Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: Frk’n draft talk, Hall of Fame Tuesday and yes, more free agent blather

Cue the dueling banjos, because this week’s shaping up as a two-topic slug-fest. This morning’s crop of Red Wings stories focus on topics we’ll probably continue revisiting from now until July 1st in the Red Wings’ crop of six new prospects from the 2012 Draft and even more free agent chatter as the press corps working in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s potential destinations try to influence their decision-making processes.

Let’s start with draft picks today, riffing on something of a familiar theme via a conversation the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan had with both Wings assistant GM Jim Nill and GM Ken Holland about the team’s decision to consciously focus upon larger players who are more adept at playing a chip-and-chase game:

“If there’s a player with high-end skills, you’re going to take him,” Nill said. “But the game is changing. You look at the Stanley Cup Finals, the best players were also big. You have to match up with them.”

Said general manager Ken Holland: “You don’t wake up and suddenly you’re bigger. It’s a process. But you hope to keep adding gradually, drafting some players, and you have a mixture of talent and size.”

The Wings believe they added just that over the weekend. Their top selection, in the second round, was Martin Frk, a 6-foot, 204-pounder who is expected to grow into a grinding, tough-to-play-against winger. Frk missed four months because of a concussion last season in Halifax (Quebec Junior League) but returned late in the season and showed no lingering effects.

“A real character guy,” Nill said. “We think he has a real bright future.”

Two big-bodied defensemen were added in rounds 4 and 5. Michael McKee was a fifth-round pick who, at 6-4, 230, is the type of tough, burly defenseman the Wings have lacked. McKee, who’ll play at Western Michigan this season, had two goals and 17 assists — and 237 penalty minutes — last season in Lincoln (United States Hockey League).

The Wings picked James De Haas (6-2, 200) in the sixth round, a two-way defenseman who’ll play at Clarkson after one more year of junior hockey in Canada. Rasmus Bodin, a 6-foot-6, 207-pound left wing from Sweden, was the Wings pick in the seventh round.

“You give them time to develop and hopefully one day they turn into NHL players,” Nill said.

Kulfan points out that Andreas Athanasiou is “small” by today’s standards at 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, and offers capsule “getting to know you” takes on each and every one of the Wings’ picks, but I can’t quote his entire article...

And much of this morning’s focus involves the Wings’ first pick.

As MLive’s Ansar Khan notes, Martin Frk (pronounced “Firk” or “Ferk,” depending on how accurately you want to pronounce his name) embodies the Wings’ desire to build around bigger, physical players…

“I’m not afraid to be physical, I don’t care if somebody gives me a hit,’’ Frk, a right wing, said. “I know the guy from Europe wants to play with skill, (but) I want to hit somebody and be the bad guy, too, on the ice.”

At 6-foot, 204 pounds, Frk is equipped to handle contact, and dish it out. But it was the goal-scoring ability his displayed for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League that prompted the Red Wings to select him with their first pick, 49th overall, in the second round at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

“Every shift, he works, works, works,’’ Jiri Fischer, Red Wings director of player development, said. “He really can finish. He’s got a good shot. He can play the point on the power play. He can find loose pucks around the net. He’s relentless on the forecheck.’‘

After a strong rookie season in Halifax and good showing at the World Junior and Under-18 Championships, Frk was projected to go in the first round. But a preseason concussion idled him for four months – he took a hit to the head after doing a spin-o-rama and getting off a backhand shot. That caused his draft stock to plummet.

“He was a big surprise for us; we didn’t think he’d be there,’’ Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s a well-known player, (has) skill and size and he plays hard.’‘

And again, while Khan offers much more than a cursory glance at Frk, who wears Sergei Fedorov’s #91 and is excited about joining Pavel Datsyuk’s team (sounds familiar; last year’s first Wings pick, Tomas Jurco, wears #13 for Datsyuk as much as his sister), but we move on to the next “Frk’n” tale.

Jiri Fischer has taken a much more active role with the Wings’ prospects after being brought into the front office fold as something of a hands-on prospect mentor. Fischer takes trips around the world to check in on prospects and work with them to improve their on-ice skills, conditioning, nutrition and to plain old be there if they need a pep talk or some feedback as to what they need to do to impress the team that owns their NHL rights. Over the last three years, Fischer has also begun to serve as a de-facto assistant coach during the Wings’ summer prospect camp and the team’s prospect tournament every September, and the Wings have allowed him to help coach the Czech Republic’s under-20 team at various tournaments, including the World Championships.

The Free Press’s George Sipple notes that Fischer’s part-time coaching gig allowed him to gain insight into Frk’s game, to the point that Frk himself told Sipple that the Wings never interviewed him during the Draft Combine or any other events leading up to Saturday’s second-through-seventh round selections:

“Before the season, I believe he was a top-15 pick,” Fischer said, adding that Frk was the highest-profile European coming into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League two years ago for the Halifax Mooseheads.

Frk had 22 goals and 28 assists in 62 games for Halifax in 2010-11. He was the youngest player to represent the Czech Republic at the 2011 World Juniors and led the team with three goals in six games.

