The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/30/11 at 06:22 AM ET
Long before the, “Where’s Jaromir Jagr, and which team does he want to play for?” mess began (and let’s be honest, we’re kind of assuming that he’s going to sign with Pittsburgh), two Wings targets in Christian Ehrhoff (twice) and James Wisniewski (once) had their rights traded to teams eager to get a head start on negotiating terms with said players and Jonathan Ericsson began to pop up as a realistic player that other teams might target…
Red Wings fans knew that, as Ken Holland and Jim Nill told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell, that the team would attempt to re-sign its own unrestricted free agents before July 1st and then survey the marketplace, determining which players they’ll sign to replace Brian Rafalski and reinforce the roster based upon who is actually available at 12 PM EDT on Friday, and not before. We knew we’d have to wait—and that it’d be an uncomfortable wait—for the Wings to get to work.
With a little over a day left to come to terms with Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller and so many of the Wings’ potential targets either signing for silly money (see: Brooks Laich, Tomas Kopecky) or being traded to teams that can wine and dine ‘em till Friday (it’s no guarantee that Ehrhoff will sign with Buffalo, but it at least sounds like the Blue Jackets are willing to back up a Brinks truck and spend money like it’s got an expiration date to land him), even I’m getting itchy and edgy.
What are the Wings going to do? Will the team be able to keep Ericsson and at least one of Eaves or Miller to begin with? And after that, who will actually be available for the Wings to attempt to bring to Detroit to fill Brian Rafalski’s gaping hole on the blueline, reinforce their forward lines and back up Jimmy Howard (assuming that Chris Osgood and Kris Draper won’t be brought back)?
If Tuesday and Wednesday’s signings and rights-for-picks trades are any indication, it seems as if there might not be any leftovers for Ken Holland and the Wings to pick from.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, who cobbled together a list of the top free agents out there as well as a full list of UFA’s-to-be (as of Thursday morning), believes that the Wings will avail themselves of their cap space and at least grab a defenseman and back-up goaltender as the Wings simply have too many holes and too much money to use to fill ‘em…
“The league is so even,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “There’s not much separating a lot of teams.”
Few teams have benefitted more from free agency than the Red Wings. The organization has signed players such as Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Marian Hossa, Derian Hatcher and Mike Modano, exciting the fan base. Whether that’ll be the case this year remains to be seen.
The Wings certainly have the money — approximately $16 million. But some in-house moves — re-signing potential unrestricted free agents Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller — will cut into the cap space.
But, with the retirement of Brian Rafalski, there is a need on defense. And, with the uncertain health of Chris Osgood, a backup goaltender might be a need, too. And, there’s the continuing saga of free-agent forward Jaromir Jagr, who expects to make a decision before Friday.
“We plan to be active,” Holland said. “But we won’t spend money just to spend money.”
But the Detroit News’s John Niyo believes that the Wings will simply plug holes and wait until the trade deadline—which would be Niyo’s plan if he were the GM, thus the column suggesting as much:
[M]y hunch always has been the expedition wouldn’t go as far as the fans were hoping it would this summer, after San Jose ended Detroit’s playoff run last month in the second round for a second straight year. Sure, Brian Rafalski’s retirement gave Holland an extra $6 million to spend and a void to fill on the blue line. But you want to know who I think Rafalski’s replacement will be as a top-four defenseman? I think it’ll be Jonathan Ericsson, one of the team’s own would-be free agents. And I think Ericsson’s former role will be filled by a veteran like Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski — on a one- or two-year deal — rather than a more expensive, long-term investment.
And I believe that was the case even before Montreal traded the negotiating rights to James Wisniewski — arguably the best of the under-30 crowd still on the market as a defenseman — to Columbus on Wednesday.
Holland’s not tipping his hand about the team’s plans, other than to say he’s working to get Ericsson signed — it’s less about the money ($2 million-plus annually) and more about the projected role at this point. And also that he’d like to bring back forward Patrick Eaves and/or Drew Miller. And that he’ll likely let veterans Kris Draper and Chris Osgood know their free-agent fates next week, after the dust settles a bit.
[T]he way I see it, Holland had two choices: He could go out and overpay for good-but-hardly-great talent now — think Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva on skates — or he could wait to spend it on furniture that’ll look a lot nicer for a lot longer.
Think Nashville’s Ryan Suter, who’ll be unrestricted next summer. Or Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry the summer after that. And don’t write off arbitration-bound players like New Jersey’s Zach Parise and Nashville’s Shea Weber who could hit the market in 2012 or ‘13. One of these years, the Red Wings are going to need to lure a young star in his late-20s to Detroit with a big contract. This just isn’t the year to do it.
