The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/12/12 at 02:17 PM ET
Updated 3x at 2:42 PM: With Tomas Holmstrom’s future on hold, Red Wings fans have eleven days to wait until the team begins its attempts to reload and re-stock the cupboard to address Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, the departure of Brad Stuart, the likely bolting of Jiri Hudler and Holmstrom’s probable retirement.
Ken Holland and the Wings brass’s moves over the course of the latter half of June and early July—with approximately $26 million in cap space available, per Capgeek.com—will obviously determine whether the Wings can maintain their standard of excellence going forward, so it’s less than surprising that this morning and early afternoon’s crop of Red Wings news almost entirely involves the team’s free agent plans, starting with NESN’s Douglas Flynn’s suggestion that the Red Wings may very well serve as the fulcrum upon which the free agent marketplace pivots:
t appears that the Red Wings may be in the pole position this year. That’s fitting for a team from the Motor City, but a departure from how Detroit has operated in recent years. While the Red Wings have made the occasional splashes in free agency, they’ve barely dipped their toes in the unrestricted pool the last three years. That’s easy to do when you’ve drafted the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen et al. In all, 16 of the 21 players who dressed in the playoffs this spring for the Red Wings were drafted by Detroit.
But that draft pipeline has dried up a bit of late, and the Red Wings are in need of a faster infusion of talent to fill some key holes, particularly on defense with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart.
Stuart was a pending free agent whose rights were traded to San Jose on Sunday. He never lived up to the offensive expectations once placed on him, with his 21 points this past year the most he scored in four full seasons with Detroit after arriving from Los Angeles in a deadline deal in 2008. But Stuart was still a top-four defenseman, providing a bit of a physical presence and ranking annually among the team’s leaders in ice time with 20-plus minutes each season, including 21:03 last year.
That’s a big void to fill, and it pales in comparison to trying to replace the seven-time Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Famer Lidstrom, who despite turning 42 in April was still leading the team in ice time last year at 23:46 and leading the club in just about every way imaginable on the ice and off as captain.
No one will fill those mammoth skates, but the Red Wings will have to try to find someone capable of replacing those key minutes on the blue line. That’s where an uncharacteristic foray into free agency could come into play. The Red Wings have 18 players under contract for next year and just $44 million committed toward the salary cap. That cap is estimated to rise to $70 million for the coming season, and even if it shrinks when a new CBA is agreed upon, Detroit will still have plenty of room to make some major additions.
There’s no bigger prize available than defenseman Ryan Suter. He headlines a questionable free agent class of defensemen with the next best options including the likes of Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle, Carlo Colaiacovo and Brett Clark. That shallow pool puts an even greater premium on landing Suter. He’ll have plenty of suitors if the Predators can’t convince him to re-sign in Nashville before July 1, but if he reaches the market Detroit is sure to try to pounce. The Wings can offer him the long-term, high-money deal he seeks, a chance to chase the Cup and possibly even an opportunity to play with Team USA buddy and fellow free agent Zach Parise, the top forward potentially on the market.
Detroit’s needs up front are less dire. The Wings have their forward corps largely set with 11 skaters returning from last year, plus restricted free agents Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm expected to ink new deals without too much difficulty. That doesn’t leave a lot of space, but a team will always make room for a talent like Parise, and the Wings could use some fresh legs. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi are all north of 30, while Parise is in the prime of his career at 27. One of Detroit’s only productive forwards under 30 is Jiri Hudler, who may look to cash in elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent himself after a 25-25-50 campaign.
MLive’s Ansar Khan focuses on one of the Wings’ back-up plans should they not manage to land Parise, discussing the possibility of the team targeting New York Islanders forward P-A Parenteau, a 29-year-old who more or less came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the league’s most effective scorers this past season:
2011-12 stats: 80 games, 18 goals, 49 assists, 67 points, minus-8 rating, 89 penalty minutes, averaged 18:39 in ice time.
Strengths: A good passer who has some finishing ability, with 38 goals in the past two seasons combined. His 67 points rank third among potential free agents, behind Ray Whitney (77) and Zach Parise (69). He can play center as well as the wing.
