The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/11/12 at 02:55 PM ET
Updated 3x at 7:19 PM: Yesterday’s trade of Brad Stuart to the San Jose Sharks kicked off the Wings’ summertime roster overhaul in earnest, and given Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s statements to the team’s beat writers, we’re going to find out about the futures of Tomas Holmstrom and Jiri Hudler sooner than later, with the team possibly getting a jump-start on expected Canada Day fireworks by wheeling and dealing signing rights at the Draft on June 22nd and 23rd.
The departures of Stuart and Nicklas Lidstrom obviously leave a gaping hole on the Wings’ defense, however, and as more than a few of you noted in the comments section of the overnight report, the Wings have a hard philosophical decision to make going forward.
We know that the Wings’ brass plans on targeting a top-six forward, probably either Zach Parise or Alex Semin, we know they want a bottom-six forward with size and grit, we know they want an insurance back-up goalie, and we how that it is absolutely essential for the team to target and at least one of Ryan Suter, Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle and/or Jason Garrision, if not Justin Schultz, in attempting to help Niklas Kronwall, Ian White and Brendan Smith fill Lidstrom’s skates by committee…
But what do the Wings plan on doing on defense after pursuing that mythical top-pair defenseman? Does the team try to address the loss of a player who could be utilized in any situation and provided toughness, grit and penalty-killing poise in Stuart via targeting a Bryce Salvador, Barret Jackman, Filip Kuba, Scott Hannan, Adrian Aucoin, Pavel Kubina, Bryan Allen or perhaps Matt Gilroy, or do the Wings acknowledge that they were never really able to replace Brian Rafalski’s production, and as such, “overbuild” by looking at secondary offensive defensemen like Joe Corvo, Carlo Colaiacovo, Sheldon Souray or even Sami “It only seems like I’ve accumulated 40 injuries over my career…Oh wait, that’s right” Salo?
Regrettably, aside from looking at Capgeek’s list of free agent goaltenders, which offers a deep pool for the Wings to choose from, the pools of defensemen and forwards drop off precipitously after those few top-flight players, to the point that ESPN’s Craig Custance, in penning an “Insider-only” blog, suggests that teams may wait until the summer of 2013 to more meaningfully address the holes in their roster under the constraints of a new CBA.
His list of available targets isn’t particularly exciting unless you and me are on the same page in hoping that, somehow, Alex Edler tests the market a summer from now, or perhaps that the rumors planted by Winnipeg Jets writers that Tobias Enstrom might be in play are in fact true, but here’s all you need to know in terms of the thrust of Custance’s article without running into a paywall:
There’s a danger in overvaluing next year when it comes to the draft. The same thing goes for free agency. The 2012 free agent class has potential high-end talent in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. After that, there’s not a whole lot that’s going to dramatically change somebody’s Stanley Cup fortunes. So there’s a natural tendency to look to next year to see if there’s a better fit there.
“You always look ahead,” said one NHL GM. “You know the players who are potentially coming.”
But there’s a problem.
“It’s a little dangerous to assume they’re all going to reach free agency,” he said.
That was Buffalo GM Darcy Regier’s answer when I asked him before this season why he invested so heavily in free agency last summer, when it was also a class that wasn’t especially highly regarded. He said the next summer always looks better before guys start re-signing with their teams. And he found it important to get NHL players in place immediately, so young players could develop at the right pace.
All that said, the free agent Class of 2013 looks pretty impressive right now, and it’s quite possible that the uncertainty of the CBA delays new deals for some of these potential free agents. It’s deep enough that a couple talented players are bound to get to free agency.
“Why do a deal now and have it roll back?” wondered one agent. “Let’s get the landscape, let’s see what’s going on.”
