The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/25/12 at 05:03 AM ET
I wasn’t feeling particularly well on Tuesday afternoon, so I decided to take a little nap. I’ve got a new phone, so I woke up to David Beckham’s ringtone, a.k.a. my text message indicator, and Paul let me know that he’d gotten the news that the Nashville Predators had matched Shea Weber’s offer sheet.
I shrugged my shoulders and rolled over, because, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggested on Twitter, those of you who’ve been venting your frustrations about what has been a ,a href=“http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/tmr/comments/red_wings_mid-day_news_reviewing_the_teams_action_plan/”>challenging summer for Red Wings GM Ken Holland just got a little tougher:
Predators match Flyers offer sheet to D Shea Weber. #RedWings had hoped Preds would trade comp. picks for players & let Flyers have Weber— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 24, 2012
But expectations were Predators would match. Would’ve been hard to sell fans on losing Suter & Weber same summer.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 24, 2012
Repercussions for Wings: Shea Weber still in Nashville, and Flyers still in trade market for top-4 D-man, just like Wings are.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 24, 2012
With Weber staying in Nashville, maybe Wings need to stockpile helmets….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiMgjO0EgtE&feature=player_embedded— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 24, 2012
Had the Flyers actually succeeded in landing Weber, which was a 50-50 proposition at best—and the reason why Holland & Co. don’t believe in offer sheets as a useful tactic to begin with—Philly would have found themselves with virtually no cap space to re-sign Jakub Voracek and an overfull blueline, with one of the Red Wings’ major antagonists gone from the Western Conference and the team that made Nashville worse in need of a little cap relief via unloading a defenseman…
Instead, the Flyers are still looking for Chris Pronger’s replacement, the Predators have suffered a serious wound in Ryan Suter’s departure, but remain pretty damn solid, and the Red Wings need to work that much harder to stabilize its own cratered blueline while bolstering its offense—with Shane Doan heading to Montreal to visit the Canadiens, no less.
As St. James notes, the Wings had attempted to curry favor with Weber’s representatives before he chose to sign with the Flyers…
The Wings made contact with Weber’s agent on July 1, to see what the restricted free agent was going to do. The Wings eventually met with Weber and made a pitch why he would be a great fit in Detroit. Weber did consider the Wings as a destination, but when it came down to it, the Wings were not given the chance by Weber’s camp to even consider tendering an offer sheet.
Weber chose Philadelphia, and the Flyers responded with a well-thought-out offer that included Weber earning $27 million the first year ($1 million in salary, plus a $13 million signing bonus this summer, as well as another $13 million bonus due next July 1). Weber will make $80 million over the first six seasons.
But what tends to happen when offer sheets are tendered happened…
The Wings hoped the Predators would have cut a deal with the Flyers to hand those picks back in exchange for players. That way Weber would be out of the Central Division, out of the Western Conference, in fact - and no matter what the Predators got in return, they’d have been weaker.
Weber, 26, is arguably the best all-around defenseman in the game. He’s big, skilled, strong and sometimes plays with such elan he retaliates for a check by grabbing the opponent and slamming his head into the glass. Twice. That’s what Weber did to Henrik Zetterberg at the end of Game 1 of the playoffs in April, leaving Zetterberg with a cracked helmet and Weber with a warning from the NHL.
Much as the Wings would have liked to see Weber out of Nashville, the Predators did what they had to do. To make it worse, now the Flyers - who’ve lost elite defenseman Chris Pronger to a concussion - are still in the trade market for a top-four defenseman, just like the Wings are.
Or, as MLive’s Ansar Khan puts it:
What does this mean for the Red Wings? A couple of things:
First, they must continue facing Weber, the big, tough and talented player who has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy for the past two seasons, six times a season and potentially in the playoffs. Had he gone to the Flyers, Detroit would have faced him only one or twice a season and not in the playoffs, barring a matchup in the Stanley Cup finals.
Secondly, this leaves the Flyers with more salary-cap space, and as we’ve seen, a strong motivation to pursue high-end talent. Philadelphia will be a major player in the pursuit of players like free-agent forward Shane Doan of Phoenix and Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan, should the Ducks trade him.
