The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/24/11 at 06:45 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings head into the first round of the NHL Entry Draft tonight (7 PM EDT, Versus/TSN; Saturday’s rounds 2-7 get underway at 11 PM EDT on the NHL Network and NHL.com) knowing their schedule for the 2011-2012 season, the salary cap figure ($64.3 million) for the upcoming season, eight picks to work with over the next two days—24th, 55th, 85th, 115th, 145th, 146th (thanks, Ville Leino), 175th and 205th overall—and as the Wings prepare to draft players who they acknowledge won’t have an impact upon the team any earlier than 3-5 years from now, they also know that, should they win the Jaromir Jagr sweepstakes, he can’t actually sign with an NHL team until July 1st because he played in the KHL last year.
And oh yeah, by the way, two of the Wings’ Western Conference rivals got a lot stronger after Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren traded
Mike Richards to an LA Kings team that wants to compete with Detroit’s depth down the middle and the Blue Jackets added Jeff Carter to the mix, making the Wings’ lives ever-so-slightly more difficult.
Did I mention that the Wings might make a trade to bolster their defense today or tomorrow, too? As USA Today’s Kevin Allen notes, Red Wings GM Ken Holland may be looking over assistant GM Jim Nill’s shoulder as Nill manages the draft, informing him that the Wings have snagged a Rafalski replacement:
The Detroit Red Wings are seeking a defenseman: Detroit needs to replace retired Brian Rafalski, but GM Ken Holland at least will look at what might be available for a trade before entering free agency.
And, of course, both Penguins GM Ray Shero, Holland and Jaromir Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, will talk contract turkey—or at least the Penguins (and possibly the Canadiens) probably will as Holland’s made his offer and is, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James reported, sticking to it:
The Jagr sweepstakes: With free agent Jaromir Jagr talking about returning to the NHL, there could be discussions this weekend, considering every team will be in one spot.
Holland had this to say to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about a possible trade—and as Kulfan notes, the Wings’ negotiations with Jonathan Ericsson might influence their decision-making process…
“Teams out there know we have a need and we have available cap space,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ve received some calls (from other teams). We’ll see where it goes.”
The Wings have several assets teams could be interested in. Forwards Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula could be expendable. But the Wings believe there’s untapped potential with Filppula, and Hudler’s stock is likely down around the league. So unless there’s a trade package that totally overwhelms the Wings, it’s more likely Holland will wait until July 1 and the start of unrestricted free agency to add pieces on defense (and at goaltending).
“We plan on being active,” Holland said.
But the Wings don’t plan on moving any picks (though they might trade down for two high second-rounders) as they look for the “best players available” today and tomorrow:
“They’ve become too valuable,” said assistant general manager Jim Nill, who runs the Wings’ draft table. “You need those young players in the salary cap era. You don’t see teams moving those picks.”
“That’s two less players [in the post-lockout draft], and two less assets over the course of that time every year,” Nill said. “It makes a big difference.”
The Wings pick 24th tonight. Nill feels after approximately the first 10 picks there’s a pool of 20 to 30 players that could become NHL players.
“It’s a deep draft,” Nill said.
Ohyeahbytheway: the Wings probably weren’t interested in free agent-to-be Andrei Markov because two consecutive ACL reconstructions failed to “take,” but he’s off the market as the Canadiens signed Markov to a 3-year deal...
And I’ll say this about the probability of the Wings moving someone in a trade:
1. It would actually be easier to move Hudler from a CBA standpoint as he has, per Capgeek.com, a $2.78 million cap hit and earns $3 million real-world dollars in the last year of his contract, while Filppula’s flat $3 million cap hit belies two years at $3.5 million per season remaining on his contract;
2. While Ken Holland is a consummate tire-kicker, it’s going to take a deal that not only makes sense for both teams involved but also won’t involve moving prospects if at all possible;
3. And while the team does want to retain their free agents-to-be in Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, Holland’s tendency, regardless of whether contract negotiations go well or poorly, is to look for replacements for the simplest compensation possible, and the simplest form of compensation in the NHL is to pay an unrestricted free agent money on July 1st or thereafter. The Wings will most likely find their replacement for Rafalski and, if necessary, Ericsson via the free agent marketplace, probably early on in the proceedings, and they may wait until later to determine whether the team can find an upgrade on Chris Osgood and/or Kris Draper, who won’t be informed of their Wings futures or the lack thereof until after the Wings explore the market.
Put simply, I’m sure that Holland will inquire as to what the asking prices are for players like Brent Burns, but based upon the Wings’ tendencies since the lockout, the team will probably pursue unrestricted free agents (and no, they’re not going to toss off offer sheets, either) instead.