Weaknesses: A late-bloomer with limited experience (188 NHL games, none in the playoffs), he’s not strong defensively or a particularly good skater. How much of his success was due to playing with John Tavares?
Why he would interest the Red Wings: He might be on their list of alternatives if they don’t get Parise. They could use some offense from the wing and the market isn’t exactly teeming with goal-scorers. If they could get a right-handed shooter, it would be a bonus, since they have only two forwards who shoot right (Patrick Eaves, Jan Mursak).
How he could fit in with the Red Wings: He’s a top-six forward, perhaps as a replacement for Jiri Hudler, a free-agent who might get a better deal elsewhere.
What it might take to get him: Parenteau had 28 more points than Chris Kelly, who signed a four-year, $12 million deal with Boston, and 30 more points than David Jones, who inked a four-year, $16 million pact with Colorado. But Kelly is better defensively and Jones is bigger.
As Khan suggests, the 6’0,” 193-pound forward has his pluses and minuses, and the Sports Forecaster’s profile of Parenteau assesses his skill set as follows:
ASSETS: Has excellent offensive instincts, which he exploits brilliantly on the power play thanks to deft puck control and passing ability. Can line up both at wing and center if need be. Is a proven scorer in the minor-pro ranks.
FLAWS: Is somewhat undersized and needs to keep adding more muscle, because he can be knocked off the puck. Not an especially great straightline skater, he must also continue to work on his play without the puck.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Skilled forward.
Parenteau may represent a solid back-up plan, but I can’t help but think that the Wings would prefer to roll the dice on Alex Semin instead given his higher-end potential.
As Paul noted earlier this morning, however, most of today’s focus involves Parise’s future, with the Newark Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere attempting to handicap the Devils’ odds of re-signing Parise as follows, all while discussing the Devils’ biggest off-season “questions”...
RE-SIGN ZACH PARISE: It is not likely to happen before the Devils’ captain becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. [Devils GM Lou] Lamoriello will have some big money to spend on Parise, but the Detroit Red Wings are expected to drive up the price. The odds of keeping Parise: 50/50.
• And Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski duly notes that the Red Wings will be anything but alone in terms of attempting to land Parise:
The Parise Derby starts now, with nearly every team in the NHL likely to kick the tires on the 27-year-old winger (28 next month). That includes the New York Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Detroit Red Wings, the Minnesota Wild and even the Los Angeles Kings.
He made a base salary of $6 million last season after arbitration with the Devils, and Larry Brooks of the NY Pos opined that he could be in line for a Brad Richards level deal:
Indeed, Parise can expect offers modeled after the nine-year, $60 million contract Brad Richards signed last summer with the Rangers, under which the center is receiving $24 million the first two years, including a $10 million signing bonus last July and an $8 million signing bonus due next month.
While the Devils have ownership issues they’re in the process of settling, President/GM/Ruler of All He Surveys Lou Lamoriello has said the team has the finances to bring Parise back. It’s just a matter of whether Parise wants to remain a Devil.
Update #0.5: I can only state the following about Comcast Sportsnet Northeast’s Joe Haggerty’s suggestion to 98.5 the Sports Hub that, well, I’ll let you read their summation of the interview he gave first…
Might the NHL be headed for another lockout and more missed hockey games? CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty believes so.
“I don’t think so,” Haggerty said when asked if the season would start on time. “Anything can happen. Anything could change. They’re just starting to talk right now, [NHLPA executive director] Donald Fehr and [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman. Donald Fehr is a hardlined union head. He was like that with baseball. He is not a guy to be trifled with and he’s not a guy that’s gonna blink or back down or allow the players’ union to disintegrate and give in to the NHL.”
Haggerty said the players have put their full trust in Fehr, who won’t be an easy negotiator for the league.
“The players are getting 57 percent of the revenues from the league, and the league wants that closer to a 50-50, like the other leagues are going toward,” Haggerty said. “So you’re talking about a huge cut of the pie that the players are going to lose out on, and I don’t think they’re going to give that up easily. I think it’s going to be contentious when it gets to that point. … It looks like it’s a ship hitting an iceberg for me, and they’re going to miss some time.”