There’s something to be said for the fact that the Rangers’ successful acquisition of Rick Nash escalated something of an Atlantic Division arms race, and it’s obviously a little easier for Doan to, say, sign with an Eastern Conference team than the Coyotes’ self-styled arch-rival…
Also, the Red Wings and Flyers both are seeking a top-pair defenseman. None are available in free agency. If any become available through trade, it just makes the Red Wings’ attempts to land him that much tougher.
Weber, incidentally, will earn $68 million in bonus money in the first six years. He will make $14 million in each of the first four years and $12 million in each of the following two years. He has a salary-cap hit of $7.85 million.
I say this as a Red Wings fan, not a pretending-to-be-objective blogger: here’s hoping that this cash grab does the same thing to Weber’s relationship with the Predators’ management that Sergei Fedorov signing that front-loaded offer sheet from the Hurricanes eventually did to the Wings, but that this time around, erosion takes place at an accelerated rate.
In terms of possible Wings targets...
• The Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak points out that Jay Bouwmeester may be, alongside Keith Yandle, the most attractive “trade target” out there, but realistically speaking, $6.68 million cap hit and no-trade clause included, the Flames are better off keeping a defenseman who has yet to fulfill his enormous potential:
[A]s much as Bouwmeester is in the driver’s seat if the Flames want to make a trade, the Flames are in the same boat when it comes to dealing with the rest of the league. Unless the new collective bargaining agreement forces their hands, the Flames don’t have to trade away Bouwmeester, even though the club currently has nine defencemen on one-way contracts and a 10th in T.J. Brodie who is fully expected to be in Calgary all season.
It would be no shock for the franchise to put both Brett Carson and Clay Wilson in the minors for the whole season and have eight defencemen on the roster, if all are healthy. More likely, their preference is to deal away Anton Babchuk and his $2.5-million salary.
Yet for some reason, there are those out there who figure clubs would be doing the Flames a favour by taking Bouwmeester off their hands for next to nothing, or even worse, for their junk.
(Seriously, does anybody believe those in the Twitterverse who say the Flames may deal Bouwmeester for Montreal Canadiens deadweight Scott Gomez and his absurd contract or to Boston to take Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas while he goes on a sabbatical?)
In hindsight, the contracts given to Babchuk, Carson and Wilson aren’t doing much of anything for the Flames these days. Likewise, GM Jay Feasters pre-draft words he expected to make a trade created anticipation which hasn’t been met.
But Feaster is not boxed into a corner, therefore he and the Flames should take advantage of dealing from a position of strength, even if means not making any trade at all. They are well within their rights to ask for a top-dollar price from any team interested in Bouweester.
• Again, negotiating with Alex Semin also involves trying to convince his bat-poop insane agent, Mark Gandler, that his client is not worth some massive multi-year contract and super-duper payday given that even the heavily subjective Russian press questions his desire, intensity and effort at times, but as Sportsnet’s Luke Fox suggests, Semin’s image problem doesn’t make him chopped liver:
The knock on Semin is that he’s far from a p.r. dream. And although he’s capable of inspired play, he’s not always inspired. In his past 30 playoff contests, when defences are at their stingiest, he’s scored seven goals and set up five others. He’s also led the Caps in minor penalties – an easy if imperfect way to quantify laziness or poor positional play – in each of the last three seasons, committing 88 over that span. And there’s a vague threat, as with so many Russian stars, that he if he grows disgruntled – or is tempted by a dollar signs – Semin could take his NHL talents to back to his native land, as he did in 2005-06, taking his sweet time returning stateside after fulfilling his military duty in 2004-05.
Last year Semin made $6.7 million on a one-year deal with Washington. Word is he wants something more permanent. And in a climate where a forward like Jiri Hudler gets a four-year, $16 million deal and Parise nears nine figures, surely there’s some middle ground to be dug for Semin. A two-year, $10 million deal could be a shrewd investment for the GM with a gambling bone.
