The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/04/11 at 08:41 AM ET
The Red Wings’ moves both immediately prior to and shortly after the start of free agency this past weekend have, at least in theory, stabilized the team’s blueline and afforded the team the ability to rebound from the loss of Brian Rafalski via committee, with cap space at the trade deadline to spare (just in case), and while Ken Holland went back into stealth mode on Sunday, the Wings’ press corps reviewed Holland’s brief body of work in detail, starting with a somewhat bold assessment by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Suddenly, there are nine NHL-worthy defensemen on the Wings’ roster. There’s certainly not much concern anymore. [Ian] White and [Mike] Commodore join Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Doug Janik on the blue line.
“We feel good with the people we have,” Holland said.
Smith is the Wings’ top prospect but he, now, likely won’t be on the Wings’ roster when the season begins. That’s ideal. The Wings like their defensive prospects to be “over-ready,” and Smith, who starred in Grand Rapids last season, will get one more season to refine his skills. Janik is a veteran depth defenseman who can be shuttled between the Wings and Griffins.
Signing forwards Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves just before they were eligible to become free agents rounded out the forward corps. Holland said Saturday he’s likely done adding skaters. So goaltending remains the lone question mark.
The Wings are debating whether to re-sign veteran Chris Osgood or go in another direction to back up Jimmy Howard. Holland and the Wings’ staff are unsure about the health of Osgood, 38, who missed much of last season after groin surgery.
Ex-Wing Ty Conklin, unsigned on the free-agent market, is a viable alternative.
I’m not sure that I’d suggest that the Wings have a nine-deep defensive corps—and we’re definitely going to hear talk that the Wings’ blueline isn’t the deepest in the West anymore, the kind of talk that Kronwall, Ericsson and White may have to work very hard to disprove—but the Wings do appear to have at least equal depth on the blueline, the probability of similar point production and a little more snarl than they did on Friday.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James also appeared on WXYZ’s Sunday Sports Update with Tom Leyden, offering this assessment of Holland’s subtle moves…
Leyden and WXYT’s Mike Stone talked about the slightly outlandish 3-year, $9.75 million contract offered to Ericsson and White’s addition at an affordable 2 years and $5.75 million (starting at the two-minute mark, and regardless of whether it’s the Wings’ high-profile status or the fact that there’s an NFL lockout, or maybe both, it’s nice to see the Wings get so much prime-time and front-page coverage from not only the hockey-friendly WXYZ but also Detroit’s other media outlets)...
And St. James profiled White* this morning, noting that the Wings’ new defenseman hopes to plant some roots in Detroit after playing for the three teams (Calgary, Carolina and San Jose) last year:
White appealed to the Wings because of his competitiveness, skills and the fact he shoots right-handed, one of just three players on the team to do so. (Defenseman Mike Commodore and forward Patrick Eaves are the others.)
The Wings, in turn, appealed to White, especially when they offered two years. “That’s probably the toughest thing about our business,” he said. “Last year was the first time we moved around like that, and I have a young family. It’s nice to get some stability here for at least two years. Hopefully it’s the start of a long relationship.”
At 27, White is entering his prime. A sixth-round pick by Toronto in the 2002 NHL entry draft, White spent almost five seasons with the Maple Leafs before being traded to Calgary. In 401 games with the Leafs, Flames, Hurricanes and Sharks, he has 36 goals and 107 assists, with 228 penalty minutes.
In Detroit, he’ll push Jonathan Ericsson for a spot in the top four, next to Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart. Stuart and Kronwall had a great pairing going until last season, when Stuart played first with Brian Rafalski (since retired) and then with Lidstrom. White could fit in nicely next to either Lidstrom or Kronwall, or help the third pairing be a 20-minute option.
Wherever he ends up, White sees this move as a great opportunity. “There are so many great players there to learn from,” he said. “They make everyone else better. Hopefully, I can grow my game and have some fun with one of the best teams over the past few decades.”