How long will the potential lockout last?
“I don’t think it’s going to be a killer for the league if they miss a couple of months,” Haggerty said. “If they miss a whole season, I think it’ll be a killer for them, but I think there’s a very conscious effort by the league to not miss the entire year.”
Anyway, I can only tell you that my mother taught me to use the word “stupid” sparingly, but this, “Fear Fehr” s***—and it’s all bulls***—is incredibly f***ing stupid. The NHLPA may have a “hardline union head,” but the NHLPA has no desire to strike or sacrifice regular season games given that fans have had to deal with two lockouts over the past 17 years, and a fully lost season seven years ago. The PA only engaged in a strike once—in 1992, over trading card and photo proceeds—and in an environment where all evidence suggests that the NHL, Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors believe that the NFL and NBA lockouts could empower them to lock the doors for up to half a season as what fans may understand as a matter of labor negotiation course, I’m pinning my hopes on the PA, not the commissioner who’s shut the league down twice.
• And in somewhat cheerier news, from RedWingsFeed, Grand Rapids Griffins PR exec Kyle Kujawa discussed the possible futures of the Griffins’ veteran players in an article penned for Michigan Hockey Now.
Update #1: According to Comcast Sportsnet Washington’s Chuck Gormley, the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings will play two preseason games against each other, with the Wings hosting the Capitals on Sunday, September 30th, and then closing their preseason slate with a game in Washington on Sunday, October 7th.
Update #2:, Jonkopings Nyheter’s Peter Gustafsson reports that Chris Conner will remain in North America next season, turning down a contract offer from HV71:
“Chris decided this weekend to play in North America for at least another season. He made the decision with his family,” said [His European agent] Pontus Noren.
Update #2.5: I’ll take care of Hokej.sk’s interview with Tomas Jurco later this afternoon. I still feel pretty crappy. He does expect to sign on the dotted line with Detroit and to join the Grand Rapids Griffins this fall.
Update #3: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo remains absolutely certain that the Wild will land both Parise and Suter:
The New Jersey Devils weren’t even done shaking the hands of the victorious Los Angeles Kings last night when I started to get bombarded with tweets about the future of Zach Parise.
OK, well, maybe I sorta asked for it with my way too soon, tongue-firmly-in-cheek “#parisewatch” tweet.
But, in reality, all eyes and ears will indeed be on Newark these next few weeks in an attempt to ascertain what the heck’s going to happen between the Devils and their tremendous captain/heart-and-soul.
If unsigned by July 1, Parise will be the biggest free agent to come down the pike since, well, last year’s made-for-TV Brad Richards frenzy. If he gets to July 1, you know the Wild will be on his front lawn (or Newport Sports’ front lawn in Missssssissssssssssssssauga, Ontario) with the keys to St. Paul and its Governor’s mansion.
The Wild, even though it is not permitted to talk about him specifically, is clearly praying Parise wants to come home. It has a boatload of money and salary-cap space. And the Wild is intent on trying to sell Parise, and Ryan Suter for that matter, that if they sign in Minnesota, they would have the ability to win here perennially because of the seven (they believe) upper-echelon prospects set to turn pro next season.
Both these guys are going to get long-term contracts from any team that signs them. So they’re going to want to go (or stay) on the team they believe they have the brightest futures deep into their contracts. And, if they’re as good as everybody thinks they are, they should be two of the catalysts to those bright futures.
If contract talks with Parise break down with New Jersey and contract talks with Suter break down with Nashville, I think the Wild would try to get aggressive and trade for their rights. I don’t believe the Devils have ever traded the rights to a free agent. They certainly have lost a bunch of free agents for nothing though. Nashville, on the other hand, has a history of trading the rights to free agents (Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell in the same deal with Philly, Dan Hamhuis to Philly and Dan Ellis to Montreal), although GM David Poile has said publicly he’s not going to trade the rights to Suter.
But if you’re the Wild and you may have to go head to head in a free-agent frenzy with teams like Detroit and the Rangers and name your team, I’d think you’d want to get ahead of the game, wine and dine em and sell your program on them in advance of others.
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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.