“Every shift he works, works, works,” Fischer said. “He really can finish. He’s got a good shot. He’s not afraid to shoot. He’s got enough confidence to shoot it. He can play the point on the power play. He can find loose pucks around the net. Relentless on the forecheck. He really (has) second effort hunting pucks down, even after 50-50 battles.”
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And why did Fischer want him on the point for that Czech team? “He was the best one-timer shot we had on the power play,” Fischer said. “He was better than all defensemen that we had. He can do a lot of good things with the puck.”

Fischer said Frk “would have been penciled in” to play again for the Czechs in the 2012 World Juniors had he not been sidelined early last season with a concussion. Frk said the concussion came from a hit in a preseason game when he attempted a spin-o-rama.

“I’m now good, no problem,” he said. “No headaches anymore.”

Sipple adds more to the picture over the balance of his article, too, but we move on again as two outside sources assessed the Wings’ efforts and gave the team grades. The Sporting News’s Jesse Spector believes that the Wings did just fine despite having surrendered their first round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Kyle Quincey (expect to out-play Andrei Vasilevski for the rest of your career to prove you were worth it, Kyle)...

Detroit Red Wings—B-plus

It’s hard to say if Kyle Quincey was worth giving up a first-round pick that turned out to be No. 19 overall, but Detroit still managed to get first-round talent at No. 49 with Czech right wing Martin Frk.

But Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir suggests that the draft’s top-heavy nature deems the Wings’ decision to give Tampa Bay a better opportunity to, well, better themselves means that the Wings are a big draft “loser”:

Detroit Red Wings: Trading away a first rounder for Kyle Quincey—even in a weak draft—seems like an egregious misuse of an asset. So after sitting on their hands through Day 1, the Wings spent Day 2 swinging for the fences trying to make up for that early deficit.

That strategy may pay off in the end, and to give them their due, the Wings have certainly done better than most teams at mining gems from deep in the draft mine. So maybe seventh-rounder Rasmus Bodin, a 6-6 winger out of Sweden, ends up being a supersized Tomas Holmstrom five years down the road.

More likely though, these kids are never heard from again. Second-rounder Martin Frk is a pure goal scorer with high-end hands and low-end feet. Consistency is a big issue, as is his inattention to defense. Jake Paterson? Maybe changing his goalie coach addressed his technical problems, but he still projects as a third-stringer. Andreas Athanasiou? All skill, no will. Kid has amazing tools, but settles for the easy play far too often. Lots of areas you can work on with a prospect, but you can’t teach courage.

Because I’m a biased fellow, I’d like to point something out about Muir: he doesn’t just hold his own in the Space Canoe category while trading barbs with Adrian Dater; I know from my years as a hockey card collector that Muir works for Beckett Hockey, and when that publication was more than a glorified price guide, he admitted to being a Windsor, ON native that grew up as a Bruins fan. Most every observation about the Wings, even during their late-90’s heyday, was a negative one, so he’s not exactly “objective” per se.

If you’re interested, the Free Press also posted a gallery of the Wings’ picks, and, via RedWingsFeed, one of Jake Paterson’s photos made Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski’s list of the most awkward candids taken at the draft.

Daylife.com posted a pretty solid set of Wings draft pick photos in their Red Wings gallery, and there are more at Getty Images’ watermarked public portal, but if we had access to non-watermarked images (a Getty subscription is ridiculously expensive, even for KK), I’m sure I could peruse their NHL image archive and find some truly terrible ones.

I have to post a “click at your own risk” warning on this one: Hockeybuzz’s Columbus Blue Jackets blogger, Eric Smith, actually posted a very solid profile of Andreas Athanasiou, but you’ll have to read it on your own.

 

 

We’re not going to get to free agent talk just yet, because three stories about Red Wings alums popped up. Going from smallest in scope to perhaps the most wide-ranging and weighty, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford had a chat with former Red Wing and Maple Leaf Cory Cross about his status as having Dual Citizenship” with both organizations, and Cross told Crawford that one particular Wing sold him on the team’s “program” in a big way:

Alhough he only played a handful of games for the Red Wings, former defenseman Cory Cross learned very quickly just how special it is to play for the 11-time Stanley Cup championship franchise. In fact, Cross got his first glimpse into the nature of the Wings’ organization as soon as his plane touched down in Motor City, when he received a phone call from his new captain, Steve Yzerman.

“It all started with Stevie, he gave me a phone call when I landed in Detroit and just welcomed me to the team,” Cross said. “I had just had a baby girl a couple days before. It was a hectic time for me, and he said, ‘If you need anything give me a call, or if not I’ll see you in practice tomorrow,’ and congratulated me on the baby.”

Cross played only 16 games with the Wings during the 2005-06 season, but even that short stay made the 6-foot-5, 225-pound blue-liner wish he had spent more time with the club.

“It was a pretty cool message,” Cross said. “Nothing like that ever happened to me before and that just showed what the organization was about right from that moment … I couldn’t believe how the organization from top to bottom was just all class. It was the best organization I played with.”

