The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/14/12 at 03:21 PM ET
Updated 2x at 5:58 PM: Sigh. As Bill pointed out—and yes, with the Chief thankfully back stateside after his world tour, Red Wings fans and other KK readers can expect some dueling banjos over the next couple weeks—Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio posited one of those “reports” that both exites us and kinda makes me Cringe:
While there are a number of logical reasons why the Flyers would want to pursue Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, who is headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, the question remains: Is Suter interested in them? Recall the Flyers had serious interest in Jay Bouwmeester several summer ago, but it wasn’t reciprocal. As such, they turned their attentions elsewhere by going after Chris Pronger.
According to a well-placed source, Suter has a potential list of clubs he would be willing to talk to even if his rights were traded before July 1. Suter is represented by Neil Sheehy.
Alas, the Flyers are not one of them. In fact, the source said, all of Suter’s preferred destinations, should he leave the Predators, are in the Western Conference – not the East. Detroit is generally conceded to be his top choice.
It’s no secret the Flyers have some work ahead of them in the coming weeks to solidify their defense, especially given it appears Pronger’s status as “out indefinitely” with post-concussion syndrome will continue into next season.
Nashville general manager David Poile, the source said, has thus far refused to talk with any clubs about moving Suter or even restricted free agent Shea Weber’s rights right now.
Still, it’s likely that Poile will have to make some kind of move at or before the NHL draft next weekend rather than lose Suter to free agency.
And here comes the cognitive dissonance: while the Chief, ever-emotional, suggests that this might be a done deal, I’m as suspicious of “sources” as I am of the the way the following scenario played out on Tuesday:
After the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons (who deals in rumors but doesn’t necessarily benefit from them) dropped a bombshell suggesting that yesterday’s flavor of the day, Zach Parise, might end up in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun of all people got on the, “Yeah, that makes sense, Kings have cap space, why not?” train. Until Parise made the comments that fueled yesterday’s furor and then response from Minneapolis, only Fox Sports West’s Jon Rosen pouring salt upon the chemical fire…
Of LA’s four unrestricted free agents, Scott Parse—who was drafted in 2004, but has been limited to 73 games (in which he’s recorded 30 points) in an injury-abbreviated NHL career—is almost certain to depart.
Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser are the other UFAs. The Kings will be hoping for a little hometown lovin’ from the first two, who will certainly receive lucrative contract offers elsewhere beginning July 1. Fraser, whom Darryl Sutter was already familiar with after he had played for his brother, Brent, with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, was well-admired by Sutter for his hockey instincts, positional acuity and toughness.
Other than Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, this year’s free agency crop isn’t one that would likely interest the Kings greatly, at least from a high-skill standpoint. Their depth and value on a filled-to-capacity blueline will keep them from making an honest push for Suter, while the annual salary Parise is likely to command could hamper them in negotiations with Jonathan Quick as they strive to remain under the cap, which has temporarily risen to 70.3 million, as reported by The Globe and Mail. The Kings are currently $16 million under that figure, according to capgeek.com.
“Sources” and “great ideas” don’t necessarily mesh with the way numbers add up in a league whose teams’ decisions are governed by them, nor do they reflect the ways in which money actually talks, so I’m not putting too much stock in Panaccio’s rumor.
In the Parise department, I thought that it was particularly interesting that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo offered this take on former North Stars GM Lou Nanne’s insistence (via Yahoo Sports’ Harrison Mooney) that “no one” would out-bid Wild owner Craig Leipold for Parise’s services, skirting around the NHL’s tampering rules by a, “I had a meal with him” line that tiptoed through the tulips like Tomas Holmstrom plays foot-in, foot-out at the lip of the goal crease:
My thoughts: Usually when you get this close to free agency, you test it. Parise could always go back to the Devils after July 1, but players like Parise get the opportunity of being able to test the open market during the peak of his career once. Usually you get this close, you’re at least curious to know who comes after you and for what price.
This is why I believe Ryan Suter, too, will test free agency. But you know the Devils will make one heck of an effort to extend Parise’s contract, as Nashville is trying to do with Suter.
In the case of the Wild, it’s planning on offering Parise/Suter a boatload of dinero if they get to July 1.
Now, money’s not everything. There comes a point where a long-term deal worth $75 or $80 million for Parise doesn’t sound a whole lot different than $70 or $73 million (I’m grabbing numbers out of thin air). That’s why even though there’s zero doubt the Wild’s willing to pay Parise more than anybody else, it’s ludicrous to think he’s just going to come here because the Wild ends up offering $500,000 or a $1 million more annually than another team.