The Red Wings are not a team that waits and sees when they have glaring needs to fill. Holland and the braintrust believe that there is no point whatsoever waiting to improve the team “tomorrow” when maintaining its standards of excellence require filling holes in its roster now, regardless of the quality of next year’s prospective free agent class (with its vast majority of attractive names likely to re-sign with their rights-holders) versus the present year’s crop, so neither you nor I should fear a lack of fireworks starting a weekend from Father’s Day, but as Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon notes, the Wings must move aggressively to ensure that they make the most of the free agents available to them:
Detroit heads into the offseason with Niklas Kronwall as their top guy with Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, and Brendan Smith as fellow incumbents and Kyle Quincey as a likely-to-be-re-signed restricted free agent. While that’s enough to make up a starting six-man unit, that’s not what you’d call a Stanley Cup-caliber set up.
Detroit has oodles of salary cap space and high hopes of going after Nashville’s Ryan Suter as well as New Jersey’s Zach Parise. It’s the blue line that requires the most attention though and Suter should just be the starting point.
Soon-to-be college free agent Justin Schultz is there to be chased after and with Detroit’s penchant for going after defenseman who played at Wisconsin (Suter, Smith, Chris Chelios, and Brian Rafalski). Ansar Khan of Mlive.com mentions Dennis Wideman as a potential Plan-B. Hey, Detroit could use the power play help, right?
Guys like Jason Garrison, Filip Kuba, and Matt Carle also offer interesting backup plans, if they’re available, but no one that’s a true No. 1 defenseman. Suter or bust? Sure looks that way for Wings GM Ken Holland.
MLive’s Ansar Khan dedicated an article to “Plan B,” as Yerdon notes (I believe Carle would be plan B1), and while Wideman had a Brad Stuart-caliber playoff run, the late-bloomer still represents the best option out there not named Suter:
2011-12 salary: $4.5 million.
Strengths: He is a skilled, puck-moving defenseman who can play the point on the power play (39 of his 67 goals have come on the man-advantage) and logs a lot of minutes (led Capitals in ice time in 2011-12).
Weaknesses: He’s not particularly strong in his own zone. He’s lacked consistency and is prone to turnovers. He is not coming off a strong playoff run (no goals, three assists, minus-7 rating in 14 games).
Why he would interest the Red Wings: Getting a top-pair puck-moving defenseman is their top priority. Nashville’s Ryan Suter is their primary target. But if they can’t get him, Wideman is a viable alternative. Being a right-handed shot would appeal to the Red Wings, whose only other righty on defense is Ian White.
How he could fit in with the Red Wings: Wideman could be partnered with Niklas Kronwall on the top pairing, even strength and on the first power-play unit.
What it might take to get him: Perhaps a long-term deal for between $4.5 million and $5 million a season.
The Sports Forecaster’s Wideman Profile offers another take on his “pluses and minuses”...
ASSETS: Owns excellent puck skills and is a quality asset at the point with the man advantage. Can log a lot of minutes and is a solid puck-moving D-man.
FLAWS: Doesn’t play the body nearly enough, and struggles in defensive-zone coverage. Will cough up the puck at the wrong time. Lacks consistency.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Offensive defenseman.
As compared to those of Carle....
Date of birth: September 25, 1984
Place of birth: Anchorage, AK
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 205
NHL Seasons: 6
ASSETS: Skates very well and is usually in good position. Makes a very good first pass out of his own end. Has solid offensive instincts. Can jump up into the play well.
FLAWS: Isn’t as effective in physical contests as he is when the game is more passive. Can occasionally make a critical blunder in the defensive zone when pressured. Lacks consistency.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Mobile big-minute defenseman.
Date of birth: November 13, 1984
Place of birth: White Rock, B.C., Canada
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 218
ASSETS: Moves the puck efficiently out of danger. Brings a nice combination of size and speed to the rink. Works hard and is effective on the penalty kill. Plays a safe, mature and steady brand of defense. Also owns a big point shot.
FLAWS: He doesn’t shy away from the physical game, but he isn’t a highly aggressive player defensively—despite excellent size. He’s strong, but needs to continue adding some more power to his game. Has been somewhat injury-prone at lower levels.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Solid puck-moving defenseman.
For comparison’s sake, here’s their assessment of Suter‘s game…
ASSETS: Possesses an excellent all-around game. Love to join the attack, and can rack up points on the power play, mainly due to a heavy point shot and pinpoint passing. Loves to hit people, and loves a heavy workload.
