The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/19/11 at 08:30 AM ET
Updated: Ilari Filppula has re-signed with Jokerit Helsinki: Amongst the Red Wings’ unrestricted free agents-to-be, the best in terms of his willingness to be a “good solider” and fill whatever role the team asks him to, including sitting out games on occasion, has to be Drew Miller. The Free Press’s Helene St. James believes that Miller’s status as a “glue guy” who contributes whenever he plays merits re-signing, even with a bit of a roster glut in the making thanks to the likely re-signing of the indispensable penalty-killer that is Patrick Eaves and Jan Mursak’s graduation from the AHL:
Miller, 27, fits into the Wings’ plans for next year, though as always it comes down to price, and the Wings want to keep Patrick Eaves, another valuable role player. Jan Mursak, who impressed while called up from the minors this past season, is penned in as a regular in Detroit next season. There already are 10 forwards under contract, but the Wings are likely to move at least one as they seek to improve.
Miller’s the guy every team needs in the salary-cap era, a utility man who fits in on most lines. The Wings acquired him in November 2009, claiming him off waivers from Tampa Bay. A sixth-round pick of Anaheim’s in the 2003 NHL draft, Miller spent part of two seasons with the Ducks before playing 14 games for the Lightning in fall of ‘09.
After the Wings’ season ended, Miller, who’s from East Lansing and played three years at Michigan State, spoke of how he hopes to keep the moving boxes at bay.
“This was the first season I stayed in one place,” he said. “I’d been in the minors, up and down, up and down, and then picked up off waivers. This was my first year I didn’t stay in a hotel at all. It was nice not to have to move. Hopefully we can work something out. I’d definitely like to stay—I mean, it’s a great organization here. They have a lot of depth, but that’s what happens when you have a good team.”
Interesting that St. James suggested that the Wings may move one of their forwards in a trade. I understand that Valtteri Filppula has more trade value than Jiri Hudler at the moment, but if the Wings were to move Filppula, they’d lack a second-line center when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg play together, and I can’t see the Wings trying to fill one void by creating another. Filppula’s playoff performance probably earned him another season as well, so while the Wings said all the right things about Hudler bouncing back from a rough return to the NHL, it appears that Hudler’s the player they’re going to move.
That’s just a guess, however, though the relative shallowness of this summer’s free agent crop seems to suggest that a trade might provide a better return in terms of trying to add more size and speed on the wing.
The Wings probably won’t add a defenseman, however, unless Nicklas Lidstrom retires and/or Jonathan Ericsson chooses not to re-sign with the team, and I did a little bit of digging to confirm that yes, Ericsson did decline the $2 million contract MLive’s Ansar Khan reported that the Wings offered him, but at the same time, the Wings remain much higher on Ericsson than fans are, and, moreover, Ericsson really wants to stay in Detroit.
Ericsson’s father, Sven, spoke to Folkbladet about his son’s status, offering the classic “hockey dad’s” take on his son’s contractual prospects…
Sven Ericsson, Jonathan’s father, took the news [of Ericsson declining Detroit’s contract offer] with a grain of salt.
“Yes, I know that Jonathan had been given an offer, a first draft back in Feburary, and he and his agent weren’t too pleased with it.”
“His agent said he could get at least double as good a deal from another team, and they haven’t talked to the [Wings] since then. I don’t think it’ll be solved before the middle of the summer.”
The 27-year-old is playing on a team that teems with superstars. The salary cap in the NHL also plays a rule in contract negotiations.
Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg all have long-term and gold-lined contracts.
“It’d be different if he was a superstar, then he’d be more concerned with his surroundings, but that’s not how it works,” says Sven Ericsson.
“Hockey dads” and hockey players aren’t necessarily on the same page when it comes to negotiating contracts, however, and Ericsson himself told Norrkoping’s Tidningar’s Johnny Daagh that the situation’s dire by any stretch of the imagination:
“I don’t get it. I’ve received lots of SMS messages [text messages] from friends at home about this, but we haven’t even begun negotiations. I just had an exit interview with Ken Holland (the general manager) yesterday, and he said he’d contact my agent at the beginning of June. That’s all that’s happened,” says Jonathan Ericsson to NT-sport.
He’s played for five years in Detroit, and wants to stay on the Swedish team.
“It’s not a secret that I could earn a bigger salary on another team, but I want to remain here. I want to play on a great team that has a chance to win something,” he says.
So Big E may not be your favorite player, but he wants to make it work with the Wings, and they seem to want to keep him.
Also in the Swedish-language vein, Aftonbladet’s Bjorn Forsgren reported that restricted free agent Dick Axelsson, who will at least be tendered a qualifying offer so that the Wings can retain his rights, appears to want to remain in the Swedish Eliteserien, and as such, he visited Skelleftea AIK (the team Axelsson and Farjestads BK defeated in the Eliteserien final) and met with their coach and general manager.
