Pav and Z together or any other combition and a garaunteed 1-2 punch.  A second line of Z cleary and Bert aren’t exactly potent but clearly Cleary benefitted.  Bert slid.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/30/11 at 05:28 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.