The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/10/12 at 07:32 AM ET
When one looks at Capgeek.com’s handy-dandy Red Wings salary chart, he or she can easily see that the Wings have three unrestricted free agents of note* to ponder re-signing in Jiri Hudler (out the door—more on this later), Brad Stuart (likely gone) and Tomas Holmstrom (probably pushed out by younger players, and no, Ty Conklin does not count as an “unrestricted free agent of note”) and three restricted free agents to re-sign in Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey.
The Wings plan to retain the services of each and every one of their restricted free agents, but the imminent collision of wild and wacky free agent asking prices under a temporary $70.3 million salary cap, and an almost inevitable reduction thereof under the next CBA, makes determining Helm, Abdelkader and Quincey’s “market values” somewhat difficult.
In theory, anyway, Quincey should expect to earn around the same $3.125 million salary he did last season, if not a little less, Abdelkader should expect a raise from his $850,000 to around the $1.25 million Patrick Eaves earned last season, and given his importance to the team, Helm may very well find himself earning a pretty significant raise on the $1 million he earned next season.
Just as importantly, the Wings want to keep the 25-year-old Helm and 25-year-old Abdelkader in the fold for as long as possible, so even if the CBA weren’t likely to undergo some of re-set, there’s no doubt that both players would qualify for unrestricted free agency next time around, so in an ideal world, the Wings’ brass finds a way to slot in Helm and Abdelkader as core players in line for long-term deals.
Ideally. How their contracts might play out, especially given that Helm seems to have earned the team’s 3rd line center’s job for the foreseeable future, and that Abdelkader’s very important as the pre-lockout Kirk Maltby to Helm’s Kris Draper, but has yet to really determine whether he’s more effective on the HEMI line alongside Drew Miller or perhaps more effective as a 4th line center, well, things might get a little messy.
In any case, even in an NHL where restricted free agent offer sheets are less than commonplace for players like Helm and Abdelkader, and teams are usually willing to work with their core “role players” to avoid nasty bouts of relationship-souring arbitration, the two may very well be the team’s first signings of the off-season.
Unless things get messy.
This chatter serves as a roundabout way of getting to the Free Press’s Helene St. James interview with Helm about his recovery from lacerated tendons in his right arm. As I’m not allowed to see movies like Prometheus due to icky-gucky-ucky stuff, I can only describe the scar on his arm, which was almost certainly made to allow surgeons to peel his arm open and fix what they needed to fix, as a “Harry Potter scar” and try not to look at the picture which accompanies St. James’ article for too long lest I thank the Hockey Gods that the six-inch surgical scar that is my throat opening and the foot or so worth of scar tissue that lines my sinuses is all internal…
Whoop, sorry, long morning. Anyway, Helm expects to fully recover from his injury, which is good, and yes, the whole salary thing does play into the equation:
It wasn’t until late May that he finally was released from a cast that involved having rubber bands looped through his fingernails to constrain movement. Helm learned to eat one-handed, but holding his 8-month-old daughter, Reece, was pretty much out of the question.
“It’s just nice to have it off,” Helm said while attending the May 31 retirement news conference for Nicklas Lidstrom. “My arm feels good—the strength is coming back, movement is coming back. It’s a little stiff—I was stuck in a cast for seven weeks, but to be able to use my fork in my left hand again is great, grab a cup of water. Hold my baby. It’s nice.”
Helm said doctors have told him he’ll fully recover. “Everything will be back the way it was—it’s already moving along pretty good right now. I just have some flexibility issues and strength issues, but that’s mostly just because I haven’t used my arm in six or seven weeks.”
This is a big summer for Helm, 25, a pending restricted free agent. Coach Mike Babcock repeatedly spoke of Helm’s value to the Wings late in the season and in the playoffs, saying he was the key to the success of the entire bottom-six group of forwards.
Helm is coming off a two-year, $1.825-million deal. He reached nine goals this past season as a knee injury limited him to 68 games, but he topped 10 goals in each of the previous two seasons.
His ability to contribute offensively while providing immense speed and tenacious forechecking and penalty killing makes for a nice package, and he could see his salary nearly double.
Yes indeedy, and the same can be said for Abdelkader. If we’re forecasting the length of deals, too, we can guess that Quincey’s going to get a 1 or 2-year deal because his future with the organization…Depends on him.
In free agent news, from wordy to precise (seems to be the theme of this entry), the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan takes the long route to talking about Zach Parise’s likelihood of testing the waters of unrestricted free agency:
“Zach’s game is so much more than the stat line,” [Devils coach Pete] DeBoer said when he was asked about Parise’s lack of offensive production in the Stanley Cup final. He’s the heartbeat of our team. He’s the identity of our team. He forechecks, he backchecks, he kills penalties, plays in all situations. He really is our barometer. He’s the guy that makes us go, whether he is scoring or not.”
