The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/17/11 at 02:21 PM ET
I’m still not buying the talk suggesting that the Red Wings will move to the Eastern Conference, if only eventually, should the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg, but that hasn’t stopped Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner from providing a piranha’s worth of steak on fishhook via quotes from Wings VP Jimmy Devellano‘s belief that, at some point in the future, the Wings will indeed head East:
“I don’t think so, certainly not anything next year, the schedules under way now,” Devellano said. “I can only tell you what will happen next year, and we’re probably going to be where we’ve been for a long, long time.”
Devellano also added that, contrary to popular belief, the Red Wings do not have the power to demand that they move to the Eastern Conference.
“We have no say whatsoever; it’s a league decision,” he said. “Those kinds of things have to be voted on by the owners of the league.”
For years, Red Wing fans have been clamoring for the team to be in the Eastern Conference. With only one other Western Conference team (Columbus) being in the Eastern time zone with Detroit, fans have had to put up with more staggered start times than any other team in the league. Will that day come, the day when the Red Wings will call the Eastern Conference home?
“I believe that someday the Red Wings will play in the East,” Devellano said. Then he added with a laugh, “I just can’t tell you when!”
It’s not going to happen. The Wings sell out too many opposing rinks and give the West two true marquee U.S.-based franchises in Detroit and Chicago, and while the Predators are quite happy with their Central Division rivals, it just makes more sense geographically for Nashville to move East.
• Regarding the Wings’ future in terms of player personnel changes, Fox Sports’ Lyle “Spector” Richardson points out that, should Nicklas Lidstrom return, the Wings simply won’t have the cap space necessary to make wholesale changes…
Holland currently has over $46.8 million invested in 15 players, with forwards Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Ruslan Salei and Jonathan Ericsson, and goaltender Chris Osgood eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Modano acknowledged his playing days are probably over and it’s believed Draper could retire to a job within the Wings organization, perhaps as part of the coaching staff. Salei isn’t expected to be re-signed and it’s possible Ericsson might also be cut loose. Osgood, 38, missed half this season to sports hernia surgery, and given the depth of available backup goalies in this summer’s free agent market, Holland could bring in a younger, more affordable backup for Jimmy Howard.
Eaves ($750K) and Miller ($650K) fit well into the Red Wings checking lines, and even by doubling their money for next season they wouldn’t take too big a bite out of the Wings available cap space.
Assuming it costs $6.2 million to re-sign Lidstrom and a combined $2.8 million to re-up Eaves and Miller, the Wings payroll would be pushed to nearly $56 million for next season. If as expected the cap for next season increases to around $63 million, that would leave nearly $7 million in available cap space. Prospect Jan Mursak is expected to be a potential replacement for Draper, adding another $550K to the base cap hit.
Given the lack of quality depth available in this summer’s free agent market, there’s been speculation Holland could go the trade route to bring in a quality player, with Jiri Hudler ($2.875 million) or Valtteri Filppula ($3 million) named as possible trade candidates. Hudler was a disappointment in his return from his KHL hiatus, but Filppula could have more value on the trade block.
I don’t see the Wings moving Filppula given the team’s lack of a true “second line” center if Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk play on the same line, but if the Wings can pawn Hudler off on someone for a mid-round draft pick (and indications right now suggest that the team wants to keep Ericsson), the Wings will at least have the salary cap space to bring in someone at or around his salary cap hit.
• I’m afraid, I’m very afraid: Stan Fischler, penning his “Bluelines” column for the New England Hockey Journal, gives the Wings unsolicited praise:
GM Ken Holland’s Red Wings may not have reached the Western Conference finals, but there’s no shame there. Their masterful comeback against San Joseproves several points: 1. Former University of Maine star Jimmy Howard is a first-class starting goalie; 2. Nik Lidstrom must be persuaded to return; 3. Mike Babcock remains among the NHL’s top five coaches; 4. Pavel Datsyuk is the best NHL forward.
• And finally, for the moment, anyway, Expressen’s Henrik Sjoberg and Gustav Tagtstrom report that MoDo Ornskoldsvik GM Markus Naslund will wine and dine Wings prospect Dick Axelsson, who’s being pursued by MoDo, HV71 Jonkoping and Skelleftea AIK. Axelsson’s delivering “no comment” takes on his situation, and several of Expressen’s columnists are surprised that Axelsson isn’t making the jump across the Atlantic to play for the Wings, but as previously noted…
1. The Wings can retain Axelsson’s services by tossing him a qualifying offer that he may not be thrilled with as he’s a restricted free agent;
2. The Wings don’t necessarily believe that Axelsson is ready to play in the NHL, mentally more than physically, with Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson having suggested that Axelsson’s still the type of player who’d stand up in the locker room and complain to the coach about his ice time or the lack thereof, yielding a permanent benching;
3. Axelsson doesn’t want to play in the AHL if at all possible, arguing that he will come over when he has a chance to crack Detroit’s roster, and that’s not going to happen during the 2011-2012 season;
4. And at this point, if Axelsson ends up with HV71, that’s a huge coup for both Axelsson, who’d be making big-market team money, and the Wings, who could keep track of Axelsson, Daniel Larsson and prospect Adam Almqvist all in the same place.
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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.