The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/18/11 at 06:38 AM ET
It’s good news/bad news on the Red Wings’ injury front from the Free Press’s Helene St. James this morning, and as bad news should come first, St. James reports that Todd Bertuzzi has yet to recover from the concussion he incurred five days ago when his jaw smacked into Dany Heatley’s helmet in San Jose. The good news is that Danny Cleary’s apparently recovered from the biggest hit Jiri Hudler delivered over the course of the 2010-2011 season. Cleary apparently passed his baseline neurological test prior to his exit interview with Wings GM Ken Holland on Tuesday:
“I met with Dan for an hour this morning—he looks great, feels great,” general manager Ken Holland said Tuesday. “If we were playing today, he could play.”
Cleary suffered the concussion last Thursday during a collision with teammate Jiri Hudler, who caught Cleary in the face with an elbow. Bertuzzi was hurt during a collision with Sharks forward Dany Heatley.
“Todd is getting better every day, but he’s not quite over the effects of it yet,” Holland said.
Cleary told the Free Press he was relieved his ordeal was over so quickly.
“I felt good the last two days,” he said. “It’s a scary situation anytime you deal with the head. I’m glad that I didn’t have any symptoms that continued to linger. I look forward to a great summer of training hard and preparing for next season.”
Progress is progress in Bertuzzi’s case. Better than none or slight.
I suppose if you want more “good news,” at least for the moment, it appears that none of the Wings’ “banged-up” players have booked time on an operating room table this summer, and that’s excellent news given the ridiculous number of injuries the Wings have had to deal with over the past two seasons.
We know that Holland and the coaching staff’s exit interviews will set the table for the team’s off-season renovations, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan revisited Holland and coach Mike Babcock’s comments from Saturday and after the Wings’ ouster last Thursday to frame said discussion:
We got to make some moves,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “But we got the nucleus of a good team.”
[M]aybe most importantly, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg remain in the prime of their careers, and have shown no slowdown. Datsyuk, 32, had a tremendous postseason, with a team-leading 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) in 11 games. Zetterberg, 30, missed the entire first round with a sprained left knee, but got better as he got healthier against the Sharks.
“(Datsyuk’s) the best two-way player in the game,” Babcock said after the Sharks series. “But Zetterberg is no slouch either.” We’re fortunate to have a great 1-2 punch. They have great drive and really compete at the highest level and make the people around them better.”
There’s also the development of [Jimmy] Howard. Howard was outstanding during the postseason, with a .923 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average. The Red Wings believe Howard, 27, gave them an opportunity to win every game.
“He’s just coming into his prime,” Holland said. “We believed halfway through last year we had a goalie. We think we have a tremendous (one).”
At this point, it appears that Holland’s not going to make any major changes, unless Nicklas Lidstrom retires, anyway…
“We have to figure out a way to get on the other side and find a way to win by one instead of lose by one,” Holland said.
Along those lines, between taking a reality-check look at Capgeek.com’s roster profile (the Wings have 15 players signed for $46.81 million in committed salaries thus far, and the cap’s expected to rise to about $62 million next season) and the fact that, to put it bluntly, this year’s crop of free agent forwards is thin...
I’m starting to wonder what Holland can realistically do in terms of making moves now that I’ve actually seen the Wings’ options.
I’ve assumed that the Wings’ braintrust will lean toward keeping Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and probably Drew Miller and Chris Osgood should their salary demands not be outlandish, and that Kris Draper would be signed to the sort of deal that Kirk Maltby inked when he battled against Aaron Downey, Eaves and Miller for a spot during training camp (i.e. a two-way deal), with Draper and the no longer waiver-exempt Cory Emmerton battling for the 14th forward’s spot, and that after that, if you account for decent raises for the youngsters, pay cuts for Osgood and Draper, and Jimmy Howard’s increase to a $2.25 million salary on Capgeek.com’s cap calculator...
You more or less get a Jiri Hudler’s worth of salary (a $2.78 million cap hit and $3 million in real world dollars) to play with, assuming that the Wings don’t bring back Ruslan Salei and swap in Doug Janik (his contract is a one-way deal in 2011, so he’d be subject to re-entry waivers) or Brendan Smith as their #7 defenseman—and assuming that the Wings have indeed decided to give up on Hudler and plan on pawning him off to somebody who’ll take his salary and inconsistent play for a minimal return.
My take from the outset was and is pretty simple—I think the Wings missed one big winger that could negate Ryane Clowe’s size and speed with a commensurate amount of the same, giving the Wings one more big body up front to bang bodies and get in on the forecheck, augmenting the speed that Jan Mursak will bring into the lineup. To me, that’s the area that the Wings can most easily tweak by swapping Hudler out for a Leino-like “AHL’er and mid-round pick” return, if that, and then go and spend the money on the free agent market.