Entering Game 5 of the final Saturday night, Parise had not registered a point against the Los Angeles Kings. He also didn’t score in the clincher versus the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final, putting him on a five-game skid.
Yeah, that changed on Saturday night. To the tune of a goal.
Parise is headed for unrestricted free agency July 1 and will be the prize catch among forwards, provided he does not re-sign with the Devils. His inability to make an impact on the scoresheet through the first four games of the final was something that had plagued the majority of his teammates thanks to a stifling Kings defence with goaltender Jonathan Quick as its backbone.
Jonathan Quick: “Oops!”
But it’s doubtful Parise’s dry spell would hurt his stock this summer. He is all of those things that DeBoer mentioned, and if Parise winds up in another uniform (for example, that of the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has lots of money to spend and likely will take a run at Nashville Predators defenceman Ryan Suter as well) there is no one on the Devils roster who could fill the captain’s role from a leadership standpoint.
• Okay, now that whole, “Cap going higher puts salaries out of whack” thing actually becomes relevant to free agents that may receive somewhat silly raises in terms of, well, one of the many reasons that the Wings won’t be able to retain Jiri Hudler, and why, if the team’s interested in Alex Semin, he may not receive a particularly large haircut off his $6.7 million 2011-2012 salary.
Ditto for several players which the Wings might be interested in if they can’t land Parise, as the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson notes in his massive Hockey World column:
— If David Jones got four years for $16 million from the Avalanche in Colorado, forsaking unrestricted free agent status, you can bet the New York Islanders’ P.A. Parenteau with 67 points last year, is dancing in the streets. Same with Detroit Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler and Dustin Penner, who is having a bang-up playoffs for the L.A. Kings after a miserable regular-season.
All of a sudden, the Wings’ $26.2 million in cap space (thanks to Capgeek for all these stats)
I’m gonna shrug my shoulders about this one, but note it just in case:
Do you think the Coyotes will qualify Gilbert Brule at $1.85 million to keep his rights, or let him become an unrestricted free-agent? He was in and out of their lineup in the playoffs. I can’t see Calgary qualifying Blake Comeau at $2.5 million, Minnesota qualifying Guillaume Latendresse, who has only played 27 games the last two years but says he’s finally healthy after concussion issues, and there’s no way the Panthers qualify Wojtek Wolski, who has squandered big talent and size at $3.8 million. If Latendresse is A-OK (nine points in 16 games this year), the Oilers should definitely take a run at him. They need big bodies on the wing, and they could sign him to a one-year deal with performance bonuses.
Yeah, Matheson doesn’t tend to make up rumors, but at this time of year, he seems quite intent upon positing means by which the team he covers (the Oilers) can easily improve themselves, because the Predators would totally trade Ryan Ellis to Edmonton now that they’ve got Roman Josi (I laughed when I read that).
This part of his column, however, is both important and seems to be evolving into something of a consensus among those who don’t stand to gain anything by making up rumors about marquee free agents who…The Oilers aren’t interested in:
I think Ryan Suter’s agent Neil Sheehy will see what the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild offer the Nashville D-man on July 1, and they’ll circle back to the Predators to see if they’ll match it like it was a Group 2 free-agent offer. Suter is a small-town guy (growing up in Madison, Wisc., playing in Nashville) and might not want to be in, say, Philly. Will Preds GM David Poile trade his negotiating rights prior to July 1 for a first-round draft pick (they don’t have one)? Maybe. The Preds gave up their first to the Buffalo Sabres for Paul Gaustad and the second-rounder for Hal Gill. They don’t pick until No. 66, early in Round 3.
Poile has stated that he’s not interested in trading Suter’s rights, but one never knows.
In any case, the “evolving into a consensus” part comes from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun’s “rumblings” column, penned on Friday:
No news on the Ryan Suter front in the wake of his daylong meeting in Madison, Wis., on May 31. But here is what I believe is going to transpire: UFA-to-be-Suter goes to July 1 and explores what’s out there on the market while keeping Nashville in the mix. Two years ago, Ilya Kovalchuk did this with New Jersey and ended up re-signing with the Devils.
Whether the Predators could match the kind offer Detroit is likely to lay out there, well, that’s another question.
Again, fans like you and me regrettably have no control whatsoever upon whether players like Parise and Suter plan on testing the market, but it’s certainly understandable that if one hasn’t re-signed with their team during the regular season, one might want to wait until July 1st to witness the lineup of Brinks trucks jockeying for position along the street leading up to a Parise or Suter’s summer home.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning: Go figure, the Detroit Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp makes a point about Detroit’s sports scene that kinda plays into that free agent equation before discussing the Tigers’ inability to live up to their preseason billing:
Of course, running away with hype is fun until somebody trips and loses an eye.