Anybody who has watched Parise play in the Olympics, anybody who watched Parise’s face during the Devils’ most impressive run to the Stanley Cup Finals, anybody who has ever talked to Parise knows for a fact that Parise ... wants to win first and foremost.
Whether it’s the Devils, the Wild, the Red Wings or the dozen other teams that plan to make overtures, they’ll all have to sell Parise on their long-term program, on the fact that their franchise presents him with the best chance of winning on an annual basis over the length of his contract.
The Wild would have to present a bigtime sales job on Parise, one it believes it can execute—if it ever gets the chance to sit down with him. The Devils will try to make that difficult over the next 17 days.
Somewhat ironically, especially if you saw/listened to Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s comments on NHL Live...
“I feel pressure every day,” said Holland, who got this summer of change underway by trading away the rights to Stuart to San Jose for a conditional seventh-round pick and a throw-in player the team won’t sign.“We all know what the expectations are in Detroit. Our ownership, management, players and fan base expect to contend for the Stanley Cup. That’s the challenge. That’s what we signed up for. That’s the goal here this summer, to put a team together that Wings’ fans are going to be proud of.”
Just how the Wings go about doing that has been the subject of this month’s organizational meetings. As currently constructed – even if they get good internal growth and prospects Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist have impressive rookie seasons – the Wings aren’t good enough to fulfill Holland’s mission statement. Detroit has four glaring needs – a pair of top-four defenseman, a top-six forward, a veteran goaltender to provide insurance in case back-up Joey MacDonald’s back issues resurface and a big, grinding forward to add some sandpaper to the bottom-six forwards.
Should they reach the open market, forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter will be Detroit’s primary targets. It’s also believed Florida defenseman Jason Garrison intrigues the Wings, especially being a right-handed shot. With two significant holes on their blue line now, the Wings are also likely to kick the tires of the likes of defensemen Dennis Wideman and Matt Carle. Montreal’s Travis Moen – Detroit tried to acquire the 28-year-old at the trade deadline – would fill their needs for a gritty bottom-six forward. With $26.25-million to spend, Holland may well be the busiest GM in the league come July 1.
“We have a lot of good pieces in place,” said Holland, who also confirmed MacDonald won’t need back surgery and is on track to be healthy. “The next four or five weeks we’ve got to figure out a way to make the team better, deeper and a little different. It takes more than one or two players to make a good team. We’ll explore free agency and trades.”
For several weeks now, there have been rumblings surrounding the Wings that they are planning on doing something different or unexpected. With Lidstrom retired, Holland admitted you could look at this summer as something of a clean slate that gives him more freedom in how he constructs his team. Holland refuses to rule out anything this summer, including avenues he’s never been down before.
“I’ve never done it, but I have no problem with it,” said Holland of whether being more aggressive means acquiring the right to negotiate with a targeted free-agent before July 1 Are we prepared to acquire a player’s rights at the draft? Absolutely, if the price is right and it’s a player we’re interested in.”
Holland also dismissed the notion that Lidstrom’s retirement makes Detroit a less desirable destination for free agents. He points out he believes the Wings’ reputation and attractiveness as a franchise is built on more than that.
“We’ve still got Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg down the middle as our 1-2 centermen,” Holland said. “I’m not going to tell you that’s the best, but I’d like to think that pair is in the top five in the league. We’ve got a 27-year old goaltender, who until the 60-game pole (when he got injured), was having a tremendous year. There are other pieces here. This is a special city, with a special fan base and I think there’s incredible passion from our ownership and everybody involved with the team.”
I’d add in the Holland suggestion that the Wings hope that their transition period only takes a “couple of weeks” in terms of adding personnel, but I can’t quote the entire article.
Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
• I’d say he’s an unlikely target at best, but MLive’s Ansar Khan profiled 35-year-old Oilers forward Ryan Smyth as a potential Wings free agent target…
Strengths: He is widely regarded as the second-best net-front man of his generation, behind Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom. Smyth is a leader who plays with grit and determination around the crease and has been a consistent scorer, notching 20 or more goals 11 times. Despite years of wear and tear, he played in every game the past two seasons.
Weaknesses: His play tailed off dramatically in the second half of the season, when he put up just 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in his final 44 games.