FLAWS: Will sometimes chase a big hit, which places himself out of defensive position.
CAREER POTENTIAL: All-around, big-minute defenseman.
As well as their takes on Parise...
ASSETS: Never stops hustling and possesses the drive, heart and skills of a winner. Has speed to burn defenders one-on-one and owns a true goal-scorer’s shot that he loves to unleash at a moment’s notice. Is a supremely intelligent player. Scores goals in the clutch.
FLAWS: Not big, he needs to continue to withstand the constant pounding that comes with being a scoring star at the highest level. Could use a tad more work on his playmaking skills. Knee problems are a concern moving forward.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Elite scorer with a great work ethic.
ASSETS: Owns one of the best shots in the NHL. Has the creativity, offensive wizardry, explosiveness and soft hands of a supreme goal-scorer. Is lethal one-on-one and can break a game open at any time.
FLAWS: Can be intimidated and knocked off the puck. Could use more muscle on his 6-2 frame. An unpredictable fellow, he needs to better utilize his linemates and work on his defense. Is somewhat injury prone and moody.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Supremely slick scoring winger.
On perhaps a parallel track, from NHL Gossip on Twitter, Fox Sports Tennessee posted an interesting take on what Alexander Radulov’s departure might mean in terms of the Predators’ attempts to retain the services of UFA-to-be Suter and restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber:
The Predators made their first big move of what will prove to be a crucial offseason. Nashville announced that it will part ways with right wing Alexander Radulov and hopes to trade his rights to another NHL team. Radulov is also expected to pursue signing in the Kontinental Hockey League.
It’s not necessarily surprising that the Predators decided to do this. Radulov came back with much fanfare in March after spending three seasons in the KHL. Radulov left Nashville in 2008 with one year remaining on his contract. He was suspended for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal against Phoenix for a curfew violation—which proved the final strike against him.
Radulov’s departure doesn’t exactly create an offensive hole for Nashville, but it doesn’t help with the Predators’ almost never ending search for more scoring. At the same time, it seemed as if the Predators and Radulov weren’t a great fit.
It will be interesting to see how this affects Nashville’s attempt to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter. It’s tough to believe that general manager David Poile didn’t consult Suter before making this move. Also, Shea Weber is a restricted free agent and was instrumental in bringing Radulov back.
And in other Red Wings-related news this afternoon, if you missed it, via RedWingsFeed, Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford explains why Jiri Hudler is all but guaranteed to leave the Wings to chase a $4-plus-million payday on the open market;
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels will throw out the first pitch at Wednesday’s Great Lakes Loons game, and he provided equally insightful takes on the Wings’ transition while also discussing his career with the CBC and his move to Detroit with the Saginaw News’s Hugh Bernreuter:
Question: With Nicklas Lidstrom retiring, who is your pick to be the next Red Wings captain?
Ken Daniels: Henrik Zetterberg. It’s that simple. I can’t see anybody else. Pavel (Datsyuk) will get some consideration, but Zetterberg carried this team when Pavel got hurt. Zetterberg has that determination. He’s a great leader. Just like Lidstrom learned from (Steve) Yzerman, Zetterberg learned from Lidstrom, although Henrik may be a more vocal leader.
Question:: Do you get any say in where the Red Wings are going to build a new arena? Will you miss Joe Louis?
Daniels: I get no say. I know the organization has said they’re going to put a building downtown. Hopefully, I’ll be around to see it. I was at Maple Leaf Gardens when I did my first game, Toronto-Boston. My first game with the Red Wings was at Maple Leaf Gardens. When it went down, that was sad for me. I like the sight lines at Joe Louis, although we’re a little far back. There’s not really a bad seat at Joe Louis. But it needs updating. I’ll miss the times we’ve had there, but I won’t miss broadcasting there.
Question:: You were able to host Hockey Night in Canada with Don Cherry, who isn’t always the biggest Red Wings supporter. Now that you’re the play-by-play man with the Red Wings, do you find it easier to disagree with Cherry?
