The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/16/12 at 06:43 AM ET
Updated 2x at 10:03 AM: From having to buy out Ray Whitney to inevitably waiving goodbye to Jiri Hudler thanks to the crazy economics presented to this summer’s free agent class by a $70.3 million “upper limit,” the CBA and the salary cap have conspired to take away the Red Wings’ personnel advantages over its opponents. The cap and its goal of enforcing parity make sustaining a Wings-like level of excellence almost impossible, but thanks to superb drafting of some once-a-decade players in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, as well as the lingering presence of a once-a-generation player in Nicklas Lidstrom and some astute “bargain” signings and trades from Ken Holland and the Wings’ management, Detroit’s made the Western Conference finals three times, the Stanley Cup Final twice and have won the Cup once over the past six seasons.
Maybe even more importantly, the Wings have made the playoffs every year over the cycle of the CBA that’s about to expire, which remains an almost incredible exception to the rule, and during a summer which will make the difference between the Wings remaining just ahead of their rivals in terms of keeping that 21-year run of playoff worthiness going, the Wings are finally in position use the CBA to predate upon other teams instead of losing their drafted and/or developed players to lesser lights with more cap space to burn.
Or, to put things a little more simply: the CBA almost ensures that teams which most successfully predate upon other teams’ rosters can keep up with, and sometimes overtake teams that simply draft and develop well. This summer, in theory, anyway, this is the summer the Wings “get even.”
You know the score by now: Nicklas Lidstrom’s retired, Brad Stuart was traded so he can get a head start on signing with his adopted hometown’s team, Hudler’s out the door and Tomas Holmstrom’s probably going to be forced into retirement because the Gustav Nyquists, Jan Mursaks, Cory Emmertons and Tomas Tatars of the Wings’ world have caught up with him. Sans Lidstrom, and with only Kyle Quincey, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to re-sign, the Wings have about $26.2 million in cap space available, and they’re probably going to spend $20 million of it doing their damnedest to pluck two of Zach Parise, Alex Semin, P-A Parenteau, Ryan Suter, Jay Garrison, Dennis Wideman and/or Matt Carle off the market if those players choose to test the unrestricted free agent waters—and the Wings desperately need to finally take advantage of the CBA before more restrictive contract limitations kick in to out-spend their rivals to attract talent…
Again, in no small part because the Wings have spent at least fifteen of their 21 years of playoff appearances “selling” players on taking a little less than their market value because the Red Wings treat their players like kings, present players with a hockey-mad market that still allows players to have some semblance of privacy, and insist on imposing sky-high expectations of at least competing for, if not counting themselves among the contending favorites to capture the Stanley Cup upon their players and coaching staff. With four Stanley Cups and six Cup Final appearances over the past 15 years, the Wings can still at least boast that, from Mike Ilitch on down, nothing less than winning the Cup will do on a year-to-year basis.
I know, blah blah blah, you get it, stop repeating stuff you’ve already heard a hundred times before, right? Starting at next weekend’s draft, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin and the Wings’ management team have to put up or shut up and win the battles for the Suters and Parises of the thin free agent class—with as many as a dozen teams in hot pursuit of the cream of the crop—or that “standard of excellence” could disappear in a hurry. As such, Friday’s news that Ryan Suter will test the market on July 1st turned a middling news day (see: the Wings will draft 49th overall in the 2nd round of the draft, and then they’re going to have the 20th overall pick in rounds 3-7; Rick Nash is available via trade, but there’s no way in hell that the Wings will do more than ask what kind of astounding price Columbus would ask to trade their poster boy to the Blue Jackets’ self-styled archrival; Pavel Datsyuk will bring the World Championship trophy to Yekaterinburg on June 29th; prospect Xavier Ouellet will take part in the Canada-Russia Challenge; Jimmy Howard will be a grand marshal at Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at MIS)...
Into the night before Christmas for Wings fans like you and me.
There are no guarantees as to where Suter, Parise or anyone else will land, and as Predators GM David Poile insisted to the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper and everyone else who took part in the Anders Lindback trade conference call, surely, Suter will simply see what’s out there and circle back to the Perfect Environment For Him, right?
“Unless something changes in the near future, he’s going to take a peek at July 1,” Poile said. “We’re going to be in consistent contact with him, and I’m certainly hoping, as he said to me a week ago, that he’s not going to make a sudden decision … and we’re going to have some conversations after he has talked to these different teams.”