4. It should go without saying, however, that the basis of what the Wings do in terms of signing players on July 1st and afterward might take root based upon, “Player X is available at Y dollars for Z years, are you interested?” negotiations with the agents of unrestricted free agents-to-be who are informally negotiating contracts without technically tampering…
Generally speaking, Holland and the Wings’ front office find themselves taking on two tasks at once, as Holland told the Free Press’s Helene St. James, in renovating Detroit’s roster while making sure that the team drafts its usual mix of players they, “Never thought would drop” to their draft position, smaller-but-skilled players who their opponents shy away from and the usual cast of unknowns:
“Since 2005, the draft is more important than it ever was,” Holland said. “You need players coming through your system. We traded a lot of picks from ‘95 to ‘03, but we had such a disparity in payroll that we could go out July 1 and spend money. Now, 20 teams at least in the league spend what we do on players, so we have very little financial advantage over a lot of teams.”
The payroll ceiling for 2011-12 is $64.3 million, an increase of nearly $5 million. That gives the Wings a lot of money to work with when free agency begins July 1, as they already had $6 million from the salary of Brian Rafalski, who retired. They currently have 17 players signed toward the 2011-12 roster, at a cap hit of nearly $48.1 million. Besides a high-end defenseman to replace Rafalski, the Wings are looking for a top-six forward and a backup goaltender. They’ll also look for role players if they don’t re-sign Patrick Eaves or Drew Miller.
Next season’s roster is going to be stocked at the very least by Jan Mursak, a sixth-round pick from 2006, and maybe Cory Emmerton, a second-round pick by the Wings from the same year. Defenseman Brendan Smith, a first-rounder from ‘07, is going to get every opportunity to make the team.mIt’s the only way to forge a team now that the free-spending days are gone.
“We’ve got to have a flow of players, because you can’t address all your needs via free agency,” Holland said. “We have to be more conservative with our draft picks.”
Holland said the Wings are going to focus on skaters, at least in the first few rounds.
“There are a couple of goalies that are going to go in the first round—if they slide to us, we’ll make a decision at the time,” he said. “But Jimmy Howard is 27. He’s signed for two more years. I think Jimmy can play in the league for 10 years. Thomas McCollum hasn’t progressed the way we’d hoped, but he just turned 21 in December.”
The Free Press also posted a list of draft-eligible players with local ties (this is a year where there aren’t many Michigan-born players in the draft but many play in the state or nearby) and a list of five important Wings picks who’ve made an impact (Kindl, Franzen, Howard, Abdelkader and Helm)...
And this is a repeat, but Jim Nill’s conversation with the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell was particularly intriguing because Nill suggested that it’s harder and harder to uncover draft gems as junior-aged players have begun to standardize their training at a near-professional level, and NHL teams’ approaches to scouting have become equally nuanced in the digital age:
“I think the biggest surprise at the (NHL) combines is that there’s no surprises anymore,” Nill said. “I can’t believe how worldly these kids are now. They’re 17, 18 and all grown up.”
In the case of scouting, more information seems to be making it harder to differentiate players. It used to be that, under prodding, scouts and GM’s could unearth the cracks and weaknesses in a player that were evident in watching him play.
“It’s made it a lot harder,” Nill said. “They’re all very polished and well schooled. They all know what the combines are. The world is so big, yet it (hockey world) seems so small now. No one walks in and you say, ‘Oh, boy.’ They’ve all got great stories.”
Nill said it would be easy to say player agents are behind this evolution, but this change goes beyond an agent just prepping his client for the combines and draft. Instead, Nill feels there have been structural changes in the sport that have affected players more dramatically.
“More kids are leaving home to play at 13, 14, 15,” Nill said. “They’re forced to grow up fast, to look after themselves at a younger age.”
“The game has grown worldwide,” Nill said. “All these kids have gone to play in Europe in high level games at a younger age. The Europeans, by the time they get to the combines, have all played four or five times in North America too. We know more about these kids, but it makes drafting harder. It’s harder to differentiate between them all.”
Also in the prospect development department, but in a slightly different vein, Grand Rapids Griffins GM Bob McNamara chose to leave the team after 15 seasons, telling the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema that the Red Wings want to streamline their decision-making process in terms of the Griffins’ player personnel, which means that, like most NHL teams, the Griffins will now take their marching orders from Jim Nill and the Wings’ front office. Griffins CEO Scott Gorsline explained the new working relationship between the teams to Zuidema:
“It’s always been a joint effort with the Wings, knowing that they’re the NHL affiliate and the AHL is really a developmental league,” Griffins chief operating officer Scott Gorsline said. “We’ve been proud of the success we’ve had. You only need to look at the Wings’ roster and see how many of those guys spent significant time in Grand Rapids, and that’s a testament to what Mac has done and the relationship we have with Detroit.”
Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill said McNamara was a big reason why Grand Rapids made a seamless transition to become Detroit’s minor league affiliate in 2002, and over the years they also built a strong relationship.
“He’s really enjoyed his role in Grand Rapids, but you come to a point where you want to become what your goal in life is, and I know Bob’s goal is to become a general manager some day of an NHL team,” Nill said. “To do that, he knows he’s kind of got to step out of the box a little bit and move on to different capacities. It’s tough, but I think it’s exciting for Bob. I think he’s ready for that new challenge and he’ll do a great job in whatever he does. He’s got a great hockey mind.”
Nill said the Red Wings will continue to support McNamara in any way they can. Other members of Detroit’s organization also have made successful moves to new teams, including Todd McLellan (San Jose coach), Paul MacLean (Ottawa coach) and Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay GM).
“Part of running a good organization is you want people to do well,” Nill said. “When you have people within your organization who want to move on and are striving to move on, you know that they’re bringing their best every day and that’s kind of our philosophy. It’s good for our organization and it creates opportunities for other people.”
As for whatever the heck we’re going to call the drama surrounding the Wings, Penguins and probably the Canadiens’ courtship of Jaromir Jagr, things get curiouser and curiouser. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe reported that Jagr finally had his long-anticipated chat with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, but the Penguins’ organization remains both a little skittish about signing Jagr and, at least according to the Pittsburgh press, unable to match whatever the Wings are offering ($2.5 million plus or minus bonuses?):
Jaromir Jagr spoke with Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux on Thursday, and sources said Lemieux came away encouraged by the conversation.
However, the Penguins have not made an offer and are not convinced the wing would be willing to return to the Penguins for less money than he could make elsewhere. Detroit also is interested and likely could offer the NHL’s ninth all-time leading scorer more money. If their intent is to sign the second-leading scorer in franchise history, the Penguins wouldn’t be able to officially add Jagr until July 1. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed yesterday that Jagr is ineligible to sign with an NHL team until July 1 because of a “blackout period” stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. Earlier this week, Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, indicated that he expects Jagr to sign with the Penguins or Red Wings before July 1.
Jagr can make his decision before July 1st, but he can’t put his signature on a contract before 12 PM EDT on Canada Day—and as Holland told St. James, if Jagr doesn’t want to sign with the Wings on July 1st, they’re going to move on.
On Wednesday, coach Dan Bylsma expressed interest in Jagr’s return, but there is debate within the organization about whether the 39-year-old still can be a top-six forward. Sources said general manager Ray Shero is not interested in paying much more than $1 million for Jagr’s services. The Penguins are committed to roughly $55 million toward the salary cap for next season, leaving them about $9 million to work with. Whether unrestricted free agents such as Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot and Mike Rupp and restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy return could hinge on the decision on Jagr, who has spent the past three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
“Long before I was in Pittsburgh, Jagr was an icon there,” Shero said Thursday. “So, I can understand people being interested in what’s going on.”
The unknown factor is Lemieux, Jagr’s former teammate and hockey idol. Jagr has been complimentary of the Penguins in recent years and in 2009 said he “owes my hockey life” to Lemieux.
So it’s aesthetics versus money to some extent, with the Penguins offering the return-to-the-beginning storyline that Jagr seems to be seeking versus the actual interest by and committed dollars that the Wings have offered him.
Shero spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari about his middling-at-best interest in the 39-year-old Jagr:
Ray Shero still has not offered free-agent right winger Jaromir Jagr a contract. Still hasn’t decided whether he will, actually. And while he would like to have Jagr’s status clarified before the start of free agency July 1, Shero, the Penguins general manager, has not set an unofficial deadline for knowing whether Jagr will have a place in his team’s plans for the 2011-12 season. Shero said Thursday evening that “there are some ongoing discussions, internally” about the plusses and minuses of pursuing Jagr, who has publicly expressed an interest in playing for the Penguins, but who also has said the idea of playing for Detroit appeals to him.
Shero and Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, have spoken two or three times during the past week and have tentative plans to talk today, although a family matter in the Czech Republic could prevent Svoboda from traveling here for the NHL draft, which begins this evening at the Xcel Energy Center.
Shero spoke with Jagr for the first time a few days ago—“We had a nice conversation,” he said—and Jagr spoke with Mario Lemieux, his longtime teammate and the Penguins current co-owner not long after that.