Hype should be harmless amusement, the result of a 24/7 sports media culture that needs something to write and rant about when there remains months before games are played. As far as Detroit is concerned, hype has become an airborne virus that should be avoided at all costs.
We’re generally not that kind of sports town, but Sharp does make a cogent point in suggesting that the Tigers were perhaps oversold as a powerhouse around the time that the Wings’ season was going off the rails in late February, and he believes that the Lions might suffer the same fate despite several players,’ um, let’s call them ill-timed decisions.
Which team did live up to its “hype?” Sharp cites only one example:
The last time any local team lived up to the enormous preseason national hyperbole was the 2002 “Hockey Gods” team that brought future Hall of Famers Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille together with the Red Wings’ already impressive stable of superstars. They won the Stanley Cup, but it required recovering from an 0-2 first-round deficit against Vancouver after the Wings lost twice at Joe Louis Arena.
That was 10 years ago.
Nothing the Wings’ front office does, short of—if you’ll pardon the Sharp-style use of mixed sports metaphors (which usually drives me nuts, because the man can’t talk about hockey without comparing it to another sport)—batting .1000 in drafting and magically landing marquee free agents for pennies on their salary-capped dollar offers. They can try, however, which is what this summer is all about, and that’s why Holland, Jim Nill, Jimmy Devellano, Mike Babcock and the pro scouts will be meeting at least once more before July 1st.
• Shifting from cross-sport talk to plain old cross-disciplinary talk, did the whole, “Nicklas ‘mother****ing Lidstrom” quip by Chad Smith offend you? I was surprised to receive a comment suggesting that a rock and roll star offering a unique middle name for the Wings’ exiting captain was nothing less than disrespectful, but I’m also the son of a probation officer, so hearing an f-bomb used to describe something or someone was akin to someone using the verb “to be” in a sentence. The Free Press’s Steve Schrader mentioned said exchange in his “news quiz”:
What musical act introduced Nicklas Lidstrom onstage with some salty language?
A) The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
C) The Perfect Human League.
D) Jim Leyland.
Folks, we follow a sport whose language is so salty it might as well be the Dead Sea. My career as a poor hockey player, as both an agitating forward and a mild-mannered goalie, involved using the f-word about 1/3rd of the time—I actually had a conversation with someone on Twitter about this—and if one were to dream up an HBO pay channel for uncensored hockey audio, I can promise you that you’d mostly hear curse words, one-to-three-word requests, imperatives or informative statements, and lots of heavy breathing. Sure, chatter between benches and after whistles, during scrums, might offer sentences with multiple clauses and colorful insults, but most of the time, hockey players are engaging in incredibly intense athletic activity, and the whole necessity of respiration thing means that there’s not much oxygen left to issue treatises on whether one’s opponent might be the product of inbreeding.
• In news related to Lidstrom which does not include swearing, Olympia Entertainment’s Facebook page is offering a poster signed by Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg to one of the FB users who signs up for Olympia Entertainment updates. If you’re comfortable giving them your first name, last name, date of birth and email address, rock on with your bad self.
And inevitably, after my usual 5 AM perusal of 40 websites offering news in Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Finnish and Russian (it’s a living), here comes the button:
If I had disposable income, I’d gladly fork it over to pay my own way to Traverse City, but limiting health-related factors yield a limited income, so I have to ask for your help in getting to Traverse City for the Wings’ summer prospect camp. If you’re able to lend a hand in terms of affording my stay from July 7-14, I’m about a quarter of the way there, but that leaves three quarters of the way to go.
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.
Thanks again, and I’m sorry I was so damn wordy this morning. I’m not sure why I blabbed as much as I did.
*And yes, the Wings’ decisions regarding re-signing RFA prospects Travis Ehrhardt and Logan Pyett, as well as their attempts to re-sign unrestricted free agents Fabian Brunnstrom (who wants to come back), Chris Conner (whose agent is canvassing European teams), Chris Minard (???), Jamie Johnson (???), Garnet Exelby (???) and Doug Janik, who presents something of a pickle as he signed an NHL-only contract that was all but miraculously exempt from re-entry waivers last season, all factor in as important in building the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Wings’ veteran depth for call-up purposes. My best guess is that Ehrhardt and Brunnstrom will re-sign, but I’m not sure if the Wings will even qualify Pyett, and from there on out, it’s just hard to say as AHL players tend to seek out other employers if they wish to earn bigger paychecks and/or secure full-time NHL employment.
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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.