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Red Wings overnight report: finding a #2 goaltender is priority #1

Updated with an odd rumor at 8:20 AM: The Detroit Red Wings’ biggest concern at present involves determining the fate of Chris Osgood as the team’s back-up goaltender. The Wings are scouring a picked-over market for another goaltender to spell Jimmy Howard as they remain quite concerned about Osgood’s ability to recover from what turned out to be major surgery to repair and reattach groin muscles as well as repair a sports hernia, as GM Ken Holland told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

“The question with Chris Osgood is, can he be healthy?” general manager Ken Holland said.

Osgood maintained in the playoffs he was ready to play if needed. He wasn’t; Howard played every game. Late in the regular season, Osgood practiced but was unable to get into the lineup because of lingering discomfort in the groin. It’s Osgood’s lack of action the last two years — Howard won the starting job in 2009-10 after Osgood struggled early in the season — that has the Wings examining the goaltending market this summer.

“We owe it to ourselves to see what is out there,” said Holland, who will consider bringing Osgood back. “We have money to spend (under the salary the cap). There are players we remain interested in.”

Holland said teams continue to call the Wings about possible trades.

The Wings contacted the agents for several goalies the first day of free agency Friday. But all of the goaltenders decided on finding other teams, knowing the No. 1 job in Detroit was Howard’s.

The Free Press’s Helene St. James confirms the latter bit of news while speaking to Holland about the team’s attempts to convince a goaltender to come to Detroit to start 20-30 games…

The Wings are looking for a veteran with some playoff experience to play behind Jimmy Howard. Howard’s youth—he’s only 27—is going to turn off some prospective candidates, because those looking to play more know that’s more likely to happen behind a starter in his 30s.

“Some of the goalies we talked to didn’t want to be a backup,” general manager Ken Holland said. “They want to go to other teams and have a shot at being No. 1 or at playing a lot more games.”

There are still a few players on the market, such as Patrick Lalime, and former Wings Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald. There’s also the possibility of trading for someone.

“We’ll continue to look at goalies,” Holland said. “We know we’ve got Chris Osgood if we want.”

Osgood, 38, would be a slam-dunk signing were it not for what transpired the second half of the season. In early January he underwent surgery for a sports hernia and other groin-related problems, after which came an extended rehabilitation period. The front office got frustrated, however, when Osgood told them in late February he’d be able to play again that season only to repeatedly back away from such attempts. He assured management prior to the trade deadline that he was nearly ready, which kept the Wings from trading for a replacement.

Osgood wasn’t able to suit up, though, and when the playoffs began the Wings had to rely on MacDonald, a minor leaguer with no NHL playoff experience, as a safety net.

The bottom line regarding Osgood is pretty simple—there’s nobody on the market that possesses Osgood’s resume, but the Wings are also incredibly concerned that, at some point, he’d suffer some sort of setback as par for the recovery course during training camp or the exhibition season, leaving the Wings scrambling to find a back-up.

It’s important to note that Holland and Jim Nill are now in charge of building the Grand Rapids Griffins’ roster as well, and they may or may not want to bring in an AHL’er to mentor Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum. It’s an important year for both netminders as they battle to establish a pecking order as Howard’s back-up-in-waiting, but it’s hard to believe that the Wings would be comfortable with the concept of simply bringing one of those goalies up to spell Howard should Osgood re-injure his groin.

As Joey MacDonald’s chosen to explore the market himself in the hopes of finding a full-time job as either an NHL back-up or starter in Europe, the team’s in a bit of a pickle as Marty Turco and Ray Emery probably want to compete for a starter’s job and Conklin and Lalime highlight a very thin marketplace, so as Holland suggested to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, it might be “Conklin or bust”:

“There’s nothing new to report,” Holland told The Macomb Daily on Monday. “Obviously that’s our top priority over the next few days.”
A source told The Macomb Daily on Saturday that the Wings have been talking with Conklin. Conklin played one season with Detroit (2008-09) and recorded a career-high 25 wins, going 25-11-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
“Osgood is interested in playing,” Holland said earlier in the week. “In goal we explored three or four guys. They all signed elsewhere and they all went for opportunity. They went where they went because they think there is opportunity to be a No. 1 or be a No. 1 in a year or two.”