Lemieux, like Shero, was looking to get a feel for, among other things, Jagr’s motivation in returning to North America after spending the past three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Team officials declined an interview request for Lemieux, but Shero said he thought “it was a good conversation [for Lemieux and Jagr] to have.”
That does not mean Lemieux will play a significant role in determining whether the Penguins pursue Jagr or how much money they might ultimately be willing to offer him. Shero said Lemieux “asked me if I thought it would be a good idea to call” before doing so, and added that Lemieux never has gotten involved in personnel decisions, even though his input is solicited occasionally.
The idea of Jagr returning to the team with which he began his NHL career is intriguing to so many people because of his achievements during his first stint with the Penguins. He won two Stanley Cups, five scoring championships and a league MVP award. Then again, he will turn 40 in February, and how he would hold up under the 82-game grind of an NHL schedule is hard to predict. He proved as recently as the world championships, though, that he still can elevate his game, at least over a relatively short period.
“The pace [in the NHL] would be different,” Shero said. “The intensity would be different than he has experienced the last three years. But he’s still a pretty good player.”
I posted a Czech-language interview which Svoboda gave to Hockej.cz’s Vaclav Jachim yesterday morning. Svoboda engaged in another interview with Denik Sport’s Miroslav Horak this morning, and while he basically treads upon the same topics—and it bears repeating that Jagr was first intrigued by the possibility of playing in Montreal alongside his pal, Tomas Plekanec—but Svoboda offers a few more tidbits about his client.
Again, this is very roughly translated Czech…
A week ago the famous hockey player spoke on the phone with Mike Babcock, and Jagr jokingly complained that he felt like he was barraged by questions by the Red Wings’ coach.
“I had a similar conversation with Mike. Mostly, it shows you how the Red Wings’ organization operates. They want to be sure and want to know everything. What’s important is that the Red Wings’ interest in Jarda was strong before the interview with their coach and just as strong afterward. You know, Detroit’s foundation involves the fact that players hold each other to high standards of character. Jarda’s always been a true winner, but in recent years he’s added something extra. It’s not just about him achieving something great. He loves hockey, so even at 39 he’s playing wonderfully, and you can see that.”
But what about the fact that the NHL’s not entirely convinced [that Jagr can succeed]?
“There’s always doubt. If a player leaves the NHL for three years, logically, there will be questions and concerns from their side. There are similar questions from management and coaches who debate these issues. Whether you look at the return of Forsberg or other veteran players…For Forsberg, he was suffering from degenerative injuries, and accordingly, he struggled. While Jarda’s completely different. He’s healthy, in great shape, and in that sense he has a huge advantage over other players [who’ve returned to the NHL], and I have to admit that these issues are becoming less and less important. Teams are beginning to believe that Jarda Jagr’s still in fine form.”
Dominik Hasek strongly recommends that Jagr chooses Detroit. Does he take friendly advice from a friend into account?
“Jarda’s very receptive to all suggestions and recommendations, so the answer is yes. On the other hand, he has his own opinions, and he understands that after playing for three years in Russia, it’s not easy to come to the right decision. There aren’t any guarantees, anywhere.”
I still don’t quite see the fit in Pittsburgh. It would be an unprecidented story, if he went to a team that had Crosby and Malkin. Would a legend like Jagr fit into that club?
“If you’re strictly asking for my personal opinion, I see things similarly. It’s never easy to go back to an old, familiar place, but Malkin and Crosby are both incredible players and modest guys who would have no problem with Jarda coming.”
When he left the NHL, not everything written about Jagr was positive…
“Exactly so, but I say undeservedly. Even then I didn’t like some of the opinions about Jarda. I know him as a person and knew that writing was nonsense. But the fact is that people read those negative comments and registered them, and some uncertainty remains. I think that it’s a successful distraction, but now technology’s at a level that many people know what Jarda can still do.”
Also of Red Wings-related note, en masse: Don’t forget that on Sunday, June 26th, the inaugural Bob Probert Ride to benefit the Windsor’s Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital will take place in Windsor, ON, and mayor Eddie Francis has declared the day to be “Bob Probert Day.” The Windsor Star offers some details about the ride:
Inaugural Bob Probert Memorial Ride: In memory of No. 24, Bob Probert, The Enforcer, this event supports the Angioplasty program at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital. All riders will meet in front of Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital and await the arrival of Bob’s bike on a flatbed trailer. The ride will follow a scenic route through the city, waterfront and country settings. The ride finishes at Place Concorde with a meal and entertainment at the Bluesin’ ‘n’ BluesFest. All styles of bikes are welcome. Registration is $30 per rider and $20 per passenger. Pre-registration is today from 5-8 p.m. at Place Concorde, 7515 Forest Glade Dr. Call Kim Dendiuk Winger at 519-973-4411 ext. 3853 or visit probertride.com for online registration.