Keep in mind, too, the NHL is heading into the final year of its collective bargaining agreement, and just about everyone you talk to in the league expects the rising payrolls are due for a market correction — sound familiar? — coming out of the next labor deal. That means financial flexibility will be key next summer, just as it always is in March, when Holland — if he saves some room under the cap — will have a chance to be active at the trade deadline, for a change.
I don’t have an [expletive deleted]ing clue what Holland will do, but I have five years of post-lockout free agent moves to go upon.
Over the past five seasons, when the Wings have had little money to spend and/or a thin market to work with, they’ve improvised and shopped from the bargain bin, with mixed result (see: Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, Jason Williams), and when they’ve had a glaring hole on the roster to fill or lots of money to spend, they’ve spent it on the players they believe give them the best opportunity to win now and over-build their team over the course of July and August instead of waiting until March to have to overpay to fill glaring holes (see: Rafalski, Marian Hossa, and to some extent, Mike Modano).
In terms of the outside of Detroit media, the out-of-towners still believe that Holland and the Wings will go after the best of who’s available, even if that means accepting signing players with flaws, albeit at a lesser-than-market-value price, selling the Christian Ehrhoffs of the world, for example, on the kind of winning record that the Sabres might not be able to convince him is coming together in Buffalo.
ESPN’s Scott Burnside had this to say about Ehrhoff...
It will be up to [Sabres GM Darcy] Regier to prove to Ehrhoff that the Sabres are indeed a different team under new owner Terry Pegula.
The Sabres already acquired veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr from Calgary at the draft this past weekend; and with former Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller in net, it’s hard to imagine the addition of Ehrhoff wouldn’t drive the Sabres’ Stanley Cup stock up considerably.
That said, it’s hard to believe the Detroit Red Wings, who have a hole along the blue line created by the retirement of Brian Rafalski and money to spend, won’t be in the hunt for Ehrhoff if he makes it to Friday.
And this about Wisniewski and Jovanovski:
Will the Blue Jackets’ recent makeover, which includes adding front-line center Jeff Carter, be enough to entice Wisniewski? Or will Wisniewski hope to catch the eye of Holland on July 1?
The blue-line corps available Friday may not be deep, but you can bet most will be hoping to get at least a look-see from Holland. Here are a couple of other names to consider if you’re Holland, or just about any other GM looking to shore up the blue line in a thin free-agent market.
Ian White is sometimes overlooked, yet played well in San Jose after being acquired from Carolina. He posted nine points in 17 postseason games for the Sharks. White didn’t fit in after the acquisition of Brent Burns at the draft, but he’s going to find suitors given his grit and ability to chip in on the power play.
And how about veteran defenseman and former Canadian Olympian Ed Jovanovski? Although he suffered a grisly orbital bone injury this past season, he managed 14 points and was a plus-4 for the Coyotes. He is also terrific with young players (witness the emergence of Keith Yandle in Phoenix this season) and still has some gas left in the tank. Jovanovski is a Windsor, Ontario native, so there is a strong connection to the community if he signed in Detroit. There could also be a repatriation of the veteran to Florida; he was part of the Panthers’ glory days in 1996, when they made their only run to a Stanley Cup finals.
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson also tends to have his ear to the ground at this time of year (read: from his ties to agent Rich Winter alone, he kind of sort of predicted that Hossa might sign with Detroit, that Hossa wasn’t going to stay in Detroit, and that Dominik Hasek was going to take more money than the Wings hoped to re-sign him for the 2007-2008 season, and he’s right more than Garrioch or the guy who charges people money to read his “rumor charts”), and here’s what he has to say about marquee free agents who the Wings might be interested in signing in an article handicapping the marketplace, suggesting that three players might end up in Detroit:
1. Christian Ehrhoff. With the Vancouver Canucks re-upping defenceman Kevin Bieksa for $4.6 million a season and Pitkanen getting $4.5 million in Carolina, the bar has been set. Ehrhoff turned down a multi-year deal from the New York Islanders and will test the market. The feeling is he would rather play on a Cup threat after being in Vancouver. He could sign with the Detroit Red Wings for about $4 million, but the Wings are also looking at Wisniewski.
2. James Wisniewski. When the Canadiens re-signed Andrei Markov, Wisniewski was expendable. He’s only an average player defensively, but he can shoot and run a power play. Maybe he likes the fact the Jackets now have Carter to play alongside Rick Nash. Wisniewski could sign for about $4.5 million, but that’s a hefty overpayment for the Jackets. He was born in Michigan, so he would be better served to take about $3.5 million and play for the Wings.
3. Brian Boucher. He’s the perfect backup at about $600,000 a year. If the Wings don’t want Chris Osgood back, he might wind up in Detroit. He has taken lots of heat in Philadelphia, but it’s not his fault — he’s not a starter. What he is a very good team guy.