In his first shift with the Wings, Cross scored a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks – the only goal he scored for the team. Despite having such a short stint in Detroit, Cross had his eyes on the Stanley Cup finals at the end of the 2006 season.

“I thought we were going to win that year,” Cross said. “I thought we were the best team in the league, I thought. Well, we were in the regular season. The leadership was spectacular there. With (Chris) Chelios, and (Brendan) Shanahan and Yzerman … the list goes on and on.”

Although they had won the Presidents’ Trophy, the Wings lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, and the end of the 2006 season also marked the end of Cory Cross’ NHL career, which had also seen him play three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs a few years prior.

The Detroit News’s Neal Rubin spoke to a slightly more well-known Wings alum about reaching a particularly notable charitable mark…

Budd Lynch may well have amassed a million memories, and he’s easily heard a million cheers. But a million dollars is something new.  The Detroit Red Wings’ Hall of Fame broadcaster and public address announcer will host the 23rd annual Budd Lynch Celebrity Golf Classic today at Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club.

While he certainly knew he was raising money for a highly worthy cause these past few decades, The Guidance Center in Southgate, it never occurred to him to keep track of how much. The organization did, and this year’s take bumped the total past $1 million. To mark the occasion, The Guidance Center ambushed him at a pre-event party last week with an announcement: It has established the Budd Lynch Endowment Fund for Children.

“It’s a great feeling. A very humble feeling,” says Lynch, who’ll turn 95 on Aug. 7. Where tributes are concerned, “I thought maybe they’d put my picture in the men’s room or something.”

The Guidance Center focuses on the developmental and mental health of kids, adults, families and communities. It served more than 26,000 people last year.

Lynch, the father of six daughters, has always had a particular interest in children’s projects, and the endowment will keep him connected to them in perpetuity. Any contributors to it through the end of June will be considered Founding Donors, says Guidance Center marketing director Al Sebastian; checks should be made out to the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan and sent to The Guidance Center, Development Department, 13101 Allen Road, Southgate, MI 48195.

“He seemed truly touched” by the honor, Sebastian says, and “at least some of his daughters cried.”

“Crazy things happen in life,” says Lynch, who returned from World War II without his right arm, “but a lot of fortunate things happen, too. You’re only here once, so you do what you can for people.”

And in Windsor, Chris Chelios, Doug Gilmour and Sheldon Kennedy joined Bob Probert’s family in taking part in the second annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride. The Windsor Star’s Ourhometown.ca’s Chris Savard on Sunday afternoon…

Dani Probert said it was like Christmas Day for family at the second annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride Sunday.

“Last night, we all just couldn’t wait to get to bed so we could sleep and wake up to today,” said Dani, who was joined by her daughters, Tierney and Brogan, and twin sons, Jack and Declyn, for the event. “When it all comes together and we’re here and you see all these bikes stretched back for, well, I can’t even see the end of the line, I just keep looking up and I know Bob is absolutely watching.”

The ride is in memory of Probert, the ex-NHL player, avid motorcyclist and Windsor native who died of a heart attack in July 2010. More than 1,000 rumbling motorcyclists, including friends and family of Probert, lined up along Ouellette Avenue in front of Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital to participate. They collected pledges from the public to support the cause. Dani said she was at a loss of words at the turnout.

“It’s just a wonderful day and it’s a celebration of Bob’s life and what he loved to do,” Dani said.

She rode on Probert’s motorcycle for the ride along with his former close friend and fellow former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, who was this year’s ride captain for the event. Dani said it was better to have Probert’s bike on the road rather than on a trailer like it was last year.

“It’s such a tragedy and we miss Bob daily, so it’s good to be involved in this in a positive way and giving back to the community is so important to us,” Dani said.

All money from the event, put on by the Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital Foundation and the CAW, goes to the angioplasty and cardiac care program at the hospital. The foundation is working on expanding the hospital to accommodate a larger angioplasty program. Last year, the event raised $100,000 for the hospital’s cardiac care unit. Organizers were confident they will exceed that total because this year’s pre-registration numbers were triple what they were last year.

And the Windsor Star posted a video from the event as well:

 

 

You may not like him very much right now, but the CBC’s Chris Iofrida notes that former Red Wing and current NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is highly, highly likely to receive a phone call from the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee on Tuesday. The committee meets today in Toronto to make their picks for the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class, and Shanahan and one of his greatest on-ice foes are locks to join the Hall in November:

Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan can be linked in many ways with respect to their long hockey careers.

They were first round picks who entered the NHL as teens after terrific junior careers and experience. Both Sakic and Shanahan soon racked up individual stats and accolades in the NHL, and when Shanahan came over to the Western Conference in 1996-97 with the Detroit Red Wings, they found themselves in their prime years on opposite sides of one of the most heated rivalries in recent league history.

There would be three meetings between the Avalanche and Red Wings from that date on, including a 2002 playoff series that came just a few months after the two players deliriously fell to the ice together in Salt Lake City after Sakic clinched a gold medal for Canada in the Olympic final with a late goal.

