The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/17/12 at 06:12 AM ET
Earlier on Monday evening, MLive’s Ansar Khan reported that Red Wings GM Ken Holland is attempting to ink the Wings’ restricted free agents, Kyle Quincey and Justin Abdelkader, to new contracts. This morning, the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Wings are actually a little further along in the negotiating process with both players than Khan reported…
The Wings have been talking to Abdelkader’s camp for a while, and the negotiations were going well enough that Abdelkader opted not to file for arbitration by the July 5 deadline, unlike teammate Kyle Quincey. Quincey has a hearing July 25, and while the sides could reach an agreement before then, Quincey would, through arbitration, be assured a one-year deal that would leave him an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Again, Holland has gone through with exactly two arbitration hearings since 1995 in Ray Sheppard and Jiri Hudler, so it’s incredibly unlikely that he’ll do the same with Quincey…
Abdelkader, 25, is coming off a two-year contract that averaged $787,500 against the salary cap. His actual salary in 2011-12 was $825,000. He had eight goals among 22 points in 81 games last season, bettering the 19 points in 74 games he had in 2010-11. He showed his versatility last season by playing both center and left wing, though the Wings prefer to slot him in the fourth-line center spot.
Darren Helm, also 25, signed a four-year deal worth $8.5 million earlier this off-season, but Abdelkader isn’t going to get the same $2.125 million cap-average. Abdelkader hasn’t shown the same offensive upside, but he’s a regular part of the penalty kill, and his 148 hits last season trailed only Brad Stuart’s 177 on the team.
Abdelkader is more likely to come in around the $1.25 million mark. He’ll have a role either playing wing on a line with Helm or centering maybe Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo on the fourth line. Abdelkader made a favorable impression on Wings coach Mike Babcock while playing for Team USA at the World Championships in May, and the Wings are hoping that’ll translate into further success for the coming season.
As Khan suggested, the Wings want to re-sign Quincey to a deal at or around the $3.125 million he earned next season, but he may receive a slight raise given the crazy marketplace values of defensemen who can skate in straight lines.
And yes, St. James mentions the fact that the Wings continue to wait to find out what Shane Doan’s plans are as Holland prepares to speak to Tomas Holmstrom about his future:
The Wings already have 15 forwards under contract for next season. Tomas Holmstrom is still on the market, but he is expected to retire. As for Doan, the Wings are among the numerous teams who’ve expressed interest in the Coyotes captain, whose preference is to stay in Phoenix.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness treads upon similar territory, speaking about Quincey and Abdelkader with Holland…
Quincey, who has a July 25 hearing with an arbitrator, could be more difficult to sign at the number the Wings want since he made $3.25 million a year ago. They’re hoping to get him at a modest raise.
“The hope is we find a solution without getting to that point,” Holland said. “We’re talking so we’ll see.”
The Wings would like to get Abdelkader, who didn’t file for salary arbitration, to sign a four-year deal at just under $2 million a season. They made him an offer just before the draft.
“I’m not concerned,” Holland said. “It’s a matter of sitting down and having further discussions.”
And he spoke to Shane Doan’s agent about the long process that is waiting for Doan to make up his mind regarding whether he’s going to leave Phoenix, which depends on the various efforts to derail the Coyotes’ sale:
“Nothing’s happening right now,” said Terry Bross, Doan’s agent.
But that could all change since the city clerk’s office of Glendale, Arizona rejected petitions on Monday that sought to put a referendum on the November ballot about the Coyotes’ pending arena management deal. The referendum would give voters a chance to decide whether to overturn the city’s 20-year, $324 million lease agreement with potential Coyotes buyer Greg Jamison.
“We’re going to wait a couple more days to see if this Jamison thing goes through,” Bross said. “Not all the petitions have been defeated.”
“We’ve been in contact,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ve talked about what we’re thinking of. They know we have interest.”
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa also penned a lengthy column about the state of the Wings, offering the following takes on the team’s Doan alternative in Alex Semin…
Alexander Semin? He may, one day, make the personal commitment to compete in the NHL. If Semin, the Capitals free-agent forward, decides to resurrect his career with the Red Wings a bit on the cheap side, and Mike Babcock and Tom Renney think they can grapple with the enigma wrapped in a conundrum, it might be worth taking a flier. If not? Forget about it!
And Krupa isn’t a fan of the theory that the Wings could surrender assets to acquire Jay Bouwmeester instead of signing a band-aid defenseman or two to stabilize the blueline:
Trading for Jay Bouwmeester? The big Flames defenseman is not physical and his offensive game is in decline.