Then there’s the option that nobody’s really mentioned but Holland did—a trade. If the Wings don’t find anybody available on the market Friday appealing (there aren’t exactly perfect candidates out there, even if Ehrhoff and Wisniewski hit the market), they could and very well may make a trade to find the players they feel will do the job.
Via RedWingsFeed, Holland will actually appear on “NHL Live!” at 4:40 PM EDT, so if you mozy on over to NHL.com and click on their “listen now” tab, we might be able to get a better handle on what Holland plans on doing…Or not, knowing how close he keeps his cards to his vest.
You’ll probably hear an interview I won’t be able to listen to as well as I’m “booked” to help the aunt purchase a new refrigerator around that time. Her fridge has a compressor that’s going to fail soon, and at present, it sounds like there’s a Harley Davidson in her kitchen, so Paul will be covering for me from around 4-6. I’m not happy about it but there’s something to be said for a family member who agrees to not so much as ask you to sneeze on Friday because it’s UFA day.
Next week, the Red Wings’ prospects will take to the ice in Traverse City for their annual summer “strength and conditioning” camp. You can find the details thereof here, and I can happily report that I found a nice deal on a hotel room, so I’m officially heading up there as well.
According to the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s James Cook, the Wings did indeed choose to head to Centre Ice Arena after a classic summer power outage forced the Wings to scramble and move their camp from Joe Louis Arena to the City Sports Center as a blown transformer plunged Downtown Detroit into darkness and the Joe’s ice into slush a year ago:
“When Ken (Holland) came up here for training camp last year, we discussed the possibility of them coming up here,” camp director Ann Reeves said. “They had a facility issue, and Ken knew that since we got the west-end expansion project done that we’ve got the size to accommodate this camp.”
Not only accommodate it, but also allow the Wings to expand it. Detroit usually had a camp for 20 players in the past — including hosting it once in TC in the past — but was able to double that to 40 this time around because of Centre ICE expansion that was completed prior to last year’s training camp, adding two more NHL-sized locker rooms and other amenities to the ICE facility.
Holding this camp allows the Red Wings to evaluate some players whose overseas leagues start up before the NHL Prospects Camp begins in Traverse City from Sept. 10-14. The summer camp opens with a workout of over two hours on July 7, which is free to the public. Then from July 8 to 13, each day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a break from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch. Cost is $5 per day, or $25 for a pass for the entire camp. The camp ends July 14 with a scrimmage game between the two squads and a skills competition running from 8:30-10 a.m.
Traverse City St. Francis is providing buses and drivers to shuttle players around during the event.
The coaches at the strength and conditioning camp will include Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Curt Fraser and assistant coach Jim Paek, along with ex-Wing defenseman Jiri Fisher, Detroit goalie coach Jim Bedard and conditioning expert Tomas Storm.
A coaches clinic will be held at Centre ICE on July 10 from 1-5:30 p.m. for $95. It includes coaching sessions, lunch with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill as guest speakers, as well as the coaches from the strength and conditioning camp.
On Wednesday afternoon the Saginaw News’s Kyle Austin reported that Saginaw Spirit defenseman Brad Walch has been invited, and the Wings have nine more try-out’s spots open.
As for the roster of current Wings prospects, the Free Press’s George Sipple reports that Alex Marchenko and Mattias Backman are the only 2011 draft picks who won’t attend the camp, and the Wings plan on bringing up more than a few members of the Grand Rapids Griffins to give them a summer boost:
Among other noteworthy prospects attending are defenseman Brendan Smith (2007 first-round pick), goaltender Thomas McCollum (2008 first-round pick) and center Landon Ferraro (2009 second-round pick).
Riley Sheahan, the 21st overall pick in the 2010 draft, will not attend the camp because he is taking classes at Notre Dame.
“Too important, and he can’t miss,” assistant Red Wings general manager Jim Nill said. “He wasn’t going to turn pro this year anyway. You’ve got to go to school during the summer, and we’re glad he’s lived up to his commitment.”
Nill said Andrej Nestrasil, a 2009 third-round pick (75th overall), will not attend because he suffered an injured ankle at the Czech Republic world junior training camp last week. Calle Järnkrok, a 2010 second-round pick (51st overall), also will be absent. “He had shoulder surgery two months ago,” Nill said.
Gleason Fournier, a 2009 third-round pick, will attend, but he won’t be on the ice. “He just had shoulder surgery three weeks ago,” Nill said.
The camp might be important for Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitchell Callahan, Ferraro and Gustav Nyquist, who are all turning pro this year.