All-star captains in 2007 in the twilight of their careers, they are now part of the NHL firmanent in different capacities — Shanahan as league disciplinarian and Sakic in Colorado’s front office.

On Tuesday, they could very well be linked as among the select few named to the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class. Those selected will be inducted on Nov. 12 in Toronto.

In addition to NHL players, there could likely be names proferred from the builder and women’s lists, as none came from those latter two categories in the 2011 group.

Iofrida attempts to handicap the rest of the crop of first-year candidates and overlooked stars as well.

 


And while I find this topic to be particularly tiresome, judging by the comments made in yesterday’s overnight report and afternoon post, you seem to find it interesting.

We’re exactly one week from the start of unrestricted free agency, and there’s no shortage of speculation on that front this morning.

We’ll start with the CBC’s Doug Harrison’s story about someone who actually became a free agent at midnight on Monday in University of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz.

I don’t believe that the Wings are involved in the bidding for his services for anything other than due diligence’s sake, but the Detroit News’s Ted Kuflan insists that the Wings may make a $3.8 million contract offer to him. That’s a lot of money, and his agents have suggested that Schultz is due a promise of a regular shift as well, so that probably nixes the Wings from the get-go. Nevertheless…

Schultz, 21, and his representative, Newport Sports Management in Toronto, found a loophole in the soon-to-be-expired collective bargaining agreement that allows the player to test free agency because he played an extra year of major junior hockey in British Columbia Hockey League before attending the University of Wisconsin. Schultz is considered an elite offensive defenceman who many observers believe could step into the NHL next season as a top-four blue-liner. He reportedly will be in Toronto on Tuesday and can begin to field offers Wednesday.

“The competition for Schultz will be every bit as intense as the competition for [unrestricted free agents Ryan] Suter and [Zach] Parise,” former NHL forward-turned broadcaster Ray Ferraro told a Canadian sports radio station recently.

Schultz is a six-foot-two, 185-pound right-handed shooting defenceman fresh off a strong season with the U. of Wisconsin Badgers in which he scored 16 goals and 44 points in 37 games. In three seasons, he has posted 40 goals and 73 assists for 113 points in 121 contests.

It’s been said the native of West Kelowna, B.C., would like to play closer to home or with former Wisconsin teammates. He reportedly also wants guaranteed playing time on a NHL roster.

That would put the [Toronto] Maple Leafs in the running as Toronto rearguard Jake Gardiner, acquired from Anaheim along with forward Joffrey Lupul for defenceman Francois Beauchemin in February 2011, was Schultz’s defence partner at Wisconsin.

Vancouver, Edmonton, Detroit, Chicago and the New York Rangers (forward Derek Stepan and defenceman Ryan McDonagh are former Badgers teammates) appear to be the favourites.

Perhaps killing to birds with the one stone, it’s also worth noting that teams and their beat writers don’t seem to take into account any sort of salary cap sense while dreaming up scenarios in which free agents decide to join their representatives’ rosters, because the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi believes that the Flyers’ relative dearth of cap space and desire to retain Matt Carle’s services somehow won’t prevent them from bidding on Ryan Suter or Zach Parise…

New Jersey left winger Zach Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter are marquee free agents who will hit the open market on July 1. The Flyers will make inquiries about both players, an NHL source said.

“If we can improve our team, we’ll do what it takes,” [Flyers GM Paul] Holmgren said when asked about free agents in general.

As for their own prospective unrestricted free agents, Holmgren remains optimistic he will be able to sign defenseman Matt Carle. He seemed lukewarm about resigning right-winger Jaromir Jagr.

It appears the Flyers will re-sign Carle when the new announced cap - believed to be around $70.3 million - goes into effect on July 1. Until then, the current $64.3 million cap is in effect, and the Flyers cannot commit to more than that for next season. The Flyers have about $64 million committed toward next season, so Carle’s deal - expected to be in the $4.5 million per-season neighborhood - would put them over the limit.

In theory, anyway, the Flyers could clear more cap space if Chris Pronger can’t play next season—Carchidi notes that Pronger isn’t exactly in playing shape as he continues to battle post-concussion symptoms—and no team has to be more than 10% from the upper limit of the salary range until the last day of training camp under the current CBA, but it’s not as if the Flyers don’t have any other players to retain:

The Flyers, Holmgren said, have made qualifying offers to restricted free agents Jakub Voracek ($2.25 million offer sheet) and Marc-Andre Bourdon ($708,750 offer sheet), thus retaining negotiating rights. They also made qualifying offers to Tom Sestito ($605,000), Ben Holmstrom ($605,000) and Harry Zolnierczyk ($719,250).

In slightly less nonsensical talk, as Paul noted, the Pioneer Press’s Ben Goessling believes that the Minnesota Wild have to be favorites to land Parise and Suter…

If the NHL salary cap stays the same as it was last year, the Wild will have almost $20 million to spend—and people close to the situation have said since the end of the season that the team plans to do everything it can to land Parise (who grew up in the Twin Cities) and Suter (a Madison, Wis. native whose wife is from Bloomington).