The Wings may or may not have made one more subtle move in, according to RDS’s Renaud Lavoie and via RedWingsFeed, re-signing possible #3A/3B goaltender Jordan Pearce to a 2-year deal at $525,000 per season (at the NHL level). Capgeek.com’s Pearce player page has yet to confirm the deal, but as more than a few hockey outlets took Sunday off, it wouldn’t surprise me if the deal’s happened and is just slow in making its way out…
And I have to mention two things with a straight face:
1. I will only quote the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper regarding the Nashville Predators’ trading of Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi to Toronto for cap space, prospect Robert Slaney and one Brett Lebda:
Lebda will make $1.4 million next season, the final year of his contract. He played 41 games with the but isn’t expected to see much playing time.
2. Because he’s no longer our problem, Jaromir Jagr’s blather to Lidovky.cz about the Pittsburgh Penguins vilifying him shouldn’t surprise anyone (and this is very roughly translated)
“They did it very cleverly, but they gave me an offer ($2.1 million—Editor’s note) that they knew was one of the lowest ever. The other day players took that amount to play on the third or fourth line. I’m well aware that I can’t complain, but in the end it was stated in Pittsburgh that Jagr refused the offer. So I’m [made to look like] a traitor and an idiot,” said the Czech hockey legend, sulkily.
“Sure, for many people $2 million is enough, but when you subtract taxes and other expenses, it’s $700,000. And when you see teams paying players on the first two lines $5-7 million, everyone else would have been paid more. I don’t just sit on the bench,” said jagr. “I want to get a decent chance and I’ll either get it or not.”
“A year ago, I said that I’d play for Mario for minimum wage? It was stupid that now I see they took that one sentence out of context…But hats off, Pittsburgh did it to me, well thought-out,” said Jagr, disappointed.
Jagr might have one and only one point in that Avangard Omsk GM Anatoly Bardin told Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov that their offer to Jagr was less than the Flyers’ $3.3 million contract (somewhere in the $2.5-3 million range).
I need to mention with a, “Sorry!” that Marie Hallman interviewed one of the pro hockey players working at the Swedish stop that Pavel Datsyuk’s summer hockey school is now making in Stockholm, as well as Datsyuk himself, but as I know Marie and her Swedish is better than mine, I’m going to suggest that you take a gander at the Google translations of the Petter Sandstrom interview and the Datsyuk interview while I politely ask Marie if she can lend me a hand with the translations;
Also of Red Wings-related note: DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness looked at the “numbers” of Joey MacDonald’s 2010-2011 season with the Wings, which he regrettably won’t attempt to repeat or better;
• The Score’s Kent Wilson’s already doling out free agency grades, and he’s tossing the Wings a “straight C.” I’m not sure whether it’s proper to grade Holland until we see whether he can swipe a back-up goaltender on the cheap, but that’s just my take;
• It kind of scares me that the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell believes that the owners and general managers who’ve spent so much money over this past weekend will choose to look at the spending spree made by cap-floor-reaching teams as an excuse to lock out the players as a “matter of course”—I think we’re going to start hearing this suggestion, that as the NFL and NBA were “forced” to lock out their players to restore sanity to the marketplace, the NHL will be “forced” to do the same because professional sports unions need to give concessions to owners in a natural process (it ain’t natural);
• Independent journalist Greg Eno wrote a superb profile of the Howe family’s hockey legacy as reflected in Mark Howe’s naming as a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee;
• And, well, welcome to July: Chessbase.com’s Lubomir Kavalek reports that former Wing Dominik Hasek attended a very high-profile birthday party for world chess master Vishy Anand, and, well…
It was nice to see him in great spirits during a breakfast we had together with the Czech-American writer and filmmaker Jan Novak. After one year playing in Russia, Hasek is taking a year off hockey, exchanging skates for skis and a bicycle. In May he trained with a top Czech skier in the Austrian Alps. He plans to try his downhill skills in Chile, where European skiers train during the summer. Chess and golf are the only two sports where he may take it easy.
Dom happened to speak to Isport’s Pavel Barta about Jagar’s decision to sign with the Flyers, and he suggested that Jagr probably chose the team based on its playoff record of late, and suggested that the reaction Pittsburgh fans have had to Jagr’s signing with a team that’s “the enemy everywhere” is understandable.
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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.