Daniels: I do. I’ve said it to Don before. We’ve talked about the European angle. He goes back to the (Joey) Kocur days. Hockey is different now, though. The game is constantly changing. Don likes to have it stay where it was. You can’t argue with the Red Wings success. People love coming to the games to see Kocur or (Bob) Probert, but they also like coming to games to see Datsyuk and Zetterberg. The Red Wings have been able to adapt. The game changes. The NHL changes. You have to go with it. Who knows where the game is going to go.
Question: Are Red Wings fans spoiled by their team’s success?
Daniels:: They’re spoiled, and so am I. It’s OK to be spoiled, but you can also appreciate what you have. You have to appreciate it because it doesn’t happen all the time. You’re not going to win every year. You can be spoiled with success year after year but still appreciate it. I was spoiled watching Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, but I never took either one for granted.
Frame this comment, folks. It’s perfect.
Question: How much will the Red Wings miss Lidstrom? How much will you miss Lidstrom?
Daniels: I had a sinking feeling when we lost to Nashville and saw Nick by the bench that it was probably over. Half of his family was over in Sweden. He could have played another year for sure, but by his standards it wasn’t where he wanted to be. He had such high standards. On the ice and off the ice, he was always the same, so even-keeled. You just expected it. You never left the building saying Nick Lidstrom had a bad night. If you saw him get beat, it was so rare. Even then, it wasn’t bad. He hardly ever got hit. He got one roughing penalty his entire career. For him never to win the Lady Byng Trophy … come on. He was the Lady Byng Trophy. It’s for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct with a high standard of performance. That was Nick Lidstrom.
• And finally, AnnArbor.com’s Pete Cunningham is asking readers to weigh in as to whether they’d pay the borderline ludicrous amounts of money the NHL plans on charging for Winter Classic tickets. I believe the answer, across the board, will be, “Yes, of course!”
Update: In the, “I’m just sayin’” department, Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg notes that Calgary Flames power forward/grinder David Moss is an unrestricted free agent-to-be, and if you like Mike Knuble, how about a player who’s ten years younger at 30 and also played for the University of Michigan?
I’m with Steinberg—I don’t think that Moss will hit the open market—but he’d be a helluva pick-up if he did;
7. Until Sunday, Doug Wilson had made some kind of trade with 28 of the other 29 teams. The Brad Stuart deal made it 29 of 29. Detroit was the final partner.
14. It doesn’t sound like the Islanders are interested in re-signing Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau. Sometimes, people look at guys like him and say, “He’s only getting points because he’s playing with John Tavares.” While that may be true, it’s always a gamble the next guy has the same chemistry with your star. Or that Parenteau will go somewhere else and get 67 points with a different star.
21. Parise is a big supporter (with the NHLPA’s Goals and Dreams Foundation) of a Minnesota-based charity called “Defending the Blueline.” It provides hockey equipment and association fees for children of military families. As a thank you, one father presented him with an American flag that was flown in Afghanistan. Parise keeps it in his Minnesota home.
22. Upon receiving the captaincy, he asked his father, Jean-Paul, for advice. (JP played 890 NHL games.) The response? “Make sure the young guys feel part of the team.” The Devils put rookie Adam Henrique next to Parise in their room and Henrique says he doesn’t accomplish anything this year without Zach’s help.
28. Bryce Salvador is 36 years old, playing the best—and most productive—hockey of his life. He missed the 2010-11 season with a concussion. “It sounds strange,” he said last week, “but that turned out to be great for me. You don’t think that way at the time, but I came back healthy and rested. It’s added time to my career.” An unrestricted free agent on July 1, he’d like to stay in Jersey. But again, the team’s situation clouds the picture.
30. Finally, best wishes for Shawn Burr, who recently went through a bone-marrow transplant in his fight against acute myeloid leukemia. Early reports labelled the procedure a success, which is great news.