Osgood had sports hernia surgery last year and suffered a few setbacks along his recover. He last played on Jan. 4.

“We’ve got (Jimmy Howard) who’s in the prime of his career and we think he’s going to be a good goaltender in this league,” Holland said. “He was a better goaltender last season compared to the year before and he’s going to be better this year.”

Holland said he’ll talk to Osgood when he returns from a golf trip the team gave him for winning his 400th career game last season.

In terms of the trade market, the Wings’ options are equally thin. Unless they’re looking to take on Michael Leighton’s $1.55 million cap hit, most teams are set in the net, leaving Turco, Emery, Conklin and Lalime playing musical chairs, and the reason Evgeni Nabokov wants to report to the Islanders’ training camp in the fall is because he wants to reestablish himself as a goaltender who can win at the NHL level and perhaps be traded to a playoff contender at the trade deadline, and he’s not going to get the kind of starts that he wants in Detroit.

In any case, Holland told the AP’s Larry Lage that the team plans on making a move sooner than later...

“The market for goalies is pretty picked over,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’re comfortable with Chris Osgood if we have to do it.”

Osgood has won three Stanley Cups, two as a No. 1 goalie, and 401 games, mostly with Detroit. But he played in only 11 games last season, recovering from sports hernia surgery in January. Holland might re-sign Osgood, bring back Ty Conklin, who won a career-high 25 games for the Red Wings during the 2008-09 season, or trade for someone to spell Jimmy Howard.

“I have gotten calls from teams, looking to trade a goaltender,” Holland said. “I need to do something and I probably will this week.”

And again, he’s continued to allude to making some sort of trade:

“We like our team, but we’re ready to make another move or two — whether it’s a signing or a trade — to make our team better this summer,” Holland said.

As for Kris Draper, his future in Detroit looks even less likely to return than Osgood as Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller have returned and both Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton are no longer waiver-exempt, but if the Wings do make some sort of trade and subtract a forward to acquire a goaltender, Draper could return. I don’t think we’ll know whether he’s coming back for a few more weeks.

Whether the Wings improved their blueline or took a step back without Rafalski depends on your point of view. The Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski argues that the Wings’ defensive corps has no chance of standing up to the rigors of an NHL season because they’re “old”...

Detroit Red Wings

Signed Ian White after Brian Rafalski’s retirement, though there’s talk of interest in Tomas Kaberle. Still solid, but this team isn’t getting any younger and age will catch up with them at some point.

For the record, the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran claims that the Wings were somewhat interested in Kaberle but went in another direction by signing White…

And the Vancouver Province’s Mike Halford and Jason Brough suggest that Rafalski’s retirement signifies nothing less than the beginning of the end of Detroit’s status as a playoff contender…

[Y]ou have to wonder how much longer Detroit will remain in serious contention. The biggest question mark for the Red Wings is their defence, which just lost Brian Rafalski to retirement and won’t have Nicklas Lidstrom, 41, forever. There are always prospects in the Detroit organization, but it’s unrealistic to expect those two to be replaced anytime soon, if ever.

Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy believes that the Wings may have made the best signing of any team by bringing White into the fold...

Ian White, Defence, Detroit Red Wings: The much-traveled White is a solid replacement for the retired Brian Rafalski. Although he is not as good in his own zone as Rafalski, White skates well and can chip in on offence. Playing in Detroit’s puck-possession system that features defence-conscience forwards, White may finally have found a home. He played in Calgary, Carolina and San Jose this past season scoring a total of four goals and 26 points in 78 games. His nine points in 17 games with San Jose were quite impressive. At $5.75 million over two years, White could prove to be a bargain.

And the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo (who engaged in a pretty lengthy chat about the Wings and other topics on Monday afternoon) believes that Holland did the best he could to keep pace with other teams in terms of both their defense and their depth up front, suggesting that retaining Jonathan Ericsson at a slightly excessive rate included:

It wasn’t so much that Ericsson wasn’t worth re-signing, but the amount that stunned people. He is a fifth or sixth defensemen in the eyes of Red Wings’ fans. He’s been a source of their frustration because of a tendency to turn the puck over in his own end. Ericsson is big and strong, but he rarely fights — another thing the Red Wings don’t necessarily like about him. The perception he is a young player is not necessarily the right one, either. He will be 28 during next spring’s playoffs.

