The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/14/12 at 05:47 AM ET
updated at 10:58 AM: Wednesday’s Red Wings news came fast and furious, and ran the gamut of subject matter, from touching tributes to Vladimir Konstantinov on the 15th anniversary of the crash that changed his life to news about the Wings’ 2012-2013 preseason schedule, a Grind Line reunion for the sake of a hockey camp, Red Wings GM Ken Holland offering some very cautiously-chosen words regarding his team’s off-season plans to the Darth Vader of hockey suggesting that a pan-European hockey league might one day fight back against the evils of the NHL, and even confirmation of the Michigan Legislature passing a waiver to allowthe sale of alcohol at Michigan Stadium during the Winter Classic…
But again and again, we came back to trying to read the lines of what New Jersey Devils Captain Zach Parise did and did not say to the media on his team’s locker room clean-out day.
I guess it’s understandable, all things considered: we’re all of two weeks removed from Nicklas Lidstrom retiring, the Wings essentially gave away a top-four defenseman in Brad Stuart, we know that the team’s decision to delay its final verdict on Tomas Holmstrom’s future probably won’t do anything more than slate in a July retirement press conference, or, in a best-case scenario, Holmstrom trying to make the team out of training camp like Kirk Maltby did two years ago, and we certainly know that Jiri Hudler’s out the door for way more money than the Wings can sanely offer him.
And with a week-and-a-half between us and the draft, and two-and-a-half weeks until free agency, the future of the Wings is in flux, and with no Jimmy Devellano interview on the Fan 590 to drop suggestive hints—as Yahoo’s Harrison Mooney suggests, the bluster issued by former Minnesota North Stars GM Lou Nanne, insisting that “no one” would out-bid the Minnesota Wild for Zach Parise’s services was a clever way to tiptoe around tampering rules—we’re not exactly going to hear Ryan Suter say much of anything (that’s not his style), so when the New Jersey Devils’ captain and the premier free agent, should he test the market on July 1st, offered some defiant statements about his future, the ears of Wings fans and every other fan base that hopes their team can land him (so can rattle off the Wings, Devils, Rangers, Flyers, Kings, Blackhawks, Hurricanes, as teams that are supposedly in the running, and you can throw Toronto in there because Toronto will at some point) all perked up as we tried to listen to, again, what he said and what he didn’t say.
The Newark Star-Leger’s Tom Gulitti offered almost immediate Twitter updates before penning a lengthy blog entry about Parise’s comments, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen chimed in, and then it seemed like everybody else in the world weighed in with their takes. If you want to watch what Parise said and break down his body language and level of eye contact, NHL.com provides us with six minutes’ worth of Zapruder film…
And the New York Times’ Dave Caldwell offers a solid summation of what was said by all parties involved…
Parise, 27, becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, and General Manager Lou Lamoriello, Coach Peter DeBoer and several teammates made it clear that they want Parise to stay here. Parise made it clear Wednesday he wants to stay, too.
“I’ve said all along I love playing here,” Parise said. “I’ve always appreciated everything that this organization has done for me. My feelings have never changed.”
Later, when he was asked if it was possible that he would consider signing with the archrival Rangers, Parise quickly said: “No. No way.”
In a separate news conference, Lamoriello said re-signing Parise was a priority.
“We’ve said that from Day 1,” Lamoriello said. “He’ll remain a priority.”
DeBoer said of impending negotiations: “I play no role in that, other than I’ve continually stated all year the importance to him to our room, our team and our coaching staff. He knows our feelings about him.”
Although Parise said he could not envision playing for another team, he joked that he planned to shut off his phone while he pondered his future.
And the Bergen Record’s Tara Sullivan engaged in all the between-the-line reading one might require, especially given that Parise told reporters to not go “looking for a headline” about his desire to not play for the Rangers, save one more source:
When the most coveted potential free agent in the NHL uses the team’s post-Stanley Cup losing cleanup day to declare his continued affection for his current team, and to unequivocally declare himself off-limits to its most hated rival, that’s a headline. And underneath that banner begins the story that Parise has been avoiding since the season began.
The self-imposed ban on the taboo subject of his impending free agency ended in concert with the Devils’ Stanley Cup heartbreak Monday night in Los Angeles. And as this version of the Devils met one last time for a team picture and to pack up their lockers, Parise talked. There’s still a part of him in denial, unwilling or unready to face a future that might include a new multimillion-dollar contract without his C-emblazoned uniform. But he knows what’s coming.