Washington GM George McPhee hasn’t ruled out re-signing the team’s second-most-famous Russian Alex, but says he’s “not necessarily” surprised that no one else has gobbled him up either.
Don’t believe those dusty Sprite ads: image is everything. It’s why 16 clubs want Doan and Semin is having as tough of a time booking meetings as Dominik Hasek.
“The poison is out and I can’t take it back,” Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, told the [National] Post.
Fear not the poison, NHL spenders. Signing Semin into his early-30s is no more of a gamble than getting into a bidding war for a past-his-prime leader (Doan) or inking a fragile super-superstar for 12 years (Crosby). For a modest commitment, one lucky club could well be stealing one of the best talents of his generation when his stock is lowest.
“I think the media tore him up a little bit and that resulted in the circumstances, but he’ll be fine,” Ward says. “He’s a big boy.”
• And if the Wings are looking for a lower-risk signing, albeit one that would play into the mocking of the Wings as a team that’s too old, too slow and “old and busted” despite essentially bringing in a second coach in Tom Renney, a lower-cost and bigger and slightly meaner Hudler replacement in Mikael Samuelsson and perhaps an anti-Red Wings-style player in Jordin Tootoo, as Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski noted, Mike Knuble’s still out there at 40 and one season removed from a 24-goal, 40-point season.
Knuble told Comcast Sportsnet Washington’s Chuck Gormley that he hasn’t heard from any prospective employers yet, but Knuble remains hopeful—and, of course, if he had his druthers, Knuble would love to end his career in Detroit:
“It has been eerily quiet,” Knuble told CSNWashington.com. “I guess this is how I thought it might go, but it is pretty calm.”
Knuble became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, three days before his 40th birthday. He is coming off his least productive season in the NHL with six goals and 12 assists in 72 games for the Capitals. Following the season, Knuble said he would like to play one more season but is prepared to call it a career if no teams offer him a contract.
“I definitely want to play,” Knuble said last month. “I’ve been pretty adamant about that the last little bit. The biggest thing is how you feel physically and I feel great. Mentally, I can definitely go through another season. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the focus of it. As for the team, I guess you kind of have to wait and see what happens. The money won’t be significant, relatively speaking, nor will the term. So you can decide what will be best for you and your family going forward.”
Knuble earned $2 million on a one-year contract last season.
Knuble and his family – wife, Megan, and children Cam, Anna and Cole – have returned to their home in East Grand Rapids, Mich. Knuble said his family plans on remaining there, regardless of where or if he plays next season.
Ideally, Knuble would like to finish his career where it started, with the Detroit Red Wings, who are currently $13 million under the salary cap. The Red Wings could have an opening at right wing behind Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary.
“Detroit would be a neat story since I was drafted there,” Knuble said. “I’ll make no secret about that. That would be a nice way to come back around. You don’t have that luxury, but maybe a team has a hole and I can fill fit for a year until a prospect develops.”
Detroit Red Wings: I don’t regularly predict the demise of the Red Wings, but with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart to San Jose, the Wings’ inability to lure Suter to the Motor City leaves a great void along the blue line. This is a team that appears to be at least in a holding pattern, if not outright decline. Still, like Lamoriello, don’t count out a team run by Ken Holland until the standings say it’s time.
In Red Wings affiliate news:
• As previously mentioned, the Grand Rapids Griffins signed rough-and-tumble defenseman Brennan Evans to a one-year, AHL-only deal, making Evans the fifth player signed to an AHL but not NHL contract. Wings assistant GM Jim Nill has also inked Triston Grant, Nathan Paetsch, Luke Glendening and Chad Billins;
• And the Wings will have to share their ECHL affiliate with a real rival in the Chicago Blackhawks as the Hawks have re-upped their affiliation with the Toledo Walleye.
In the alumni department:
“Ken Holland asked me last year,” Robitaille began, when describing how the situation came together. Holland, the long-time Wings General Manager and one of the most respected leaders in the game is also the man who signed Robitaille to a free agent contract after the Kings offered him a pay cut in the summer of 2001.