Poile strongly believes that the Predators fit Suter on the ice and that Nashville fits Suter off the ice. Still, with each passing day, the level of uncertainty surrounding Suter makes Poile more and more uneasy, and prevents the Predators from moving forward with their offseason business. Nashville has yet to sign any of its unrestricted free agents while many wait to see what happens with Suter.
“If this was his first choice, if he could make his decision today, that could help us a lot in terms of options with player acquisitions between now and the draft (June 22-23) and free agency,” Poile said. “I’m not in control of that, he’s in control of it.”
Last season, Suter had a career year with 46 points and 26:30 average ice time. By entering free agency, he could field offers from several teams including the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild. Poile said that he probably would not trade Suter’s negotiating rights to another team.
“I’m trying to show as much faith as I can possibly show in this situation and hope at the end of the day, if he does go to July 1 and sees what’s out there, that he comes back to where he’s always been and that’s the Nashville Predators,” Poile said.
Cue even more bluster, per Smashville 24/7’s Ryan Porth:
“We have been very loyal to Ryan. We are sticking with that,” the long-time Predators GM said. “We have never tried to trade him or entertain any offers for him. He’s never said that he doesn’t want to play for us; he’s just said that he wants to take a look – so I’m trying to show as much faith as I possibly can show in this situation.”
Not only is loyalty keeping Poile from capitalizing on those negotiating rights, but he also hopes Suter is loyal in return.
“I don’t know why he wouldn’t want to play for the Predators. I don’t know why he wouldn’t want to be paired with Shea Weber for the rest of his career. I hope he’s weighing all those factors before he makes his decision,” Poile said.
“I wish this was over and he was signed, and I’ve said that to him,” Poile said. “If this was his first choice and if he could make his decision today then that would obviously help us a lot in terms of some of the options that you might have in terms of player acquisitions between now and the draft or free agency. Having said that, I’m not in control of that; he’s in control of it.”
As Porth points out, the Predators do indeed have 15 restricted or unrestricted free agents, and while they’re saying goodbye to Alex Radulov, they’ve also got to drop significant coin to re-sign RFA Shea Weber, which Poile hopes will sweeten the pot for Suter…
“What I’m going to need to do is – if I have the ability to do this – whenever Ryan says something to the effect that he’d like to come back to the Predators, I need to bring them together and they’re going to have to work together so that we can sign them to the correct contract so that we can be within the cap and put a competitive team on the ice that can challenge for the Stanley Cup,” Poile said. “With all due respect, if (Suter) were to go to another team he’d be playing with someone else; not that somebody else is not good, but it’s not Shea Weber. How much is that worth? To me that’s worth a lot.”
And if you’re wondering where this, “How could Ryan ever sign with the icky Wild or those old and busted Red Wings when Nashville is the most perfectest team and market ever?” crap from the media’s coming from, let’s all be surprised that Poile’s sold the Nashville press corps on that very specific line:
““Ryan likes it here,” Poile said. “This is the size of city he wants to play in, this is the amount of drive he wants to make to the rink, this is the amount of notoriety he wants to have, this is the amount of ice time he’d like to have. It’s a little frustrating when I hear myself saying that because everything fits here with him.”
Poile also said that he does not want to trade Suter’s negotiating rights leading up to July 1.
“We’ve never entertained any offers for him,” Poile said. “He has never said he doesn’t want to play for us. He just said he wants to take a look.”
As well as what USA Today’s Kevin Allen offered in terms of a, “Hey Wings fans, this isn’t a slam dunk” take in his report:
Poile concedes that Suter will probably explore his options after July 1. The Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild are teams that appear to covet Suter and have the resources to sign him, but there will be other suitors.
“I’m not negative about our chances,” Poile said. “I still believe we are a good fit for what Ryan wants in a team. I will continue to be optimistic that he will re-sign.”
Here’s a little more cold water from Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy...
Does the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart over a two-year period mean the Detroit Red Wings will take a drastic dip in the standings?
Losing Lidstrom will hurt; no question about it. Even though he is 42 and his offensive production tailed off considerably, he is still a great player and valuable influence on his young teammates. The good news is the Red Wings will have plenty of cap space to bid for a replacement. The popular choice, it would seem, is Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators who, though not in the class of Lidstrom, is a high-end performer. With Brendan Smith ready to take on a more significant role with the Red Wings, they should be as competitive as ever.