• And also from RedWingsFeed, Griffinshockey’s Kyle Kujawa penned an article about the process of rebuilding the team’s roster in terms of adding five veteran players to mentor the team’s youngsters:
Even if there is a lot of activity in July, there’s a good chance the Griffins won’t know who their veterans are until training camp. Forwards Tomas Tatar (who sits just over the veteran limit at 261 professional games played) and Joakim Andersson (272 games played) will be in the mix for full-time roster spots in Detroit, but could easily be returned to the AHL because both are exempt from waivers. The same applies for Fabian Brunnstrom, who is an unrestricted free agent with 284 pro games under his belt. If any of those three return, Grand Rapids could slot them into a sixth veteran spot (unused by the team in 2011-12) reserved for players with 320 or fewer games of professional experience. Otherwise, that spot could be occupied by Francis Pare, who sits sixth in Griffins’ history with 295 games played and has another year left on his contract.
Each veteran from last year’s crew certainly made a strong case for sticking around for another season, but a number of factors will determine if they reprise their role. The Red Wings will have the final say on who gets an NHL contract, and may see fit to keep one around for depth on the big club’s roster. Additionally, others could be looking to secure a contract with an organization that isn’t as deep as Detroit, potentially on a one-way deal, or look to Europe as an alternative path to further their pro hockey career.
Chris Conner was up and down in his first year with the organization, and he enjoyed the luxury of being able to see his family in Plymouth, Mich., more often, whether he was in Grand Rapids or Detroit. The energetic and skilled forward is the youngest of the five and definitely did not look out of place during NHL call-ups. If he can’t be promised an NHL deal elsewhere, it seems likely that Detroit would have the inside track on a two-way contract due to location.
Captain Garnet Exelby has the most NHL experience of the bunch at 408 games, and he posted a career offensive year while providing his trademarked reliable, physical game in the defensive zone. His serious demeanor but light-hearted attitude in the locker room makes him a valuable role model to the team’s young defensemen, and his experience was called upon when Detroit selected him as a “black ace” for their playoff run.
Doug Janik is in a similar boat as Exelby, as he provides Detroit with NHL-ready depth and sets a good example with his proficiency at each end of the ice. After bouncing around between three different organizations (and their AHL affiliates) during the 2008-09 season, it’s obvious that Janik has enjoyed the stability that three seasons in Grand Rapids has offered.
Jamie Johnson enjoyed a bounce-back campaign, eclipsing last season’s goal totals in just 27 games and tying with Tatar and Gustav Nyquist for the team scoring lead. The 30-year-old spent his first two professional seasons in the ECHL and has cemented himself as the type of consistent scorer that AHL teams push their NHL affiliates to lock up.
Chris Minard will be the first to tell you that his 2010-11 offensive output was not up to snuff, and after missing the first half of this season with a concussion, many doubted if he could regain his form. But the sharp-shooting forward won Reebok/AHL Player of the Month in his first full month back and recorded a team-high three hat tricks en route to capturing the Fred T. Hunt Award for his comeback efforts.
Update #3: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan posited a blog entry which more or less states the obvious about Jiri Hudler’s situation:
Jiri Hudler had to be one the happiest free agent-to-bes in the world of the NHL last week. Hudler a handful of other forwards who had decent offensive seasons. The group was thrilled to see Colorado’s David Jones, who scored 20 goals and had 17 assists, sign a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Avalanche, foregoing unrestricted free agency.
David Jones? That kind of money? If Jones is worth that money, how much is Hudler worth?
Hudler, in case you’ve forgotten, had 25 goals and dished out 25 assists. A fine year, not spectacular, but without a doubt Hudler found chemistry with linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula and was one of the Wings’ better players.
It’s been speculated that Hudler should be able to get an outstanding offer from somewhere. But now, there’s little doubt Hudler should be able to land a huge deal from another team looking for offense. They’ll see Hudler’s production and offer Hudler even more money than Jones got.
General manager Ken Holland said he will offer Hudler a contract soon, but it’s likely it’ll be below $4 million per season.
Hudler is probably better off staying with the Wings and playing with players who complement his skills. But that’s probably not going to matter. If David Jones can land a contract worth $4 million per season, Hudler is going to get similar or better money – and price himself out of Detroit.
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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.