“At one point, I’m going to have to pay attention to it. Fortunately, this season went long enough where I could put it away and not worry about it. I guess you have to face the music sooner or later,” Parise said. “I’m excited about it because it’s something as a player, especially your first time, you don’t get to do it very often. That being said, hopefully we can get things worked out here. … I’ve always liked playing here. That’s never changed. So we’ll see where this takes us. I love playing here. I love being here.”
Parise gave plenty of reasons for Devils fans to cling to the hope he might return, the most encouraging of which was his assertion that a deal “absolutely” could get done before free agency opens. And this wasn’t some sort of “heat of the moment” moment – Parise was two days removed from the team’s ugly 6-1 loss in Game 6 of the championship series, the undignified end to a stirring postseason run and a valiant comeback attempt from an 0-3 Stanley Cup hole.
But sentiment only goes so far – and might have left the room when Parise exited Wednesday with his oversize black duffel bag hoisted atop his left shoulder. It was a trip he could have been making for the last time. But standing amid the littered tape and zipped-up equipment bags that mark the universal symbol of season-ending disappointment, Parise still was tethered to his teammates, to the remarkably close-knit group that went through so much to get within two games of a title.
It’s obvious Parise still feels very much a Devil, making repeated references to next year, to what the players have to do to reach that final goal that fell so agonizingly out of their reach this season. So who could blame hopeful but worried Devils fans for reading into Parise’s words and thinking: Doesn’t this mean he definitely is coming back?
Sorry to say it, but no way. That’s not the answer Devils fans want to hear, but it represents the stark reality of free agency and the Devils’ place in it. As much as the Devils are determined to find a way to outbid, outmaneuver or outlast what should be a fertile free agent market, they face a list of flush-with-cash suitors long enough to engulf their solvency-challenged coffers. The Rangers might not be welcome, but Parise surely will have to ignore bulging offers from the likes of free agent favorites Detroit (a legendary franchise) and Minnesota (his hometown team).
The Bergen Record’s Andrew Gross provides a Rangers-friendly perspective if you’d wish, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo offers the Wild’s take, and the Newark Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere offered a play-by-play of his own, but aside from Ye Olde Liste of suitors from the Bergen Record (FTR: even ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is getting on the, “Kings could be the favorites, too!” bandwagon started by the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons)...
1. Detroit: The Red Wings are looking to reload after a disappointing first-round playoff exit, and have the salary-cap space to go after Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.
2. Minnesota: The Wild are expected to make a big push to bring Parise back to his home state to bolster a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008 and hasn’t won a round since 2003.
3. Washington: With Alexander Semin likely to leave, the Caps will have the cap room.
4. Philadelphia: The Flyers will be in on Suter, but would love to steal Parise from their Atlantic Division rival.
5. Carolina: The Hurricanes want to add a wing to play with Eric Staal, but money might not be enough to lure Parise to a team that’s missed the playoffs the last three seasons.
The only time my thoughts deviated from the, “Yeah yeah, what else was he gonna say?” line was when NHL.com’s Rosen offered the following:
Whether Parise is might come down to the advice of his agent, Wade Arnott.
While saying the decision on his future is one he will have to make alone, Parise did note that he will trust Arnott as he goes into this process because, “That’s why you have agents. You respect their advice. They have done this before, so I guess this is one point where you have to listen to them and take their advice. It’s my first time doing it, so I’ll see what they say.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan have weighed in on Parise’s comments, but that “save one source” involved the Free Press’s Helene St. James offering this assessment of the situation which Parise, Suter, Alex Semin, Matt Carle, Dennis Wideman, P-A Parenteau and the rest of the Wings’ free agent targets can say while focusing specifically on the jewel of the last UFA bonanza of this current CBA cycle:
New Jersey wants to keep him, of course, and Parise is saying all the right things about loving playing for the Devils, though they have both ownership and financial issues.
The sides have had all season to work out a deal, so if one hasn’t materialized by now, it’s unlikely to do so.
Parise knows where he fits in, that he could get a deal in the same ballpark as the nine years and $60 million Brad Richards got last summer from the Rangers. Richards got that at age 31. Parise is 27 and, discounting an injury that derailed his 2010-11 season, has topped 30 goals every season dating back to ‘06-07. He had 69 points in ‘11-12, and followed up with 15 points in 24 playoff games.
Detroit didn’t come up Wednesday, but the Wings are believed to be on Parise’s radar—which makes sense, because he’d come to a stable team that’s made the playoffs 21 straight seasons, and he’d get to play next to Pavel Datsyuk, who could make Parise a 50-goal scorer.