Notable: So many players have fled Edmonton over the years, but Smyth actually wanted to go back a year ago. He has appeared in 852 games with the Oilers, which ranks second in franchise history to Kevin Lowe (1,037).
Why he would interest the Red Wings: They could use another net presence and power-play piece if Holmstrom retires and Jiri Hudler signs elsewhere. They need goal-scoring, and the free-agent options are limited after Zach Parise.
How he could fit in with the Red Wings: He would be on one of the top two lines and on the power-play. He also can kill penalties.
To quote my “player bible,” The Sports Forecaster, and their take on the 36-year-old, 6’1,” 192-lb winger:
ASSETS: Has underrated playmaking skills. Goes to the net with ample vigor and scores the majority of his goals due to supreme determination. Always leads by example.
FLAWS: His style of play often leads to a lot of injuries. Doesn’t have enough of a shot to be an elite goal-scoring winger. Isn’t as dangerous as he used to be.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Veteran grinding winger with playmaking and scoring skills.
I don’t think he’s leaving Edmonton to begin with, but that’s just me.
• In different news regarding heart-and-soul players, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff confirms that Kings grinder/enforcer Kevin Westgarth will indeed bring the Cup to Amhertsburg, Ontario this summer;
• And finally, from RedWingsFeed, Michigan Hockey Now’s Michael Caples spoke to both Red Wings players and people who ran into Nicklas Lidstrom in the Metro Detroit community about the captain’s lasting “legacy”:
The impact he’s had on all the players, all the fans, and everyone in Michigan, I don’t know if you can measure the impact that he’s had,” said Red Wings forward and Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader. “He’s going to go down as one of the greatest NHL players of all-time, and obviously one of the greatest Red Wings players of all-time. I think everyone is so impressed with everything he’s done – the Norris Trophies, the All-Star games, the Stanley Cups – but me knowing him as a person, I’m just as impressed with him as an individual. How he carries himself in the community, in the locker room, everywhere when he’s out in public, even when he’s in the locker room as a leader – he’s just such a great individual. He’s a great person.”
Throughout the days surrounding his retirement announcement, Lidstrom’s character was on full display. He graciously thanked everyone he could during his press conference. He took the stage at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert to address the fans. And in an ad purchased in the Detroit Free Press, he told everyone in Michigan how much he appreciated them helping him raise a family in Michigan, and that he would always consider himself to be both from Sweden, and from Detroit.
Lidstrom was a fixture around ice rinks in metro Detroit – or at least as much as a professional athlete can be – while raising his four hockey-playing sons. Much of that time was spent at Novi Ice Arena, so much so that the city named the nearest street after him. Novi Ice Arena general manager Kris Barnes said that “The Perfect Human” label Lidstrom received during his time with the Wings carried over outside of pro hockey.
“Nick’s just a great hockey dad,” Barnes said. “He watched practice, helped his kids get dressed, and volunteered a lot of his time to help out our youth hockey association and the community. He was always available for kids looking for an autograph and even stopped to pose for pictures on occasion. He was great for the sport and we will definitely miss him around the rink.”
Former NHL player and Honeybaked hockey coach Jeff Mitchell experienced the hockey dad side of Lidstrom while he coached his son, Lucas, this past season. Mitchell, a Wayne native and third-round pick by Los Angeles in 1993, was taken aback by how humble Lidstrom was, even after experiencing the NHL stage himself.
“He was a good guy to get to know,” Mitchell said. “I played at that level and everything, and had an opportunity to meet a lot of guys, and you know, Nick and Holmstrom, they’re probably the two most humble guys I’ve ever met and easy to talk to. He became just one of the fathers on the team. But he also takes time for others. He’s never one to turn down a little kid for an autograph, you know? Looking at the whole picture, he’s been instrumental to the growth of the game. The Red Wings have been such a dominant team for such a long team, and he’s been a huge part of that. And just the way he carries himself both on and off the ice.”
Red Wings forward Drew Miller echoed the same sentiments as Mitchell after the Lidstrom retirement press conference. The Lansing native said that the Wings’ captain proved to be the perfect player for kids to grow up trying to imitate on and off the ice.
“Definitely in Michigan, I think a lot of players grow up idolizing him – try to emulate how he plays on the ice,” Miller said. “I think from a ‘hero’ standpoint, a lot of young kids are into hockey, continue to play hockey, because of him.”