“He said, ‘If I get the outdoor game, will you play?’ I said, ‘For you Kenny, yes!’”
When the notion of Luc wearing that jersey in 2012 perhaps being a little bit weird – given his current role with the Kings - was broached, the Hall of Fame left wing jumped in quickly.
“My team is LA,” he exclaimed before the question was even finished. “But, the NHL is a big family. I will never forget that and being part of a big family is very special. So, whenever anybody asks you and there’s an opportunity for charity, why not go and play and just have fun with it?”
• He may not be a famous name to you or me, but in the various “Dual Citizenship” and “Alumni Reunion” articles posted on the Red Wings’ website over the past couple of months, the Red Wings’ players who played for the Wings in the late 80’s thought that former Flyers enforcer Mel Bridgman, who finished his career with Jacques Demers’ Wings, was perhaps the toughest player on a very tough team. DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to Bridgman in another Alumni Reunion interview:
Question: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
Bridgman: “We’ve had four kids and the last one just went off to college, so we’ve been so busy out in California. But when you see guys it’s like you just saw them a week ago.”
Question: Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
Bridgman: “By osmosis, my son who was born here in Detroit is a huge Red Wings fan, so I know that he like (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Johan) Franzen and (Nicklas) Lidstrom. Overall, it’s just a great team and a fun team to watch.”
Question: What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
Bridgman: “I think the playoff runs that we had in the spring of ’87 and ’88. We were very, very close in getting to the Stanley Cup. But it was a very good group of people; we worked very hard together, and it was really an enjoyable time, really.”
Question: Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
Bridgman: “Without a doubt there are two of them – Bob Probert and Joey Kocur. And the nice thing about them is there were both Jekyll and Hyde; one the ice I wouldn’t want to play against them, but off the ice they were just terrific people.”
• And I believe that these two statistics, noted in a column about potentially unbreakable records, penned by NHL.com’s John Kreiser, I believe these stats count in the alumni department:
Most consecutive top-five finishes in the scoring race: Gordie Howe, 20: To watch clips of Howe on the NHL Network today doesn’t do Mr. Hockey justice. From 1949-50, when he was a 21-year-old in a six-team League dominated by defense, through 1968-69, when he was a 40-year-old in an expanded 12-team League, Howe was one of the NHL’s top five scorers. Every year. It’s a record of consistency that no player in hockey—or any other sport—figures to match any time soon.
Howe won five scoring titles, the last in 1962-63. But he still had six more top-five finishes in him—including the best season of his career, a 103-point performance as a 40-year old in 1968-69, when he finished third. He “slumped” to ninth in the League in 1969-70 with 71 points in 76 games—at age 41.
As great as Gretzky was, he finished in the top five in scoring for “only” 13 straight seasons. That’s how tremendous Howe was—greater that the Great One.
Most coaching victories: Scotty Bowman, 1,244: When it comes to coaching success, there’s Bowman—and then there’s everyone else. Bowman began his coaching career with the St. Louis Blues in the late 1960s and ended it after leading Detroit to the Stanley Cup in 2002, amassing a record of 1244-573-324 and leading his teams to nine championships—five with Montreal, one in Pittsburgh and three with the Wings.
For perspective on how hard it will be for anyone to catch Bowman’s mark, consider that runner-up Al Arbour (a Bowman protégé) has 782 wins. The difference—462 wins—means that Arbour is closer to 20th place than he is to Bowman’s record. The winningest active coach, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, would have to nearly double his career total of 624 to catch Bowman.
In CBA news, if you missed it, it appears that the NHLPA will submit some sort of counter-proposal to the NHL over the next couple of weeks…
And finally, I don’t like to tell you how to spend your money, but…
• Perani’s Hockey’s warehouse sale is taking place at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena, and will continue until Sunday, as noted by Michigan Hockey’s staff;
• And the Red Wings fired off the following Tweet late on Tuesday evening:
Swing by Hockeytown Authentics this weekend! From Thursday until Sunday, Red Wings fan gear is up to 50% off at @ShopHockeytown— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 25, 2012
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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.