That being said, the free agent crop of forwards is slim—Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, if you like irony, Tomas Kopecky, maybe Scottie Upshall or Chris Higgins, those are the kinds of players who provide size and speed on the wing (Michal Handzus is big but both overpaid and slow)—and the only way the Wings can find the money to even attempt to sign such players, most of whom can get more elsewhere, involves pawning Hudler off for a minimal return.
DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford offers this take on the Wings’ possible off-season changes, and he does so while mentioning a player who “got away” in Curtis Glencross, who the Flames just re-signed:
Needless to say, the Wings could be a very different team next season. With Lidstrom, Ericsson, and Salei possibly leaving town, a big question surrounds the defense, which was an area of concern all season long with the Wings finishing 23rd in the league in goals against. Will Holland go shopping for a big-time blue-liner?
A name that has been thrown around by hopeful Detroit fans is Shea Weber, defenseman and captain of the Nashville Predators who is set to be a restricted free agent in July. While being restricted means that Nashville will have the first crack at signing the 25-year-old, the Wings have the cap space and the esteem to possibly woo Weber, who would add a dangerous scoring threat at the blue line (he was tied for fourth in goals among defenseman with 16 during the regular-season). However, the Predators will likely do everything they can to keep Weber in Nashville. But there are other big-name defensemen who will be on the free agency market, such as Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, Boston’s Tomas Kaberle, and Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehroff.
Another option is to augment the Wings offensive stars Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg, who each still have a handful of years left on their contracts. Draper’s departure would free up space on the roster, and depending on what happens with Miller and Eaves, the Wings could suddenly find themselves needing some depth at the forward position.
But don’t expect the Wings to chase free agency’s biggest name, Dallas center Brad Richards, as other deep-pocketed teams with more urgent offensive needs — for instance, the New York Rangers — will surely throw a ton of money his way. But there are potential targets out there which could be netted for good value, like Washington center Brooks Laich (16 goals, 32 assists), Philadelphia forward Nikolay Zherdev (16 goals, six assists), and Calgary forward Curtis Glencross (24 goals, 19 assists).
It’s a pivotal time in the Wings’ history as they have been eliminated in the conference semifinals two years running, and face a significant re-shaping of their roster. Recent history has proven that the Wings are adept re-builders, finding success even after the team’s core players like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and Sergei Fedorov left in the early-to-mid 2000s.
I wouldn’t touch Zherdev with a ten-foot pole, and Glencross was signed to a four-year extension by Calgary on Monday.
There’s also an elephant under the living room carpet that nobody’s really acknowledged, and it may make it a little easier to land a player but more difficult to commit to one over the long haul, regardless of whether he’s a blueliner, forward or goaltender: the CBA expires on September 15th, 2012, and at this point, the indications point to the NHL attempting to cut into the players’ share and/or bump the cap down to the $50 million range. The Wings simply cannot over-pay a player in salary or term when the $30-plus-million in cap space the Wings have might shrink.
The year before CBA negotiations is usually a quiet one on the free agent front, but the “silly season,” as the Swedes call it, also tends to make the most gun-shy general manager toss money at players like there’s no tomorrow when they’re trying to out-bid each other for a player’s services.
I’m just starting to wonder whether Holland may either have to keep Hudler, or whether he’ll have to attempt to spin a depth player into gold, which is going to be hard to do in a potential “lockout year.”
Shifting gears, the Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) Guardian’s Charles Reid reminds us that the Wings don’t have to simply decide what they want to do with the Wings’ roster.
In addition to significantly tweaking a Grand Rapids Griffins team that hasn’t made the AHL’s playoff cut for two consecutive seasons by bringing in Landon Ferraro, Mitchell Callahan, Gleason Fournier, Gustav Nyquist and possibly Trevor Parkes, the Wings will have to decide whether to sign two collegians in St. Cloud State University forward Nick Oslund (probably not) and Clarkson University defenseman Bryan Rufenach (another undersized defenseman; he did at least ink a try-out contract with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye down the stretch) and one of the following graduating PEI Rocket forwards:
Veterans like Evan Mosher, Samuel Morneau and Uigg native Travis McIssac have graduated. Adam Polasek, Philippe Paradis and Andrej Nestrasil are also likely moving on next season.
The Wings have to decide whether they’re willing to ink Nestrasil, a hulking winger who never quite lived up to his potential as a goal-scoring dynamo in the QMJHL after being traded from Victoriaville to Prince Edward Island, to a contract, and they’ve got to decide whether to sign Nestrasil by June 1st.