Axelsson confirmed to both Norran.se’s Elin Ala and Expressen’s Henrik Sjoberg that he was wined and dined by Skelleftea, and he says that he’s both declined contracts from several teams (including Farjestad, and, according to Sjoberg, HV71) and that he plans on making a decision as to where he’ll play next season by “early next week.”
He’s being tight-lipped about the details of his talks with Skelleftea, however, which is very rare for Dick, and as Sjoberg notes, MoDo Ornskoldsvik has also made a bid for Axelsson’s services, so he’s a hot commodity.
MoDo hired Markus Naslund as their GM after having to battle just to stay in the league via relegation play, and they’re making a bid for Maple Leafs forward Fredrik Sjostrom as well, while Farjestads BK, ironically enough, has contacted Fabian Brunnstrom (per NWT.se’s Per Martensson).
In promotional news, part 1: Per the Detroit Free Press:
With no linesmen around, you can’t keep these guys apart.
Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux — who signed autographs together last month in Mt. Clemens — are reuniting again for a meet-and-greet at a June 10 VIP dinner at Detroit’s Rub BBQ.
The poster for the event features an unholy melding of Red Wings and Avalanche logos. Ugh.
But it’s for a good cause, the Thin Blue Line of Michigan. Tickets are $75 at 313-964-0782 or rubbbqdetroit.com.
The Detroit Chapter of TiE, welcomes former Detroit Red Wing Doug Brown to The Westin-Southfield on Monday, May 23, 2011. Brown will speak about what it means to be a great leader and how to create a winning team.
6 pm - Networking and Introductions
7 pm – Former Detroit Red Wing – Doug Brown
• What does it mean to be a Great Leader?
• Creating a “team” that can outplay all its competitors
• Q & A
8 pm - Close Meeting
Brown is a former NHL right wing. After playing four seasons with Boston College, Brown played for the New Jersey Devils in 1986. In 1987 he won the New Jersey Devil Rookie of the Year Award and set the team record for most shorthanded goals. Brown joined the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 1993-1994 season. He then joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1995 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998 before retiring in 2001.
Online registration before May 23, 2011 is $30 for non-members. TiE Detroit Members and students with valid identification are free. Complimentary appetizers will be served; cash bar.
TiE (The Global Network of Entrepreneurs) is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurs internationally and is sponsored by top Venture Capital Firms and Fortune 500 corporations. The organization extends across 13 countries with 56 chapters, 2,400 experienced entrepreneurs and business executives as charter members, 12,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals as members. TiE has grown to become the world’s largest nonprofit organization for entrepreneurs. Learn more about the TiE Detroit chapter at www.detroit.tie.org.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Detroit News sportswriter Gregg Krupa spoke to WBBL on Wednesday, and Krupa believes that the Red Wings need to find another goal-scoring forward this summer, and he believes that the Wings will have to make a trade to find one, though he’s not quite sure who they’d target. He does believe that the team will try to retain Ericsson, depending on his salary demands, and he believes that Chris Osgood will return as he’s still a capable player and Jimmy Howard’s mentor.
Overall, he thinks that the team will turn over 2-3 players—but he also makes a boo boo in suggesting that if the Wings trade Hudler, they might be on the hook for part of his salary, and that’s simply not true in the NHL. When you trade a player, his salary’s off your books, period.
• Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman spoke to the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson about his attempt to build a “grind line” in Tampa Bay…
Yzerman also learned one thing during his two decades in Detroit - the Red Wings always had good role players like Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Martin Lapointe and Darren McCarty. The Lightning has Moore, Bergenheim and Steve Downie - the best third line in the playoffs with 32 total points. Downie has 12 points, four behind St. Louis and Lecavalier for the playoff scoring lead, while Bergenheim’s eight goals is tops in the NHL. Moore has 10 points.
“These guys didn’t play much together in the regular season, but they’ve been a really effective line in the playoffs,” Yzerman said. “The one thing they have in common is they compete hard. That’s significant. People who succeed in the playoffs do that. The guys I played with in Detroit were all extremely competitive, and the stronger you are at the bottom end of your roster, the better you are. With injuries, guys who play 10 minutes have to play 15. Or 15 turns into 20.”
• Via RedWingsFeed, congrats to Nick Barnowski for winning the Red Wings’ High School Journalist contest;
• As an FYI, Newsday’s Katie Strang reports that short-term Wing Evgeni Nabokov will report to the New York Islanders’ training camp;
• ClickonDetroit posted a 29-image gallery of the Joe being “cleaned up” after the Wings’ locker-room clean-out on Saturday, which is a bit of a bummer;
• And it’s time for me to provide some “buzzkill” regarding the personnel meanderings I’ve read of late.
I truly believe that Krupa’s got it down in terms of the number of personnel changes, plus or minus one—assuming that Nicklas Lidstrom returns, which is a pretty safe bet, the Wings aren’t going to make a significant revision to their roster.
