The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/24/11 at 05:25 PM ET
Updated 2x at 5:29 PM: First and foremost as we wait for the first round of the NHL Entry Draft to begin tonight at 7 PM EDT (Versus/TSN), the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell asked Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked to clarify a little kibbutz he engaged in with former Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay on Thursday, and…
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and former Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay, who has been told he won’t be retained by Winnipeg, were huddled at a table Thursday morning at a Minneapolis restaurant in what looked very much like a job interview. But Babcock said later that was not the case and Ramsay will not be joining the Red Wings staff as an assistant.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, but I’m not close to making a decision,” Babcock said. “If you wrote that (Ramsay would be offered a job), you would be wrong.”
There has been speculation Babcock, who has been given the full power to hire his own assistants by GM Ken Holland, already offered a job to Ken Hitchcock, but was turned down
So the search continues, and again, it appears that Bob Boughner and Pete DeBoer remain favorites for Babcock’s assistant coaches’ positions…
On the Jagr front, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that nothing’s really changed on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ front:
“I talked to [Jagr’s agent] Petr Svoboda a couple of times,” said Shero. “I talked to Jagr a few days ago; Mario also talked to him. I touched base again yesterday with Petr. That’s really where it is. We haven’t made an offer at this point, so we’ll see where it goes. It’s an intriguing player for sure. He’s 39, but I saw him at the World Championships and he’s still a good player.”
As reported this morning, it’s the Wings who have made Jagr a take-it-or-leave-it offer, while the Penguins have more reservations about Jagr’s abilities and less cap space…but it still seems as if it’s Pittsburgh where Jagr really wants to play.
In the scuttlebutt department, I’m not sure what the hell to make of this comment from Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner, who suggests that the Red Wings won’t go with a top-tier defenseman to replace Brian Rafalski if they can’t find a right-handed shot (which simply isn’t true: the Wings need a puck-mover, and if he’s a righty, that’s a bonus):
There are only a handful of those defensemen on the free-agent market, and the best of the lot is Kevin Bieksa. But reports out of Vancouver indicate that Bieska will stay put with the Canucks. If that’s not accurate, Detroit will pursue Bieska, but you have to believe he’ll re-sign with Vancouver. Bieska’s teammate, Sami Salo, could be on Detroit’s radar, but his age (36) and a history of injury should make Salo, at best, a last resort. Ian White of the Sharks is young (turned 27 on June 4) and a bit small at 5-10 and 190 pounds. But he’s mobile, shoots right-handed and has a laser from the point. The Sharks, though, traded away a No. 2 pick for White, so it seems unlikely they would let him walk away.
Former Plymouth Whaler and Canton native James Wisniewski should be the Wings’ top target. Wisniewski is burly at 5-11 and 205 pounds, plays with aggression, defends the crease area, possesses offensive skills, skates well and has an all-around game that would flourish in the Wing’s system. In 75 games played last season for the Islanders and Canadiens, Wisniewski had 10 goals, 41 assists and was a minus-14. (He was a minus-18 with the lowly Islanders and a plus-4 after his trade to Montreal.)
Wisniewski might not want to come back home and play for the Wings, if persistent rumors about him being angry with the Detroit organization are true. Again, this is just speculation, but apparently Wisniewski is upset with the way his uncle and former Wing Billy Dea was let go when he was part of Detroit’s front office. If that’s the case, you would have to hope that Wisniewski can turn the other cheek and move on. Detroit would be an ideal situation for him on so many levels.
Uh, $4 or $5 million a year on a long-term contract should smooth over any concerns in that department…
Regner’s actually a Jagr fan…
And in terms of the Wings’ own unrestricted free agents-to-be, I don’t know if my gut and his gut agree on this one:
When it comes to their own unrestricted free agents, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Jonathan Ericsson have all been offered deals. Detroit really wants Eaves and Miller to re-sign, but they’re lukewarm on Ericsson. Detroit has a number for the Swedish defenseman and they will not go a penny over. My gut tells me that Jonnie is gone and perhaps a fresh start will do him good.
I don’t believe that, as Regner suggests, the Wings will ask Kris Draper to play for his job during training camp as Draper himself said he wasn’t interested in a Kirk Maltby scenario, but one never knows, and as he suggests, Chris Osgood is probably done if the Wings choose to sign a back-up goaltender from the open market (which seems likely at this point)...