But what other choices did the Red Wings have? Ericsson is good enough to play for them. The options weren’t any better. Certainly they weren’t any cheaper.

In the process, general manager Ken Holland did an excellent job of filling in the blanks. Mike Commodore is a big, physical defenseman. Perhaps the peer pressure of the Red Wings’ dressing room, which is significant, will keep him in line. If it does, he will be a bargain for a cool million.

Ian White is 27. He played very well for San Jose in the postseason. He is small, but a right-handed shot and skilled at moving the puck. He is solid enough defensively. White has spent most of his NHL career with Toronto, where his value didn’t really show in the center of the Maple Leafs’ malaise. What was impressive, when the stakes were higher and the skill around him better in San Jose this past spring, he moved up to that level. The Red Wings acquired him at a reasonable price: Two years, $5.75 million.

It all leaves the Red Wings with enough depth at the blue line given their two best prospects are defensemen, Jakub Kindl, who played in Detroit last season for 48 games, and Brendan Smith, who was very good at Grand Rapids. Both are former first-round draft choices who need to grow in the NHL. Don’t see much else they are going to learn in the AHL.

Kindl can’t be sent down to the Griffins without clearing waivers—which wouldn’t happen—and he’s definitely going to battle with Commodore for the #6 spot on the blueline. Kindl had an up-and-down rookie season and doesn’t exactly impress people on ice because he’s not physical by any stretch of the imagination, but he skates well, has a superb outlet pass and has a very savvy playmaking sense.

Overall, especially given the amounts of money Christian Ehrhoff, James Wisniewski and even Ed Jovanovski received, Caputo believes that the Wings showed tremendous restraint:

Holland has a way of finding players that fit the puzzle. Undoubtedly, the Red Wings aren’t totally done this offseason. There will be more tweaking and tinkering.

That the Red Wings didn’t buy in the feeding frenzy of the free agent signing period this summer was a wise decision. After all, Stanley Cup championships are won in June. Not July.

The Wings will also have a decent chunk of cap space remaining to improve the team during the season if they’re still concerned about their blueline, but in the interim, the team believes that improvement from within, and especially from Ericsson, should help White, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart to fill Rafalski’s void.

Ericsson faces significant pressure to live up to his 3-year, $9.75 million contract, as Wings coach Mike Babcock suggested to the Macomb Daily’s Pleiness...

“We need him to take a bigger role on the team,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s been rewarded with a real good contract, which tells him how important he is.”

Ericsson is entering his fourth season in the league.

“We expect him to take the next step in his career,” Babcock said.

And White, who welcomes a little stability via his 2-year, $5.75 million contract given that he has a two-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, believes that he’s going to prosper playing in Detroit:

“Hopefully I’m a perfect fit for that spot,” White said. “It really fits my style of game. I’ve played against them for six years,” White continued. “It’s just a real special team to play against. It’s great to get an opportunity to play with those guys – the puck movement, the puck possession, so many talented players.’‘

As for James Wisniewski’s comment regarding the Wings not paying “market value” for defensemen, Holland told Pleiness that he took Wisniewski’s comment as something of a compliment:

Wisniewski told NHL Live, “For me, knowing Detroit’s history they don’t really pay the market value for a defenseman or any player. So I didn’t think that was going to be a fit for myself.”

Wings general manager Ken Holland said he didn’t see the quote and then added, “I take that as a real compliment. That’s a tremendous compliment. For us to accomplish what we we’ve accomplished and we don’t pay market value that’s a compliment.”

Wings goalie Jimmy Howard also received a bit of a compliment from Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien, who believes that Howard is at least the third or fourth-best American goaltender playing in a strong class of peers…

Jimmy Howard: This class of American goalies runs deep. Howard might not roll of your tongue when you’re naming the NHL’s elite, but he’s the present and future of Detroit’s goaltending. The past has been pretty sweet, too; he’s currently riding two consecutive 37-win seasons. After his stats slipped a bit from the 09-10 to 10-11 regular season, Howard responded with a .923 save percentage in the 2011 playoffs.