Trevor Parkes and Aubry can be returned to the Montreal Juniors, and Aubry’s only 19, so I’m surprised to hear that the Wings plan on bringing him to Grand Rapids!
As for the Red Wings’ prospect tournament and training camp in September, RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau revealed the details thereof on her Left Wing Lock blog, and there’s a big bummer for those of you who enjoyed talking to players during the annual charity dinner:
Prospect Camp: September 10 – 14
14th Annual Training Camp Golf Classic and Reception: September 16
*note to attend the golf Reception, you must register for golf. No charity dinner will be held this year.
Main Camp: September 17 – 20
Full Schedule is available here
Prospect Camp: $10 per day (all games that day)
Main Camp: Morning Scrimmages Sept. 17 – 19 ($20 Mezzanine, $15 Reserved, $10 Standing)
Red and White Game: Sept. 20th ($30 Mezzanine, $25 Reserved, $20 Standing)
Additional dates: Sept. 21 – 22 details coming soon.
** Sept. 17th and 18th are Sold Out
In person: July 9th 10 am – 12 pm
Fax: July 11th 12 pm
In news of the immediate, immediate future: As the Detroit Free Press’s Esa Esam notes, the Red Wings and Tigers are holding a social media party at the MotorCity Casino tonight, and there are a little under 200 tickets left for the event;
In news of a very different kind, the Muskegon Chronicle’s Ron Pop spoke to Wings forward Justin Abdelkader about his summer plans—he’s about to head back to MSU to work toward completing his “general business management” degree—as well as his take on his past season’s worth of regular season and playoff experience(s):
“It’s a really important year,” said Abdelkader, 24. “It’s your last year on a contract and you want to have a good year, come into camp in good shape and look forward to having a good season.”
Abdelkader is coming off his first full season with the Red Wings. He played in 74 of the 82 regular-season games and all 11 games in the playoffs.
“It was a good first year, obviously, it had its ups and downs, but it was my first full year,” Abdelkader said. “You see what the grind is like playing in the NHL and being there the whole year. It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work.”
“Last year was my first year where I played a significant role on the right wing,” he said. “It was a good year for me playing that position and playing center. If I can be as versatile as I can be, be it playing left wing, right wing or center, it will help me in the future.”
Abdelkader doesn’t have any scoop as to the identities of the assistant coaches who might flank Mike Babcock’s shoulders…
“I haven’t heard anything on coaches, but I know they’ll get a couple great coaches and players who fit into our style,” Abdelkader said. “We’ll move forward and learn from last year. We’ll have that hunger and desire to get back to the finals.”
And about that series against the Sharks, well, he’s focusing on the good parts:
“Games 4 and 6 at home were really similar,” Abdelkader said. “We pulled out the wins, the crowd was into it. It’s a fun time of year to be playing hockey, it’s the best time of the year to be playing hockey. I was talking to (Red Wings play-by-play announcer) Ken Kal, who has been doing broadcasts for I don’t know how many years, and he said Games 4 and 6 at home were the loudest he thinks he’d ever seen the Joe (Joe Louis Arena),” Abdelkader said. “The city and the state just rally around the Red Wings.”
In political news, part 1: According to the Free Press’s Steve Schrader, former Wing John Ogrodnick was sworn in as a U.S. citizen before Wednesday night’s Tigers game;
In political news, part 2: Both the Detroit News’s Tom Greenwood and Leonard N. Fleming and the Free Press’s Matt Helms confirm that the City of Detroit has agreed upon the route which the M-1 Rail line, which is backed in part by Wings owner Mike Ilitch, Whalers owner Peter Karmanos and a host of high-profile private businesspeople, has been determined, and the $500 million light rail line will span a J-shaped route linking the New Center area with the Rosa Parks Transit Center, mostly traveling up and down Woodward Avenue.
Between the rail line and the People Mover, just about all of Detroit’s marquee attractions are linked up by some form of public transportation, and having a rail line in place obviously makes a Foxtown arena a more appealing proposition for both the Wings and the City of Detroit;
In charitable news, part 1: According to ESPN Dallas’s Jeff Caplan, the NBA championship trophy will make an appearance at Mike Modano’s charity softball game in Frisco, Texas on July 8th;
In charitable news, part 2: According to the Windsor Star’s Don Lajoie, Bob Probert’s daughter, Brogan, is working with Windsor’s Ground Effects Ltd. to send shoes (2,300 pairs thereof), clothing and household goods to Haiti;
And as we’re all a bit confused this morning, or at least I am after the second sixteen-hour day in a row, with even busier ones to come, I can only say this:
The Detroit News’s Neal Rubin wants you to know about Ken Kal’s water heater, brakes and his wife’s gallbladder.
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About The Malik Report
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.