Then there’s this:
Although many are anticipating a trading frenzy at this weekend’s draft, it appears doubtful that the Wings would make a major swap. Detroit would love to unload Jiri Hudler’s contract, but more likely Valtteri Flippula would be the Red Wing most teams would deal for. Yet, you never know what’s going to happen when all 30 NHL teams are sequestered under one roof. Something tells me that Kenny Holland has an itchy trigger finger and will pull that trigger if the right deal comes his way.
MLive’s Ansar Khan also discusses this possibility...
[C]onsecutive second-round playoff losses to San Jose, coupled with a mediocre free-agent class, might prompt Detroit general manager Ken Holland to pursue a trade for a top-four defenseman or scoring winger. Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns is among the players rumored to be available, though he won’t come cheap. He’s big (6-foot-5, 219) and young (26), has offensive ability (17 goals, 46 points last season) and shoots right-handed. He will enter the final year of his contract ($3.55 million) and can become an unrestricted free agent in 2012. Forwards Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula probably are the only players the Red Wings would consider moving.
As I’ve suggested, I think that Hudler would be easier to move (he makes less in terms of real-world bucks, is in the last year of his contract, and wouldn’t leave the Wings with a gaping hole at the center ice position), but I really don’t have an inkling as to whether the Wings have the appetite to make a move tonight or not, other than to suggest that Ken Holland remains the consummate tire-kicker.
And I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, who’s going to be in charge in terms of picking players tonight, are leaning toward snagging a puck-moving defenseman tonight and will probably use at least some of their eight picks to re-stock their blueline:
“It’s hard to find good defensemen,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “Numbers-wise in the organization, you’d prefer a defenseman. You can never have enough defensemen. It’s a tough position to play.”
Whether or not the Red Wings use their first pick on a defenseman, they are sure to take a few in this draft. Their defensive prospects include Grand Rapids Griffins Brian Lashoff, Logan Pyett, Travis Ehrhardt, Gleason Fournier and Adam Almqvist as well as collegians Nick Jensen (St. Cloud State), Max Nicastro (Boston University) and Ben Marshall (Minnesota).
“We’ve got good, young defensemen coming along, but it takes longer to mature,” Nill said. “It takes four years to learn that position. It’s a high-pressure position.”
Nill also subscribes to the widely-held theory that the draft’s so deep that the team could very easily swap their first-round pick for a pair of second-rounders, though the team isn’t ruling out trading up, either…
“After the first 10 picks it’s wide open,” Nill said. “From 20 to 50 there’s a lot of the same (quality of) players. There’s something to like about them, but they have weaknesses. Depth-wise, it’s good. You can get a good player in the second round as well as the first.”
“We go in with a lot of different scenarios,” Nill said. “We’d love to get into the top 10, but how much will it cost you?”
And he tells Khan that the team probably won’t go after a goaltender, at least early on:
“It’s not a strong draft for goaltending,” Nill said. “When we start getting into the sixth and seventh rounds, it depends on what’s sitting there. We got three goalies under the age of 23 (Thomas McCollum, Jordan Pearce and Petr Mrazek), so we got good enough depth.”
Update #1: Per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Maple Leafs have hired former Thrashers GM Rick Dudley (I’m sure he received an invite to join the Wings’ scouting staff);
• The Wings are offering a Chris Osgood “Fathead” decal to fans who offer suggestions as to who the Wings might pick with the hash tag #wingspick on Twitter;
• Obviously: RedWingsCentral will offer us the best coverage of the draft-in-retrospect in terms of player profiles, so I’m going to head there and reference Matthew Wuest and Sarah Lindeneau very regularly over the next few weeks, and Lindenau is projecting that the Wings will pick defenseman Jonas Brodin with the 24th overall pick;
• Not-so-obviously: Biggy question: do you want me to offer up an “open post” for the first round? We’re going to have one here on KK and my plans for the next two days involve a post dedicated to the 1st-round pick (if the Wings don’t trade down) and then the Wings’ 2nd-through-7th-rounders tomorrow;
• And I probably mentioned this already, but as an FYI, the Lambton (Ontario) Shield reports that former Wing and current Tampa Bay Lightning scout Pat Verbeek will be inducted into the Sarnia Lambton Sports Hall of Fame this fall.
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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.