Meanwhile, the question of whether the Red Wings should put a package together for Bouwmeester may be moot in light of their need to find playing time, especially early in the season, for Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith. It often takes several seasons to develop an NHL defenseman to full potential. That was even true of Nicklas Lidstrom. One tried and true method of improving them is playing them enough to get the mistakes out of their systems.
Clearly, the Red Wings are in a delicate situation the first summer after Lidstrom’s retirement. But they remain in a good position, with a solid core and considerable cap space, to avoid a downward spiral.
After dissecting the whole, “Should the Wings have tied themselves up contractually speaking by committing super-duper salary and term to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, especially given that Valtteri Filppula, Jimmy Howard, Danny Cleary and Ian White become free agents next summer, and that Pavel Datsyuk becomes a free agent two summers from now?” scenario, Krupa offers what has become his party line about the Wings’ season to come: tank a wee bit and somehow, magically, win the free agent sweepstakes a year from now:
They could start the season with what they have: a good team that clearly is a playoff contender, and lots of money under the cap to make a significant move early in the season, at the trade deadline or during the offseason. That might spell a decent 2012-13 season and a rebound in 2013-14 — perhaps a sizeable one. The Devils just traveled a comparable itinerary from the end of the 2009-10 season, through an offseason in 2010-11, to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
Certainly, the current circumstances are unfamiliar for the Red Wings and their fans in more than 20 years. But they are familiar in any sport for championship teams and perennial contenders that lose key players over time.
idding for the high-scoring, frequent-hitting Parise was up over $100 million on July 1, when the Red Wings offered a bit less than $80 million. And because they were always a package — which Parise and Suter both said publicly, for the first time, at their introductory news conference in Minnesota — without Parise, Detroit was not getting Suter. ven if one believes the Red Wings should have offered more to sign them, or that they should offer Doan more than $30 million for four years, a closer look yields the suggestion Holland and the rest of the brain trust may have better reasons for not pulling the trigger than their most ardent critics understand.
The Wings are simply trying to navigate through a “delicate” summer without overpaying for the goal-scorer they seem to be intent upon adding and at least one defenseman that’s absolutely necessary to stabilize their blueline, but that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t have aggressively pursued Suter, nor does it mean that their attempts to quietly pursue Doan’s services are misguided because a “rebuilding” season would somehow leave the Wings better-equipped to pursue the 10-15% of free agents-to-be that don’t end up re-signing with their current employers.
The Wings’ braintrust still wants to win and still wants to field the most competitive team they possibly can, but the team’s simply not in a position to surrender assets to fill one roster hole at the expense of creating another, nor can they simply jump in with both feet and pay early-July prices for a middling remaining crop of available free agents who could be signed more affordably by waiting out arbitration season (there’s always at least one solid player whose team walks away from his arbitration award) and, perhaps just as importantly, waiting at least a few more weeks to see whether a) the free agent market lurches back to life and/or b) whether CBA negotiations suggest that there’s any urgency for any team to sign players who might be available two or three months from now, depending on how stupid the NHL might be in riding its first proposal all the way to a lockout.
For now, we wait, and as a fellow Wings fan, believe me, the wait sucks for me, too. I want to see the Wings sign some meaningful contributors both up front and on the blueline just as badly as you do, even if the team simply adds a band-aid solution on the blueline until the 12-13 season gets underway and the team finds out whether its current blueliners and/or said middling addition will allow the team to gain the leverage necessary to add a more meaningful defenseman via a trade that doesn’t strip the team of its best prospects…
But it doesn’t behoove the Wings to proceed in anything other than a patient and determined manner, and as fans, that means we’ve got to deal with the uncomfortable wait together.
To me, the “summer” doesn’t really start in terms of hockey news until I return home from the Wings’ summer development camp, and as I’ve been catching up on sleep, there’s one more sign of mid-July that’s popped up: Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall holds a charity hockey game every August to benefit the team which nurtured his growth from his childhood until his professional playing days, Jarfalla HC, and Aftonbladet’s Kalle Karlsson points us toward friend of TMR Marie Hallman, who reports that Kronwall’s charity game will take place on August 10th, that admission will be free, and that its participants include the following players, with more to come:
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Redwings
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit Redwings
Jacob Josefsson, New Jersey Devils
Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks
Niklas Grossman, Philadelphia Flyers
Tom Wandell, Dallas Stars
Patric Hornqvist, Nashville Predators
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Redwings
Mattias Nordstrom, ex Dallas Stars
Daniel Rudslätt, AIK
Dick Tärnström, AIK
Kronwall spoke to Hallman about Gustav Nyquist’s participation…
A player who many not be eying is Gustav Nyquist. The 22-year-old from Halmstad played in 18 games for Detroit this past winter, and Kronwall describes him as follows:
“An awesomely skilled guy with an intelligent game. Extremely skilled with the puck, strong in the corners. Though he’s quite small, he has tremendous ability to get out of the corners. He’s an extremely talented guy who has greatness inside him. Detroit has high hopes for him, and it’s fun when new guys come up [from the minor leagues] and make a name for himself, as he’s done.”