Again, Marian Hossa was equally gushy about the Red Wings after the Wings couldn’t re-sign him prior to their disappointing 2009 Stanley Cup Final run, but we know what he did, and in these instances, it’s an even coin flip as to whether a player who’s gone this long without signing will choose to stay with his rights-holder or seriously consider playing the field and finding out exactly how much other teams might value his services in terms of dollar amounts, especially given that we’re likely to see limits on long-term and front-loaded deals that bend the salary cap into a pretzel by this time next year.
Those decisions, however, remain up to the players and their agents, not us, and for now, to massacre one of my favorite songs from my favorite band ever, though maybe it’s appropriate…We’re left “desperate and ravenous” for bits of information that we deem to be concrete enough to hold onto, when the reality of the situation is that we are indeed “Weak and Powerless.”
With all apologies intended to Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel
In terms of a “top six” forward who the Wings won’t be able to retain, the Detroit News’s Ted Kuflan states what’s painfully obvious about Jiri Hudler’s future with Detroit, suggesting that Hudler’s going to be able to make a mint from a 25-goal, 25-assist season thanks to this summer’s uber-thin crop of free agent forwards:
Coming off that 25-goal season, and with a thin free-agent market, Hudler (who can be an unrestricted free agent July 1), could be a highly sought-after player.
“I would say so,” said Petr Svoboda, Hudler’s agent. “He’s a player who can score goals. He’s shown he can do that.”
But will Hudler be able to do so in another system, with the pressure of a big contract hovering over him while playing with less talented teammates? According to Svoboda, Hudler knows what he has with the Wings and would like to stay.
“He likes Detroit a lot,” said Svoboda Wednesday. “He loves the team. I’ve had a couple conversations with (Wings general manager) Kenny Holland about Huds, and the future. We still have time (almost three weeks, before July 1).”
When Avalanche forward David Jones signed a four-year contract worth $16 million last week ($4 million per season) after a 37-point season, Hudler’s 50-point season should earn him a contract similar to Jones’, if not more. If that’s the case, that’ll be too rich for the Wings’ taste.
Svoboda said similar things when he (and Svoboda is, of course, Jaromir Jagr’s agent, too) helped Hudler ink that 2-year, $10 million deal with the original Dynamo Moscow in 2009, too. Loved Detroit, wanted to play there, chased the petro-dollars. I can’t imagine that things will be any different this time around.
And in news regarding a free agent of a different kind, you may have missed this, but the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples reported that University of Wisconsin defenseman and free agent-to-be (assuming that the Ducks don’t sign him by July 1st) Justin Schultz has one helluva representative taking care of his financial interests, and said representative expects to receive, let’s call it the “Fabian Brunnstrom treatment”:
Former NHL GM Brian Lawton says that any team that wants this highly-rated, soon-to-be-free agent prospect will have to meet with him in person and guarantee him a roster spot for next season.
“You can rest assured ten teams will guarantee him a spot on their roster,” Lawton told Jason Gregor of the Team 1260. “If you want to compete for these guys you better understand the environment and you better be aggressive. Because there is no time to not be.
“So if you any chance to get a player like this, you’re gonna unfortunately going to be out there on a limb in some uncomfortable positions. Because there are things you don’t want to do like guaranteeing a roster spot to a player who has not played in the league. But guess what? That is the landscape you’re dealing with. If you’re going to sit at home and say, ‘I’m not going to do that,’ that’s great. But you’re not going to get any players either.”
Such a guarantee can’t be enforced by the player or by his agent, Lawton said, but it’s necessary for the GM to have that conversation directly with the player to provide a real assurance. “If the GM gives you his word he’s going to do that, then it’s not good as gold because they can send you down (to the minors) at any time, but you’ll be apt to get more opportunities to play on the team.”
He’s 21 and he hasn’t played a single game of professional hockey. The Red Wings won’t offer someone like that a rookie-cap-max deal with a $3.8 million cap hit (including bonuses) and guarantee him a spot on their roster. That’s now how it works around here.
In the “stuff you may have forgotten is right around the corner” category, the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby, via a lament about not enough Maple Leafs qualifying for Hall of Fame candidacy on their first go-round, reminds us that the Hockey Hall of Fame will indeed reveal its 2012 induction class after their selection committee meets on June 26th in Toronto:
While it would be nice for Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts and Curtis Joseph to get in on their first try, they’ll likely be in a pool with other new eligibles behind the two strongest entrants — the much-decorated Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan. The aforementioned Leafs trio join four-time Cup winner Claude Lemieux and American scoring ace Jeremy Roenick.
Their consideration then hinges on whether the selection committee chooses to redress one or two players growing older on the vine, including multi-Stanley Cup winners from the Original Six era and some near-forgotten Europeans. The list will be finalized a few days before voting.