But the league is stocked with teams that have money to spend this summer—not the least of which is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who cleared cap room for a big free-agent push over the weekend by trading Jordan Staal to Carolina and Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix. The Penguins are more than $14 million under the cap, and could entice Parise with the prospect of teaming him with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Suter could share the blue line with Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik.

And there are plenty of other heavy-hitting teams—like the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and retooling Detroit Red Wings—who will get involved in the chase, which says nothing of the Devils’ and Predators’ efforts to re-sign their own players.

As bold as the Wild have been about stating their desire to upgrade their roster with proven NHL players, and as much as they’ve positioned themselves for a run at the two biggest names on the market, they know they need contingency plans in case one or both players sign somewhere else. Outside of Parise and Suter, the market is thin on top free agents that might interest the Wild. Philadelphia defenseman Matt Carle might make sense, as would Carolina’s Bryan Allen. But Fletcher said over the weekend he might need to explore routes other than just free agency.

“If there’s an opportunity to make a team better, it’s hard to wait,” [Wild GM Chuck Fletcher] said. “There’s a lot of unknown factors in free agency, so it’s hard to cure all your ills there. The sense I got is, there may be a lot of (trades) later in the summer.”

If the Wild are going to land a top free agent, it’s safe to assume a central part of their sales pitch will center on the potential offered by young players like Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Dumba. Hockey’s Future ranked the Wild’s group of prospects as the second-best in the NHL this year, and the team could try to tell free agents they’d be joining a team whose window for success is just about to open. They could find out in as few as six days whether that approach will work.

“We’ll keep looking. We’ve been looking every year,” Fletcher said. “But I really think our best chance to be successful is when our own talent base sort of speaks for itself. You start to see the dividends on the ice. That’s when your program can really sell itself.”

And the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo talked about the Wild’s supposed status as a front-runner as well, though he does admit that Fletcher has an incredibly difficult “sales job” on his hands:

“There’s not a team in the league that has the number of young players we have coming into camp next year,” Fletcher said. “We’re already dramatically improved in my opinion, especially for the long-term.”

And that will be the key to the Wild’s game plan. The Red Wings are the Red Wings, a franchise that has done a marvelous job of creating a culture where players simply want to play there. It is a first-class organization that has made the playoffs 21 consecutive seasons and has won four Stanley Cups since 1997.

The Penguins are the Penguins, a team with an appetizing core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. How is it possible for the Wild to convince Parise or Suter to choose Minnesota over the enticement of playing with Sidney and Geno?

Parise being a Minnesotan and Suter’s wife being from Bloomington surely won’t be enough. The Wild, like others, have lots of salary-cap space. Maybe more than the Penguins, the Wild will have the ability to sweeten an offer with frontloaded money.

But money isn’t everything, especially when you are talking about the millions and millions all of the teams that go after Parise and Suter will offer. So Fletcher will have to sell the Wild’s plan, that the team is building a quality corps led by captain Mikko Koivu, that it is developing such an impressive crop of youngsters with guys such as Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba that Parise and Suter will be wholeheartedly convinced that they will be able to win in Minnesota for the length of their contracts.

“This is a start of a new era,” Fletcher said. “The fact they’re turning pro is significant. It’s not just down the road anymore. We can actually see the road now. What’s exciting for me is when you look at it now, just from a prospect standpoint, you look at the forwards we have, the goaltenders we have, the defensemen we have, it’s a well-rounded prospect pool. Our best days are ahead of us. We all want to get there tomorrow. But if we have a little bit of patience here, we’re all going to be rewarded in a big way.”
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“You can’t control what happens on July 1,” Fletcher said. “You can have your list, you can have your game plan, you can do a great job of presenting your situation, but the players have earned the right on July 1 to choose where they want to go. You don’t have control. You have more control over a trade and the most control over developing your own kids. It’s the easiest way to add talent provided you draft and develop well. And it also pays long-term dividends because you’re talking about kids you’ll have close to a decade if you handle it right. That has to be the foundation of your team. We’ll keep looking. But I think the best chance to be successful is when our own talent base speaks for itself. That’s when your program can really sell itself. And we’re getting there.”

It should be noted that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari tried to use a squirt gun’s worth of common sense to put out the bonfire of, “Parise and Suter to Pittsburgh is all but guaranteed!” talk…

It all ties together very nicely, with just one complication: There should be numerous teams, including the ones for which they still work, lining up to throw bags of money at both guys. Teams that have as much, or more, salary-cap space to work with as Shero does. Teams that can offer professional settings—player-friendly working conditions and a chance to consistently compete for championships—that rival the one the Penguins have.

It can’t hurt the Penguins’ chances that Crosby and Parise are friends or that Suter has known Shero since Shero’s days as assistant general manager in Nashville, but Crosby isn’t Parise’s only pal—he probably has quite a few among his teammates in New Jersey—and Suter has been separated from Shero for more than six years.