In alumni department, and in the “news from across the pond” territory, Expressen’s Mattias Ek notes that Dominik Hasek told Sovetsky Sport’s Dmitry Nesterov that he’s willing to consider playing anywhere in Europe—but only after Hasek takes this season off before attempting another comeback;

• Former Wings assistant Brad McCrimmon also gave an interview to Sport-Express’s Mikhail Zislis about his decision to coach Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, where he’s starting to meet with management to prepare to get to work as a head coach in the KHL, and here’s a roughly-translated portion of its “teaser”:

Question: Rumors had you going to coach Minnesota and Dallas, but you decided to choose coaching in Russia. Why?

Brad McCrimmon: I knew that I was in third or fourth place in the lists of people applying. It wasn’t for me. And Lokomotiv president Yuri Yakolev told me the team was good. I thought about it for a couple of days and agreed [to sign on].

Question: Do you know how, for Lokomotiv, there’s lots of pressure on coaches—in Yaroslavl only a championship rescues you from resigning?

McCrimmon: Listen, I worked for a few years with Detroit. There there’s no other purpose than winning the Stanley Cup. The management of Lokomotiv is also constantly aiming to win a championship, which I really like. I’m ready to deal with any difficulties. And the pressure.

Question: What are your opinions about Russian players?

McCrimmon: Since I was a teenager watching the Super Series in 1972, I’ve only been able to speak about them enthusiastically. And I played with many of them. I’ll be happy to see Sergei Makarov, who played with me in Calgary. And still, Sergei Fedorov and Slava Kozlov, who were teammates in Detroit. And by the way, when I met with Vladimir Yurzinov. In general I’ve appreciated Russians. And then there are Kovalchuk and Datsyuk—I worked with them in Atlanta and Detroit, respectively, and in terms of Lokomotiv, I already know at least half of the team’s players.

Back over on this side of the Atlantic, Mike Modano will hold a charity baseball game in Frisco, Texas this Saturday, July 9th;]

• In Edmonton, Alberta, the Edmonton Journal’s Nick Frost and the Edmonton Sun’s John Short report that Todd Bertuzzi’s coaching the Michigan entry in the famous Brick Super Novice (i.e. 7-to-8-year-olds are participating) hockey tournament, but the Detroit Junior Red Wings didn’t get off to a fantastic start:

Perhaps the most impressive performance came from the Connecticut Yankees, coached by former Edmonton Oilers captain Doug Weight. They had an easy team in a 6-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, coached by current NHL Wing Todd Bertuzzi.

• And he wasn’t anything more than a prospect, but the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker reports that Stephen Johnson’s going to continue his hockey career with the Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia;

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson fielded a superb reader question about a current member of the Red Wings’ organization…

Q: Why can’t defencemen win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP? Since 1972 and Bobby Orr, only Chris Pronger has done it. Otherwise, there’s been 34 forwards and three goalies. Has Nicklas Lidstrom really never been a Hart winner?

Jacob O’Brien

A: It makes no sense to me, either. Lidstrom, who is one of the four best defencemen of all-time along with Orr, Doug Harvey and Ray Bourque, hasn’t even finished second. It’s a huge oversight. Bourque never won it either. He was second twice, to the Edmonton Oilers’ Mark Messier in 1990 and Wayne Gretzky in 1988. The Washington Capitals’ Rod Langway was runner-up to Gretzky in ’84 and Denis Potvin, captain of the great New York Islanders teams, lost out to Bobby Clarke in 1976. The voters believe defencemen have their own award, the Norris Trophy. I totally disagree with that thinking. But it’s much the same in baseball with the Cy Young Award for pitchers.

And finally, my availability will be somewhat limited over the next two days as I’ll be preparing for Wednesday’s trip up to the Red Wings’ summer “strength and conditioning” prospect camp in Traverse City. The camp starts on Thursday the 7th and will continue until Wednesday, July 14th, and is open to the public, and the details thereof can be found here.

Update: there is a rumor around the Twitterverse that the Wings have signed Garnet Exelby to a one-year, 2-way deal, but NHLSourcesSay and the rest of the rumor-makers who are suggesting that the deal happened, well…

I can’t vouch for their veracity, and a Twitter rumor is just that—a Twitter rumor. Could it be true? Sure, but I don’t like to tread in rumors from people that are just tossing stuff around without citing their sources publicly.

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There no sense signing Ozzie after his health issues the past couple years. If we do, he will only be injured again before long.  Go with someone else.

Posted by karlander from chicago on 07/05/11 at 10:20 PM ET

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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.