• Also in charitably-related news, per the Detroit News’s Alesia Cooper:
Former Detroit Red Wing Kirk Maltby will join neighborhood kids in building their first garden from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club of Troy, 3670 John R.
Youth members, their families, and local volunteers will plant fruit and vegetable garden beds, decorate take-home pots with seeds at the potting station, paint garden sticks to identify plants, and create smoothies with fruits from the garden at the smoothie station. Registration and volunteer breakfast begin at 8 a.m., followed by an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. and a closing ceremony at 1 p.m.
The garden is part of the Positive Sprouts organic gardening program, a national healthy lifestyles initiative between Amway and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. To volunteer for Saturday’s event, call (248) 689-1687.
• Also in charitably-related news, part 3: the Cambridge (Ontario) Times’ Bill Doucet reports that Todd Bertuzzi will take part in a charity hockey game to benefit Kids Can Play in Hespeler, ON on July 13th;
• Shifting focus to players with Wings ties, and sticking with the Bertuzzi family, the North Bay Nugget reports that Todd’s son Tag will be taking part in the prestigious Brick hockey tournament in Edmonton starting on July 4th;
• According to AnnArbor.com’s Pete Cunningham, former Wings defenseman Steve Chiasson’s son, Mike (who is also a defenseman), will play for the University of Michigan this season after starring for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers;
• You may have heard about one of Chiasson’s teammates: the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Roman Augustoviz highlights the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers’ newest recruits, whose ranks include an Omaha Lancers defenseman who the Red Wings drafted a year ago:
Another of the Lancers’ top players this past season was defenseman Ben Marshall, who played high school hockey for Mahtomedi through his junior year. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Red Wings last year and will be another of the incoming Gophers freshmen.
“[Ben] will be a lot of fun for Gophers fans to watch,” [Omaha coach Bliss] Littler said. “He got hurt at the Wings’ camp last summer but when he was healthy, he was as effective as any defenseman in the league.”
Marshall, coming off a broken left wrist, still had 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points for Omaha in 62 games. He was a plus-17 and had 152 shots on goal for the Lancers—only Ambroz had more. Marshall, 5-9, 170, has the ability to get out of pressure situations, Littler said, and create something out of harmless looking plays.
“People have always said he is little and can’t do this,” Littler said, “but he has succeeded at every level.”
• Also in collegiate hockey news, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke with Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard about his induction into the University of Maine’s sports hall of fame:
“I wasn’t really expecting any phone call like that this summer,” Howard said. “When my former coach at the university, Tim Whitehead, called and told me about it, I was sort of shocked.”
Howard’s career at Maine was just as astonishing. The Red Wings’ goalie played three seasons for the Black Bears, capped by a tremendous sophomore season when he led Maine to the NCAA national championship game against Minnesota in 2004. His sophomore year was also highlighted by a 63-save performance against Massachusetts in a triple overtime victory in the 2004 Hockey East title game.
“The first memory I have of playing for Maine was the first time I played in the rivalry game against the University of New Hampshire. It was so cool,” said Howard, the Red Wings’ second round draft pick in 2003. “I remember it was 1-1 heading into overtime and Marty Kariya scored about 20-seconds into overtime and the whole building just absolutely erupted. For the rest of the night the party light was on for the campus. That was my first experience where I was just blown away with college life. Obviously, the 63-save performance – pretty much my whole sophomore year was very memorable. I broke Ryan Miller’s goals-against in the NCAA. The whole run when we came up a little bit short was all a great experience.”
• Shifting focus back to the draft, USA Today’s Kevin Allen’s first-round rankings have a now-familiar name in Oscar Klefbom going to Detroit, while the Toronto Star’s Rob Longley believes that the Wings will draft Connor Murphy;
• According to the Guelph Mercury’s Tony Saxon, the Wings’ amateur scouts were interviewing possible prospects who’ve chosen to attend the NHL Entry Draft, speaking to Guelph Storm defenseman Andrey Pedan on Wednesday, and teams apparently interview players as late as today;
• And I don’t know how the hell to describe this one. Robin Leach—that Robin Leach—writes for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he posted several photos from the NHL Awards, including a lovely photo of the Lidstrom clan and, um…
Criss Angel and Ted Lindsay posing together. Seriously.
Yeah, I’ve got nothin’...
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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.