Suter figures to be the Penguins’ primary target, because their team defense was mediocre in the regular season—they gave up an average of 2.66 goals per game, tying for 15th place in the league—and almost nonexistent during much of their first-round playoff series against Philadelphia.

Adding a guy such as Suter, who is solid at both ends, will hit and has spent his entire career in a defensively responsible system, would help to upgrade the Penguins’ play in their own end. Clearly, a lot of important pieces—the Penguins’ cap space, the personal connections, the nature of Suter’s game—that could bring him here fit together quite nicely. Not all of them do, however, which is why Shero shouldn’t be asking Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle to cut a check to Suter just yet.

Suter reportedly prefers to stay in the Western Conference; the Penguins are in the East. What’s more, Detroit has even more cap space available than the Penguins, and is looking to fill the enormous void on its blue line created by the retirement of future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom.

If it becomes a matter of money, Detroit can offer as much as the Penguins. Probably more. If not changing conferences really matters, well, the Red Wings are based in the West. If it’s about joining a perennial contender, Detroit has been one for longer than the Penguins.

None of that means the Penguins should resign themselves to not getting Suter. Simply that they shouldn’t be stitching a nameplate onto a sweater for him just yet. The same is true of Parise, who might attract even more interest than Suter.

Minnesota, Los Angeles and, yes, the Red Wings are high on the long list of clubs expected to try to lure Parise. The Penguins’ sales pitch should be as good as that of any other team, but that doesn’t mean it will be appreciably better than the others.

But again, via Paul, some are still buying the hype hook, line and sinker. Even though the Nashville Predators have lined up a lovely new deal for Nashville area taxpayers to continue subsidizing the organization for years to come, the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper offers this on Suter‘s future (again, via Paul)...

Is there a new team in on the Ryan Suter sweepstakes? The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to do the double of adding Devils winger Zach Parise and Suter. The Penguins cleared up salary cap space by dealing Jordan Staal at the NHL draft, and are looking to move defenseman Paul Martin, according to the report. If the Penguins are interested in trading for Suter’s rights before July 1, it’s unlikely that Suter would sign there before unrestricted free agency from everything we’re hearing. Unrestricted free agent status comes once in a player’s career and rarely at the height of his powers. At age 27, Suter is the only elite defenseman on the market and it seems like this is something he wants to test, regardless of if a team — even one as powerful as the Penguins — trades for his rights. Also, Suter has given the Predators no indication he won’t re-sign there, and if General Manager David Poile trades Suter’s rights, it would likely hamper his ability to attempt to bring Suter back following July 1. In Poile’s mind, if he does not exhibit loyalty to Suter, then Suter has no reason to circle back to the Predators after hearing other offers.

On top of this, Suter is a midwest guy, who likes the anonymity of playing in Nashville. The laid-back nature of playing a majority of games in Western Conference markets — many of which aren’t nearly as rabid as Eastern Conference teams — fits his personality. Even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin there to take pressure off Suter, he would still have to produce, and produce at a high level — especially for the money he is likely seeking. For example, in the NBA, even though the Heat has LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh still gets scrutinized heavily. Pittsburgh is a sports crazy city, and the Penguins have high visibility and a beautiful new building. There is the allure of playing with the game’s top stars in Pittsburgh and having a chance to win with them, but in the end, will this be enough to sway Suter? Only one man knows the answer to this. Either way, July 1 just got much more complicated for Nashville.

And if that doesn’t ruffle your feathers, this will:

Another year, another trip to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards and nothing to show for it for defenseman Shea Weber. Last year Weber was caught up in a groundswell of support for then 41-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom in what was likely his last bid for another Norris — though Weber arguably had a better season. This year, it was Erik Karlsson’s 78 points that trumped Weber’s steady two-way all-around game and 49 points. Karlsson played on average 33 seconds on the penalty kill and isn’t as polished defensively in his own zone as Weber.

The award is given to the defenseman who exhibits “the greatest all-around ability in the position.” Some may point to Karlsson’s Corsi rating (plus 12.68 to Weber’s minus 0.90) , which monitors puck possession as a notch in his favor. If his team possesses the puck more often when he’s on the ice, Karlsson’s best defense may be his offense. But at least to me personally — and I do watch Weber every night, which does sway my opinion — Weber is a truer and better all-around defenseman as the award is supposed to indicate. The fact that he has come in second two straight years changes nothing about his status as a cornerstone player in the NHL. But you do have to wonder if Weber, a restricted free agent who went through arbitration with Nashville last summer, looks at the award and wonders if this is a market where he can, at least be engraved, as the best defenseman in the NHL.

Even around here, the Free Press’s George Sipple made sure to relay the narrative coming out of Pittsburgh…

The Penguins put themselves in a position to have a shot at both players over the weekend. They freed up about $6 million in cap space by trading Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek on Friday, and they could free up more money by trading defenseman Paul Martin.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, citing team sources, reported Sunday that Sidney Crosby will sign a new contract in the range of 10-13 years with an average annual salary of $9 million to $10 million and will try to recruit Parise, his longtime friend, and Suter to the Penguins.