Update: If you want even more Parise speculation for the sake of stirring yourself into a tizzy, Spector provides quips from the New York Daily news’s Pat Leonard and Christine Ackert, as well as a more vanilla report from Russo, as well as this from the New York Post’s Mark Everson, who points out that Parise would have been committing treason by even entertaining the thought of playing for the Rangers:
Parise, who mostly had been silent about free agency in the second half of the season, opened up yesterday.
“I’m excited about it because it’s something as a player, especially your first time, you don’t get to do it very often,” Parise said. “That being said, hopefully we can get things worked out here,” said Parise, who also said he’s “absolutely” willing to talk contract with the Devils before he becomes free on July 1.
“I’m 27, but you have to start thinking about family,” said Parise, who is getting married next month. “You have to be comfortable with the surroundings, the coaches, the teammates. A lot of things come into play. I’ve always liked playing here. That’s never changed. We’ll see where that takes us right now.This is a great place to play. I love being here. I love playing here.”
Parise said the decision will be his.
“I’ll probably just shut off my phone and not talk to anybody and really reflect on everything,” Parise said. “Everyone’s got opinions and probably rightfully so. Everyone’s been through different things. But this is a decision I think I need to make on my own.”
• Oh, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, thank the hockey gods you no longer helm my team, per the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan:
Bryan Murray is ready to make some noise at the NHL draft. But he’s good with staying quiet, too.
While he’d be happy to keep the 15th pick overall, the Senators GM said Thursday morning he’ll listen to all offers of moving up or down in the first-round selecting order. Murray also wouldn’t rule out trading one of his established stars if the right deal presents itself.
“One time many, many years ago, a reporter asked me (if anyone was untouchable) and then there was headlines the next day that I was going to trade Steve Yzerman,” Murray said of his days as GM of the Detroit Red Wings. “So I’m not going to say that.
“There are people on this team that we’re not really interested in trading. But it may well happen that we would try to do something, to either add a player or a higher pick. We’re very open-minded. So if it gets out there that other managers would like to call, I’d be very open to that.”
For those of you too young to remember, Murray was like Jimmy Devellano in that he would all but name names of players that were on the trading block or up for auction from week to week when he ran the Wings in the early 90’s, but he didn’t do so with Devellano’s cocky bombast or Scotty Bowman’s sinister sneer (as you’ve noticed, Ken Holland doesn’t engage in those kinds of discussions very often)—he just sounded kinda creepy while suggesting that, yes, so-and-so might be available;
• In cheery FYI news, the Red Wings are asking fans to submit their chalk-inspired visages of Nicklas Lidstrom;
• And in sad news, from RedWingsFeed, Wings prospect Bryan Rufenach will be laid to rest in Lindsay, Ontario this weekend, and Toledo Walleye coach Nick Vitucci shared some of his memories of Rufenach with the Innisfil Scope‘s Kevin Michie.
Update #1.5: Spector offers even more on the Devils’ free agent issues via his Thursday Hockey News column.
The 2011-12 season played out perfectly for Ryan Suter — a pending unrestricted free agent. Career high in points? Check. Highest career average ice-time per game? Check. First All-Star selection? Check.
In 2011-12, Suter emerged from Shea Weber’s shadow and now appears poised to land a big contract in free agency. Suter and Devils forward Zach Parise are considered far and away the two biggest free agent names on the market, which means teams will likely spend big dollars for both.
The Predators would obviously like to re-sign Suter. He’s one of their ‘core’ players and defensemen with his type of all-around ability rarely come on the open market — especially at the prime age of 27.
Two weeks ago, Predators General Manager went to Suter’s offseason home in Madison, Wisc. to meet with Suter and his agent, Neil Sheehy. Both sides came away saying nothing but positives, but little has happened since. You have to wonder where they are now in their talks. If Suter has gone this far, who not go to July 1?
The Predators could trade Suter’s negotiating rights to another team. But then you risk completely losing him before July 1. There seems to be some hope and feeling that in free agency, Suter will circle back to the Predators to listen to them after hearing what’s out there. Suter is a small-town type of guy and privacy is important to him. The Nashville market suites him the best out of all the teams that are rumored to add him — Detroit, Minnesota and Philadelphia. But there could be another non-rumored team that would like to throw money at Suter, one that maybe fits his personality and desires better than the aforementioned teams. He simply won’t know unless he checks it out.
And many of the Predators unrestricted free agents, and one big restricted free agent — Weber — probably won’t know how to proceed until there’s some sort of resolution with Suter.
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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.