Will Zack Parise leave the New Jersey Devils?
Any time a player goes to unrestricted free agency, you have to think there is a very good chance they will leave for greener pastures. Parise is an interesting case, though. He is regarded as one of the best young players and leaders in the NHL and I am certain a number of teams will bid top bucks to get him. What sticks with me when I think about Parise is how confident Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is when he says Parise is going nowhere. I say Parise stays in Jersey.
And if we are going to talk numbers, here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s estimation of what it might take to land Suter:
Suter, 27, is the Red Wings’ No. 1 free-agent target.
On Thursday, a report by CSNPhilly cited a source as saying Suter is not interested in playing for the Philadelphia Flyers or any other Eastern Conference team. It stated that Detroit is “conceded to be Suter’s top choice.’‘
Suter, who earned $3.5 million this past season, likely will sign a long-term deal worth between $6 million and $7 million a season.
The Red Wings should have roughly $20 million in salary cap space on July 1 and will be aggressively pursuing Suter and New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise, if they hit the market.
And now I’m going to tell you a story! I’m trying this whole “give more of my opinion” thing as opposed to just posting news and a few quips here and there as the news cycle ebbs and flows, mostly because I’ve felt like it, and I usually I just write and let you say whatever the heck you need to in the comments section, but my, “Hey, be skeptical, don’t jump on these ‘reports’ and get all excited, nothing is certain!” entry all but got laughed off, and after a crappy, stressful week, I’m kinda grumpy, so I’m going to respond as politely as I can to your unbridled enthusiasm:
Remember back in grade school, when you and your pals would talk about how you’d found where your parents were keeping your Christmas or birthday presents, and you knew what you were getting? Or maybe how you got in trouble for goofing around and being a child in class, whether you were talking when you were supposed to be working on an assignment, were told to clean up, stop horsing around or plain old be quiet?
And remember how there was always that weird kid who told you that he knew exactly where his presents were, but didn’t want to look and spoil the surprise? That annoying teacher’s pet who always did his homework during class, listened, didn’t goof around and other than maybe talking too much, never got in trouble? Yeah, that was me.
I think that the excitement of the Wings actually being able to bid on talent—and for the umpteenth time, desperately needing to cushion the blow of Lidstrom’s retirement by landing premier free agents—and what feels like an interminable wait between now and July 1st might be making us all feel like little kids, and maybe we can’t help ourselves in terms of coveting players who may very well not test the market to begin with, never mind land here in Detroit.
I can’t change who I am, and I’m probably going to continue preaching patience, skepticism and not getting our expectations up too high because I don’t know how else to operate. I’m sorry if it annoys you, if it’s a buzzkill or it’s no fun to just read, “Okay, here’s what was posted, and come on now, let’s not get excited or anything, nothing’s certain” when other bloggers are waxing poetic about what might happen, what next year’s Wings might look like with free agents A, B, C, D and even E all snagged in masterful fashion, etc.
In the words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam,” so prepare for another two weeks of that little kid who was already an adult when he was 7.
Otherwise, today will hopefully be a slow news day in what’s been a marathon news cycle since Nick retired as the Sunday columnists tend to save up the good stuff for tomorrow, so after looking through twenty-some English websites and another forty-some websites in Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Czech and Slovak, all I could find was a link to a video “Tweeted” by Tomas Jurco, via Station Nation’s Jamie Tozer:
And regarding the button: I think I’m gonna start posting this in every entry now because I’m halfway to July and less than halfway to raising the approximately $1,200-plus necessary to simply pay for gas and accommodations in Traverse City during the height of tourist season. I went with Paypal because the last time I did this, people kinda got twitchy about having to use an Amazon account to donate through Kickstarter, but if you want me to change over to that kind of transparent fundraising, I can do that.
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, and I don’t mind sharing the mailing address via my other email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Update: MLive’s Brendan Savage spoke to Joey Logano about meeting Jimmy Howard at tomorrow’s Sprint Cup race…
NASCAR driver Joey Logano is a lot like the thousands of fans who will turn out Sunday at Michigan International Speedway to watch the Quicken Loans 400. He’s a sports fan himself.
Specifically, Logano is a hockey fan after spending his early years in Connecticut, where he was a goaltender until realizing the sport wasn’t for him. So it’s easy to see why Logano was excited to hear that Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard will be among the masses on hand Sunday to watch him and rest of the NASCAR drivers do their thing in the Sprint Cup Series race at MIS.