Last year’s ceremony was a Leafs love-in, with Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mark Howe, all of whom played at least one year for the Leafs, or Toronto Marlboro juniors. Those, except Howe, won Stanley Cups, all elsewhere.
“The number of players put forward by people isn’t as important as who gets committee support,” reminded co-chairman Jim Gregory. “You, your mother or your girlfriend can put a name forward (public and committee submissions are now closed for this year) but you need 14 of the 18 votes of the committee “It isn’t easy to decide on players, but it’s good we have people on the committee who go back years in the game, who can compare a player such as Mark Messier to someone older.”
Gregory or his members can’t discuss individual player cases in public.
“I will say that very few names that are submitted (usually around 40) aren’t legitimate. But it’s our job to make sure the great ones get in, not just the good ones.”
Sakic and Shanahan are obviously shoe-ins, and Roenick’s pretty close. I’m not sure any of them would want to stand next to Lemieux, though.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:
• You might have missed this quip from the CBC, which has commissioned three films for future production…
Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story: produced by Brightlight Pictures and Nutmeg Entertainment, the story of how Gordie Howe came back to play professional hockey at age 45, opposite his two sons, aged 18 and 19.
• The CBC Windsor reports that the Stanley Cup will be making a stop in Amhertsburg, Ontario sometime later this summer thanks to Los Angeles Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth;
• And a little closer to “soon,” the Free Press’s St. James suggested on Twitter that the Wings will release their 2012-2013 season schedule “next week,” but she doesn’t anticipate that the Wings will retired Nicklas Lidstrom’s number immediately given that the Wings didn’t retire Steve Yzerman’s number on opening night, either;
• I will only suggest that the Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen’s ramble about unretiring numbers of athletes for special reasons should be “further reading”;
• Ditto for Bruce Dowbiggin and Larry Brooks’ laments about the state of refereeing as the obstruction standard slipped, fell and never got back up—while I heartily agree with them that I’m no fan of the return of clutch-grab-and-wrestle hockey;
• I’m nodding my head in agreement with this quip from the Free Press:
The Michigan Legislature has approved the sale of alcohol at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1, when it hosts the NHL’s Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Senate passed the proposal Wednesday, following up on the House’s action of May 24. The league made alcohol sales a condition for holding the outdoor game in the Big House.
The final step will be for Gov. Rick Snyder to sign off on the proposal. Snyder is a University of Michigan alumnus.
• In perhaps similarly-lubricated news, the Chicago Cubs’ Twitter account confirms that Chris Chelios sang, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” last night;
• As a point of record, Sportbox.ru spoke to Slava Fetisov recently, and after leaving CSKA Moscow, the Russian senator and former Wing was appointed the head of the Russian Amateur Hockey League by Vladimir Putin;
• And I was thrilled to read a press release stating that WXYZ has named Tom Leyden its Sports Director. He’s a fantastic gentleman and he deserves the promotion and then some.
Finally, here comes the button: I’m trying to raise funds to attend the Wings’ summer prospect camp from July 7-14 in Traverse City, and things have kinda died out recently. If you can lend a hand, I would 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, and I don’t mind sharing the mailing address of my secret blogging lair via my other email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Update: The Red Wings are promoting their Pinterest page and their Social media meet-up on June 30th through their Twitter account, and Bill Roos posted an awesome picure of Nicklas Lidstrom wishing a retiring firefighter a fond farewell;
• According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, realistically speaking, the Wild aren’t favorites to land Parise;
• And finally, MLive’s Ansar Khan profiles Ryan Smyth while wondering aloud whether the 36-year-old would leave Edmonton for a swan song in Detroit:
Strengths: He is widely regarded as the second-best net-front man of his generation, behind Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom. Smyth is a leader who plays with grit and determination around the crease and has been a consistent scorer, notching 20 or more goals 11 times. Despite years of wear and tear, he played in every game the past two seasons.
Weaknesses: His play tailed off dramatically in the second half of the season, when he put up just 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in his final 44 games.
Notable: So many players have fled Edmonton over the years, but Smyth actually wanted to go back a year ago. He has appeared in 852 games with the Oilers, which ranks second in franchise history to Kevin Lowe (1,037).
Why he would interest the Red Wings: They could use another net presence and power-play piece if Holmstrom retires and Jiri Hudler signs elsewhere. They need goal-scoring, and the free-agent options are limited after Zach Parise.
How he could fit in with the Red Wings: He would be on one of the top two lines and on the power-play. He also can kill penalties.
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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.