Kronwall also tells Hallman that he’s engaging in dry-land training with Djugardens IF’s trainer, and that he’ll get back on the ice in early August. Kronwall’s also scheduled to take part in one of the NHLPA’s briefings in Europe on August 6th and 7th, and he offers the following take on the CBA shenanigans:
“It’s a long process and the negotiations have just begun. I’m an optimist. I think all players want the season to get started on time,” says Niklas Kronwall.
Also of, uh, note: If you feel like chatting with the Detroit Free Press’s new shift disturber columnists, Jeff Seidel, he’ll be chatting on the Free Press’s website at 11 AM EDT today;
• And as Sportsnet’s Mark Spector takes offense at the concept that anyone could be offended by the NHL’s lowball-em-to-hell offer to the NHLPA, never mind dare to side with an icky player’s union, and the Delaware County Times’ Matt Chandik suggests that both the players and owners are being held hostage by dastardly general managers, the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin hopes that TV networks who air hockey programming will move off their, “Well, we’re in a holding pattern and we’ve got alternate plans just in case” stance to pressure the NHL to get to work…
Evidently, the smartest thing a broadcaster can do is not ruffle the NHL’s feathers with negotiations for a new national TV contract as Gary Bettman concludes another showdown with the players. Owners are under a gag order not to talk, and it would be prudent to do the same if you’re a TV network. One broadcast change from the 2004-05 lockout is there is a considerable TV component at play for the NHL if a lockout goes too far. Eight years ago, NBC, which had made no payments to the league for its rights, understood it might have no content and did not pressure the NHL for an early CBA settlement.
This time, the league has much invested in its partnership with HBO on 24/7, a sports-documentary program that leads into the much-ballyhooed Detroit/Toronto Winter Classic on NBC. For that series to go as planned, filming must start in late November or early December. Losing the HBO connection would be a blow to the prestige the NHL has built of late with its new initiatives.
That’s reminiscent of what happened in the 1994-95 lockout when Fox TV had paid a significant rights fee to start carrying games in January of 1995. The obligation to pacify its U.S. TV partner pushed the NHL to settle earlier than it wanted and, in some ways, created the conditions for the disastrous lockout 10 years later.
And this is just awesome:
Meanwhile, the leak of the CBA offer shows Bettman still grimly pursuing his 1990s Double E (expansion and equity) agenda of keeping a level playing field for all teams. Having come to salary caps later than everyone else (except Major League Baseball), the NHL has a single-minded determination to make the salary cap solution work. In this offer, Bettman seems intent on creating something akin to a North Korean controlled economy in hockey that keeps the true money earners and the twerps (i.e., the teams Bettman brought in via expansion) tightly bunched in mediocrity around a salary floor and ceiling.
Unfortunately for the NHL, the biz has moved on from the parity party. Sports today isn’t about expansion fees and equity. It’s about huge communications dollars seeking out broadcast properties to keep the current broadcast paradigm alive. Seeing the huge money available to sports that control their TV product, NCAA conferences such as the Pac 12 are starting their own networks. Regional MLB deals are vaulting to the $5-billion range (the estimated value when the Los Angeles Dodgers do their next regional deal).
What about parity? Won’t domination by the Yankees and Lakers turn off fans? English soccer’ TV product is dominated by five or six super teams, and it has never been more popular. The NBA is moving toward star-based teams in large markets, and ratings have never been better. The parity notion may sell for the Obama re-election campaign, but sports programmers have no desire to see the Carolina Hurricanes or Kansas City Royals win titles.
Pollyannas see the NHL offer as a first gambit from the league; those who’ve paid attention know that Bettman loves CBA hardball the way Donald Trump loves the comb-over. Pedal to the metal, baby. That vision stuff is for sissies. And why not? If you’d seen the players snap like balsa wood at the first sign of pressure in 2004-05, why would you assume that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr is going to make the hockey players any tougher negotiators this time?
The NHL is gambling that TV viewers who love hockey will once again put aside their favourite sport for an extended period of time so the league can try another stab at the sports industry paradigm Bettman encountered when he took over as commissioner in 1993. And he’ll be darned if he doesn’t get it right this time. He has the votes among owners to go long term. We could go on, but the NHL and its players will do that for us in the next months. In the meantime, get ready for ESPN Classics, 30 for 30 documentaries and Canadian movie of the week on Saturdays.
I’m as biased as can be, but in this big-market team’s fan’s opinion, parity sucks.
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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.