Add in the fact that Logan Pyett, Sergei Kolosov, and as far as I know, both Francis Pare and Sebastien Piche will have to clear waivers to be sent to Grand Rapids and the fact that Jim Nill and the team’s amateur scouts are working on honing down their final lists of players they’d like to pick at the NHL Entry Draft on June 24th and 25th in St. Paul, Minnesota, and you get one thing:
The Wings are a team that’s doing much more than looking at lists of unrestricted free agents or begging GM’s to take an underperforming player or two off their hands.
The Wings’ tasks at the present moment include:
1. Exit interviews with returning players and possible free agents;
2. Determining which unrestricted free agents the team wishes to re-sign, including Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Jonathan Ericsson and possibly Ruslan Salei and Joey MacDonald, as well as which players the team may target on the unrestricted free agent market (via conversations held between coaches, management and pro scouts like Kirk Maltby and Mark Howe);
3. Waiting for Nicklas Lidstrom to decide whether he wishes to return;
4. Engaging in planning sessions in which both the front office, the Wings’ and Griffins’ coaches and the team’s player mentors (Jiri Fischer, Chris Chelios) talk about their areas of emphasis in terms of possible player personnel additions and systemic changes which will be made to the Wings’ systems of play, and which prospects the team may wish to either leave on the farm or place first on the call-up list (see: Brendan Smith and the two-headed goalie prospect monster consisting of Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum) to expose to the NHL on a more regular basis;
5. Determining whether to submit qualifying offers to the team’s restricted free agents on the farm, which include Logan Pyett, Francis Pare, Jordan Pearce, Jordan Owens and of course Swedish forward at large Dick Axelsson, as well as UFA-bound Griffins captain Jamie Tardif, defenseman Sergei Kolosov (who may head over to Europe), Ilari Filppula (ditto) and/or Derek Meech (seeya), all while preparing to build the 2011-2012 Griffins’ roster with prospects who can still play junior hockey as over-agers if the team wishes to leave them there (Trevor Parkes, Landon Ferraro, Mitchell Callahan)
6. Deciding whether to sign Andrej Nestrasil by June 1st and/or Nick Oslund and/or Bryan Rufenach;
7. Preparing for the NHL Entry Draft;
8. Continuing to actively scout the teams which remain in action for the purposes of information-gathering and possible free agent targeting (in other words, the Wings’ pro scouts are probably in attendance for both Conference Final series).
So that’s a lot of stuff going on down at the Joe and elsewhere, and we really won’t know what happens in terms of the team’s master plan in terms of player personnel until Lidstrom makes his decision.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Pavel Datsyuk and Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom are facing off in TSN’s “Play of the Year showdown” today;
• Count USA Today’s Kevin Allen among those who believe that, should the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg, the Red Wings will move to the Eastern Conference;
• According to the St. Catherines (Ontario) Standard, Michigan State University forward Daultan Leveille got a pep talk from Chris Chelios before undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left ACL and MCL;
• And I can’t help but snicker at this tidbit from the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby:
Ryan Kesler’s revelation surfaced when the Canucks playoff MVP so far was asked to cite a recent example of how he has tempered his taunting ways during stoppages of play. Kesler paused to ponder. He then revealed what San Jose captain Joe Thornton said as the two butted helmets prior to the opening face-off of the Canucks’ 3-2 Game 1 win in the Western Conference final on Sunday.
“He asked to fight,” Kesler said.
Jumbo Joe? Was this true?
“Yeah, why not?”, confirmed Thornton, even though the native of St. Thomas, Ont., has only fought 24 times in 1,100 combined NHL regular season and playoff games. “I was saying, ‘Let’s fight. Let’s start the series off with a bang.’ That’s about it.”
Par for the Jumbo course…
Update #1: ARRGH! Aftonbladet’s Jonathan Ekeliw is reporting that Jonathan Ericsson’s turned down a 12 million Swedish Kronor ($1.88 million) contract offer from the Wings. Front page, big headline on the Swedish tabloid’s sports page.
Who do they cite? MLive’s Ansar Khan’s report from Saturday, in which he said the following:
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, an unrestricted free agent, said he would like to re-sign but admitted his future with the team is uncertain.
“I might make more money somewhere else, but I want to stay,’’ Ericsson said.
Ericsson turned down a multiyear offer worth $2 million a season. He probably could get more elsewhere.
“I really like it here,’’ he said. “I like everything about this team, this organization.’‘
This is not new news.
And yes, for the record, part 1: I’m checking the Swedish and Russian and Finnish and Czech and etc. newspapers.
And yes, for the record, part 2: Burnout has hit me. It’s been a full five days but exhaustion’s finally hit. You’re gonna have to wait a few days for my grades. I’m wonked, mentally more than physically at this point.
And yes, for the record, part 3: Just because I’m decent at translating Swedish thanks to four years of high school German and three years of college German doesn’t mean that I enjoy it.
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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.