The Penguins have a solid young nucleus that includes Crosby, league MVP and scoring champ Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Suter is considered a small-town guy who doesn’t like a lot of media attention, and Crosby and Malkin would continue to get the bulk of the media attention for the Penguins.

The Wings have about $20 million in cap space.

Suter would help improve the Wings’ defense after the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart. Parise would give the Wings another high-end forward to go with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

As did the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, who restated Ken Holland’s comparatively understated approach to the free agent bidding business:

With the draft done, the Wings’ primary focus shifts to unrestricted free agency, which begins on July 1. With more than $20 million available to spend, the Wings expect to be active.

“We have a lot of cap space (over $20 million) and we’re looking to be aggressive on July 1,” Holland said.

The Wings will have plenty of competition, though, in going after defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise , the two players who will attract the most attention if they don’t sign with their present teams this week.

Pittsburgh created cap space for itself over the weekend, while teams such as the New York Rangers, Chicago, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Los Angeles also are expected to be in pursuit of Suter and/or Parise.

The Wings also will go after defenseman Justin Schultz , an unsigned Anaheim draft pick, who can begin talking with teams Wednesday.

Um, today, technically, but still.

The free agent issue also made the Sunday sports shows, with Evil Drew Sharp and Sean Baligian appearing on Fox 2’s Sportsworks with Dan Miller (again, I’m not sure what the hell Baligian is talking about regarding the Wings’ comparative cap space)...

Eventually, anyway, 97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Stone spoke to WXYT’s Tom Leyden on the Sunday Sports Update about the Wings’ chances, too, invoking Ye Olde Miami Heat comparison (and he’s from Philly, too)...

 

The Free Press’s Helene St. James will be answering questions on Freep.com at 11 AM EDT today...

And to wrap this shi…I mean business up, I’ll turn to the Buffalo News’s John Vogl, via NHLGossip on Twitter, as he offers some understatements of the year from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and one Steve Yzerman regarding the fact that the league’s entering CBA negotiations with the NHLPA soon:

“We’re going business as usual,” Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke said this weekend in Pittsburgh. “That’s what the league has instructed teams to do. We’re operating under the terms of this collective bargaining agreement, and we’ll see what the future brings.”

Based on numbers crunched by CapGeek.com, the league’s 30 teams have a whopping $678 million in salary cap space. They won’t come close to spending that, of course, but there will be more rich hockey players next week than there are today.
...
This year’s free agent class is smaller than previous years. The lack of depth and influx of available cash could result in bidding wars for second-tier talent, in addition to the usual races for stars.

“It should be very interesting,” Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman said. “There’s not a lot of players and the cap’s going up, so I would expect it’s a good time to be an unrestricted free agent.”

The top names on the unrestricted market are forwards Zach Parise of New Jersey, Alexander Semin of Washington, Ray Whitney of Phoenix and P.A. Parenteau of the Islanders, and defensemen Ryan Suter of Nashville, Dennis Wideman of the Capitals and Jason Garrison of Florida. There figures to be substantial movement in the goalie market, but only at the backup position. The only notable starter whose contract is expiring is Martin Brodeur, and he will either re-sign with New Jersey or retire.
...
Because of the limited availability at every position, only a few of the teams looking for a quick fix via free agency will be able to find it.

“It’s going to allow a couple of them to improve,” Burke said. “It’s not a deep group. What’s happened is in this system everyone’s envisioned that liberalized free agency would allow teams to improve more quickly, but in response teams have started locking guys up.”

Via NHLUpdate on Twitter, today is the last day for teams to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents, too, so we should find out whether the Wojtek Wolskis and Cam Barkers of the world might join the thin free agent market tomorrow.

 


Also of Red Wings-related note:

• According to Crain’s Detroit Business’s Bill Shea, the Mike Ilitch, Peter Karmanos, Roger Penske, etc.-backed M-1 Rail line is looking to find a private company to operate its proposed streetcar service up and down Woodward Avenue to qualify for $25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, but Shea also reports that the Michigan Legislature’s (which might as well wear literal “*#$%@&” caps on their heads given their utter stupidity and borderline incompetency) decision to go on summer vacation without establishing a regional transportation authority to help manage Metro Detroit’s proposed network of high-speed buses interwoven with the M1 line could, to put things delicately, totally screw the pooch;

• Despite the media’s insistence that it is a matter of course for the NHL to lock out its players this fall—you’ll hear Sharp and Baligian suggest as much in the Fox 2 video—and equal amounts of whining from the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran, as the NHLPA’s three-day slate of meetings in Chicago begin today, it should be noted that both the PA and even Chairman Mao himself seem relatively optimistic about getting the job done without a “work stoppage”;

• In good news of a local sort, the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin spoke to NHL COO John Collins about the future of Hockey Night in Canada, and it sounds like it’s more likely that the CBC could keep the rights to broadcasting hockey games on Saturday night to both Canadians and Michiganders if the NHL decides to establish a Sunday version of the show for more well-heeled broadcasters like TSN and Sportsnet to bid upon. He also offers this observation regarding HBO’s 24/7 series, and I’m guessing that Wings coach Mike Babcock will say something similar next January:

Finally, on Rangers coach John Tortorella’s feelings about the HBO cameras invading his dressing room for the cable channel’s 24/7 series. “The last filmed session, just before the team was going on ice, he turned to the HBO camera and said, ‘I want to talk to you guys.’ ... He went on to say how much he respected HBO, that they had respected him and his players, and he said he spoke on behalf of everyone. ‘You guys have been welcomed into the hockey family, you have built the relationships. I just want to thank you. Now, after the game, don’t let the door hit you in ass on the way out.’”