Logano is hoping to meet Howard at some point.
“I think it’s really cool (Howard will be at MIS),” Logano said. “I’m a hockey fan so I think it’s neat anytime any different athlete comes to our races. I think it’s cool to meet them and talk to them. We do have stuff in common with them. They go through a lot of the same stuff we go through as far as the pressure and stuff and all that. I think it would be really neat to meet him.”
• And Sean McIndoe penned a slate of fictitious auditions for NHL Awards presenters, with Ryan Suter’s stint in front of Gary Bettman, Brendan Shanahan and Brian Burke going as follows:
Burke: OK, so it says here your name is Ryan Suter.
Suter: That’s correct.
Burke: And you play for the Nashville Predators.
Suter: Um … (glances at his watch) … sure. Technically.
Bettman: Ryan, which section of the show will you be reading from tonight?
Suter: I’d like to do page 8, the tribute to Nicklas Lidstrom.
Bettman: Perfect. Any time you’re ready.
Suter: (reading) “The retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom will leave a gaping void, not just on the Detroit Red Wings’ blueline, but throughout the NHL and indeed the entire hockey world … ”
Bettman: That’s really good, nice job.
Suter: “ … but especially on the Detroit blueline. They’re really going to need a big name to replace him or they’re screwed.”
Bettman: That’s not what the script says.
Suter: “Luckily they have lots of cap space, so I’m sure money will be no object. In fact, if Ken Holland is here maybe he could just yell out a number right now, and we’ll see if it sounds high enough.”
Bettman: That will do, Ryan.
Shanahan: Geez, what is it about free agency that makes people lose their minds?
Shanahan and Bettman notice that Brian Burke is setting a large pile of money on fire.
Burke: Sorry. Force of habit.
Update #2: NHL.com’s John Kreiser penned a list of draft “hits and misses” by Central Division teams, including the Wings:
Best first-round pick: Steve Yzerman (1983)—The Wings actually wanted to choose Pat LaFontaine with the fourth pick, because he had played in the area and management felt he would help sell tickets. But LaFontaine went to the Islanders at No. 3, leaving Yzerman to the Red Wings. Yzerman became the face of the franchise for a generation of Detroit fans, morphing from a high-scoring center on some non-winning teams to one of the best two-way centers on a franchise that won three Cups in six years. He moved into the front office after retirement before leaving two years ago to become GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Honorable mention: Marcel Dionne (1971), Mike Foligno (1979), Keith Primeau (1990)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Nicklas Lidstrom (1989)—The newly retired future Hall of Famer ranks as the biggest prize in one of the great drafts of all time. Lidstrom nearly was flawless in his 20 NHL seasons. He owns four Stanley Cup rings and seven Norris trophies, was the first European captain of a Cup winner, surpassed 1,000 points for his career early in 2009-10 and is in the conversation when the topic turns to the greatest defensemen of all time. His retirement leaves a huge hole on the Wings’ blue line.
Honorable mention: Sergei Fedorov (1989), Chris Osgood (1991), Jimmy Howard (2003), Johan Franzen (2004)
Best later-round pick: Pavel Datsyuk (1998)—It’s incredible to think now that Datsyuk actually went two years without being drafted. The Wings finally took a flyer on him near the end of the sixth round in 1998, but didn’t bring him from Russia to North America for another three years. He arrived in the fall of 2001, just in time to help the Wings win the Cup the following spring, and he’s become one of the best two-way forwards in NHL history, averaging more than 65 points in his 11 NHL seasons while winning the Selke Trophy three times and the Lady Byng four times. There is nothing he can’t do on the ice, and he’s a perfect fit for Detroit’s style of play.
Honorable mention: Tomas Holmstrom (1994), Henrik Zetterberg (1999)
Biggest disappointment: Kory Kocur (1988)—Joey Kocur’s cousin was a scorer, not a fighter—the Wings chose him after a 34-goal season with Saskatoon of the WHL, and he put up 45 goals and 102 points in 1988-89 before turning pro. However, his scoring touch in junior never translated to the pros—he had 18 and eight goals in two AHL seasons before being sent to Fort Wayne of the IHL, where he had 25 and 21 goals before calling it a career in 1993.
Honorable Mention: Curtis Bowen (1992), Jesse Wallin (1996)
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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.