Ken Holland and Mike Babcock’s end-of-the-season comments strongly indicated that the team believes that it’s time to tweak, not make gigantic, wholesale changes. This team believes that growth from within and a few tweaks are all that’s necessary, and they won’t let go of Ericsson, Miller, Eaves, or even Osgood, Draper and Salei without some serious thinking.
At this point, it appears that, should contract negotiations go decently, the Wings would prefer to keep Ericsson, keep Miller and Eaves, add Mursak to the roster and probably both keep Osgood on as their back-up and at least allow Kris Draper to fight for his job against Miller, Eaves, Mursak and Cory Emmerton during training camp, just as Kirk Maltby did last season.
Perhaps moreover, the team won’t be asking Nicklas Lidstrom to take a pay cut—Draper and Osgood may be asked to take haircuts to accommodate Miller and Eaves’ raises, but I don’t see the Wings asking someone who posted 62 points to take anything less than the $6 million that Brian Rafalski is making.
I don’t see the team being particularly active in the free agent market, either, as it’s so ridiculously thin this year that the Brooks Laichs of the world might be able to score a $3.5 million payday and Tomas Kaberle, crappy play in Boston included, could get $5-6 million as he, James Wisniewski (who’s in line for a similar salary given the lack of quality defensemen out there) and Andrei Markov are the only real marquee defensemen out there.
Yes, it’s probable that the Wings will find a #6/7 defenseman (and Doug Janik, at $512,500 and on a one-way NHL contract, is the cheapest option), and yes, it appears that, at least per the Wings’ beat writers, the team may be inclined to trade one of Filppula or Hudler, probably Hudler, to find someone who can provide a little more speed and a little more size on the forecheck…
We have to remember that a) the salary cap might not go up from $59.6 million this season; b) the team is relatively happy with players who we tend to believe that they should let go or “bury in the minors”; c) the Wings have to account for the fact that nobody is going to be willing to help them (I’ve seen ridiculous suggestions that, for example, the Wings should trade Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Jiri Hudler/Valtteri Filppula/Tomas Tatar and a first-round draft pick to Atlanta for Zach Bogosian, and, regrettably, you can bet that that’s the kind of return Rick Dudley will suggest is commensurate for Bogosian’s services, and that’s a deal the Wings would never make) in terms of a trade or “hometown discount” free agent signing; d) and the bottom line is that the Wings are, as previously stated, neither willing to mortgage their future, their blue-chip prospects, a first-round draft pick or create a gaping hole in one roster spot to fill another. And no, their neither going to buy anyone out, nor will they do something rash like send a contributing player to Grand Rapids for the sake of clearing cap space to make a gigantic move.
The Wings move conservatively, they believe in continuity and growth from within and they believe that it’s most prudent that, should they not find a draft-day trade that is palatable, they should wait until late July or early August to shop from the unrestricted free agent bargain bin, looking for a reclamation project (see: Patrick Eaves) or an older player with something to prove (see: Ruslan Salei, Mike Modano, Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, Chris Osgood) to find the most bang for their salary-capped buck.
In other words, if you look at the forwards or defensemen or goaltenders who are out there, the Marek Svatoses and Freddy Meyers out there are more likely signings than Brooks Laichs or Shea Webers, for example.
If you want to play GM, take a gander at Capgeek’s roster chart and play with the Cap Calculator a bit, dream to your heart’s content, but understand that, at most, the Wings would wave goodbye to Draper and Osgood, not re-sign Ericsson, and sign a top-nine forward (emphasis on top nine as opposed to top six), trade Filppula or Hudler for a top-nine forward, sign a #5/6 defenseman and a back-up goaltender, and stop there, and I really don’t see them doing that much.
Tweaks, not wholesale changes, and subtle moves, not huge hole-creating and future-mortgaging trades or signings are the Wings’ kinds of moves. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but in reality, the Wings do not make change for change’s sake, they do not believe in making significant roster revisions unless their hands are forced by free agency (see: Hossa, Samuelsson, Conklin and Hudler leave and Howard graduates from Grand Rapids and Williams, Bertuzzi, Eaves and Miller are signed), and they do not believe in saying goodbye to veterans unless, in doing so, they’d lose big parts of their future (like Kindl and Mursak). That’s the bottom line.
When Babcock says that the team doesn’t want to turn their backs on Ericsson, Hudler or players who are “vested in the company” like Osgood and Draper, that the team wants to get 1 or 2% better, as he told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell, and that Holland says after the Wings’ Game 7 loss that a healthy Johan Franzen and not losing Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary would have been enough for the team to be traveling to Vancouver, that tells you all you need to know about the team’s plans in terms of player personnel.
Update: Per Iltahleti and YLE, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ leading scorer, Ilari Filppula, has signed a 4-year contract with the team he left to try to make the NHL, Jokerit Helsinki of the SM-Liiga. Jokerit Helsinki’s official website confirms.
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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.