• And finally, I’m absolutely wonked from the draft and the craziness that led up to it news-wise, so I’m going to try my best to lay low today, be around as much as possible on Tuesday as Shanahan’s a lock for the HHOF, and then take things on a day-to-day basis. July 1st is indeed going to be nuts, and while I don’t find much point in arguing over which destination is a better “fit” for the players who will be making snap decisions about the rest of their career a week from today at noon, I have informed Paul that I’m going to need to break away from supplementing his coverage should the Wings sign anyone.

July 1st will be nuts, as will the days after, and I’m going to head up to Traverse City on the 6th for the week-long prospect camp, so I need as much down time as I can get given that I haven’t really had an “off-season” in the news department thanks to the World Championships and Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement.

With that in mind, here’s the button: again, I’m a wee bit over halfway to my goal of deferring hotel costs to attend said camp in Traverse City, and if you can lend a hand, I’d greatly appreciate it.




You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.


Update: Take this for what you will, from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s Chris Cochrane:

After a season of wondering where the up-and-down Marty Frk rated as a professional prospect, the Detroit Red Wings provided the official answer at last weekend’s NHL draft.

According to the Wings, who made the Czech forward their first pick with a second-round selection at 49th overall, Frk is worth plenty. Frk came to the Halifax Mooseheads as a highly touted rookie in 2010 and tallied 50 points in his first Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season. He showed NHL potential and was tagged early on as a future high NHL draft pick.

Yet injuries last season sent him tumbling down the draft list.

Last season’s inability to continue that strong offensive momentum — thanks to more than three months sidelined with a concussion — made his draft standing difficult to predict. And his playoff performance, during which he often resembled a tenacious third-line checker rather than a confident offensive player, didn’t clarify his status.

Frk really couldn’t have received a more positive confirmation about his future than to be drafted so high by the Red Wings. Perhaps more than any other NHL organization, Detroit has a knack for predicting the European players who best adapt and thrive under NHL conditions.

Despite his health-related disappointments last season, it appears Frk has landed with an organization that has seen beyond the numbers and expects him to have a bright NHL future.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

1. George, put me in the “tiresome” opinion category now with you. The excitement now has turned into “it’s too much, get it over with.”
2. I hope you’re more rested now, since even though it’s tiresome, it’s your job, and I can duck this for awhile at least. Hope you get to your $ goal so that you won’t be more worn out worrying, given your other expenses. My week’s about to get real busy, too, so I’ll be in and out at best. Take care.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/25/12 at 06:34 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Yeah, put me in the “enough already” category.  It’s almost silly the hype Parise and Suter are getting.  If Holland can land them, great.  If not, I hope they both sign with their current teams.  The thought of Pittsburgh gloating… well, I will try not to barf too much and continue to…

Wait.  And.  See.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 06/25/12 at 08:29 AM ET

Avatar

I If the Pens sign both Suter and Parise for what they will surely be offered next week, and adding in the raises for Crosby and Malkin, you are talking about a team where about 7-8 players will take up about 50+ million of their salary. It can be done, but do they want the rest of the team to be 1.5 million or less role players?

Shero is a better GM than that. More realistically I expect a Pittsburgh to be making another big trade or two to fill in their holes, not spending more on big money free agents.

This is all just crazy talk from newspaper writers speculating.

Posted by jp on 06/25/12 at 10:26 AM ET

cementslinger's avatar

I’m about strung out too.  If the Wings do end up with Parise and/or Suter, it will be pretty cool.  I would probably get off my lazy ass and mow the back lawn.  Nah, probably not.
But all this talk ‘bout those two make me like Carle, Wideman, Semin, Yandle, etc. even more.  Even that kid from Anaheim that “demands” a roster spot.  Give it to him.  As long as whatever the Wings do, Smith will have his regular shifts. 

I say, let all these other teams wait on Parise and Suter to mull around and listen to all the offers and take their time with their decisions.  Be the first to get everbody else locked up.  So when Suter ends up wherever in the West and Parise goes “home” to Minnesota, Detroit will have really won the lottery with getting all their plan b’s locked in.  Leaving Pittsburgh saying, oh fuch.

Posted by cementslinger from Midland MI on 06/25/12 at 01:23 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Somewhere back in April I likened it to this year’s version of the 2011 Jagr hype.  I still check in everyday. 

A few more days and it will be what it is, and we’ll move on for the next ten weeks wondering if there will even be a season starting on time.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 06/25/12 at 02:37 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.