The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: regarding Frk, Abdelkader, the CBA, Swedish charity hockey games and OCD
by George Malik on 08/01/12 at 04:45 AM ET
Certain things have reminded me that I’m in the middle of an all-too-short vacation, including having to buy half a gazillion 12-packs of Diet Coke to last the mom for two days, my Uncle Joey proving that there’s no wood wet enough that a quart of lighter fluid can’t turn into a fire, staying up far too late at said fire, and having to tell the boss that this Tweet from RedWingsFeed and one of the Wings’ best employees means that he’s got to post something as I’ll be in the middle of a national park with no cell phone reception (Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore) when this happens:
DRW Promotional schedule will be public tomorrow. 25 giveaway nights including 9— Ayron (@ayronatthewings) July 31, 2012
@fathead Fridays, 6 Bobblehead and 5 very cool kids nights
But the fact that I did so out of concern for an interruption in coverage, and the fact that I wanted to tear myself away from my family to edit the Martin Frk signing post to chastise myself about making a simple “vacation” mistake—Frk will turn 19 in October, and players born after September, 1993 have to be signed by June 1st of 2013, not 2014, so the Wings knew in drafting Frk that they’d have to fish or cut bait in a hurry, thus yielding the early signing—reminded me that my jokes about being an OCD blogger are jokes not devoid of truth.
The Detroit Red Wings have signed Halifax Mooseheads forward Martin Frk to a three-year entry-level contract.
The forward from the Czech Republic was the team’s top pick in June’s NHL entry draft, taken in the second round, 49th overall.
In two seasons with the Mooseheads, Frk has tallied 38 goals and 79 points in 96 games.
Frk will earn $2.1025 million in base salary over three years if he plays at the NHL level and $67,500 per season if he plays at the American Hockey League level.
His contract also includes $277,500 in signing bonuses over the next three years plus an additional $10,500 if he returns to the Mooseheads next season.
The Wings like what they’ve seen of Frk, however, so, as MLive’s Brendan Savage noted, the team made an educated decision:
He was projected to be a first-round pick after finishing fourth among QMJHL rookies with 22 goals and 28 assists in his first junior season, which was followed by strong showings in the World Juniors and Under-18 Championships.
But he missed four months last season after suffering a preseason concussion, played in just 34 regular-season games and his draft stock plummeted.
Nonetheless, the Red Wings were surprised he was still available when it was their turn to pick in the second round of the draft.
“Before the season I believe he was a top-15 pick,’’ Red Wings’ director of player development Jiri Fischer said after Frk was drafted. “This year, maybe even more so he was going to be under the microscope, playing with Nathan MacKinnon (the potential 2013 No. 1 overall pick). Every shift, he works, works, works. He really can finish. He’s got a good shot. He can play the point on the power play. He can find loose pucks around the net. He’s relentless on the forecheck.’‘
After being drafted, Frk said he hopes to reach the NHL within three or four years. He’ll return to Halifax this year for a third season, according to the Red Wings website.
Fischer helped coach Frk as a member of the Czech under-20 team at the World Championships, so the Wings did indeed do more than guesswork in estimating Frk’s abilities despite an injury-shortened draft year.
In what I’ll loosely describe as contractual news with a charitable bent, MLive’s Peter J. Wallner spoke to the Wings’ lone restricted free agent, Justin Abdelkader, as he took part in the Grand Rapids Griffins’ youth hockey camp on Tuesday (a six-image photo gallery accompanies the story), and while Abdelkader didn’t talk about the contract extension he has yet to sign with the Wings, he did talk about the role he expects to play with the team…
Abdelkader, who was at a hockey camp in Detroit last week and will be involved in another in Adrian next week, played hockey a little longer than his Detroit teammates last season. After the Red Wings were bounced in the first round, Abdelkader accepted the team’s invitation to play for Team USA in the IIHF World Championship in Helsinki, Finland. He was joined by teammate goaltender Jimmy Howard.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It wasn’t so great the circumstances (with the Red Wings’ elimination) but it was a great opportunity. I got a lot of good playing time and a chance to prove myself against some top level guys.”
The U.S. bowed out in the quarterfinal round. Abdelkader was named the U.S. player of the game in a 5-3 victory against Belarus in the preliminary rounds.
Abdelkader’s play may have also helped his stance with the Red Wings, who, outside of small and scrappy forward Jordin Tootoo, failed to land a high-profile free agent. With Tomas Holmstorm’s future uncertain, the Red Wings may rely on more youth up front.
That may put the 6-foot-1, 219-pound Abdelkader in a different role. He had eight goals and 22 points and 58 penalty minutes in 80 games last season.
“I see it as more of the same,” he said. “I’m going to continue to prove my game and help out more and bring a physical force to the ice.”
And in perhaps less cheery contractual news, my one giggle while I was fidgeting and checking my cell phone every twenty minutes for Wings news came in the form of Paul’s post about Tuesday’s CBA negotiations, because the NHL finally fleshed out its CBA proposal with an owner-friendly revenue-sharing plan, and while NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr felt that the PA still needs t understand how the NHL’s initial proposal will work going forward, as he told the Sporting News’s Jesse Spector, one Gary B. Bettman finally broke character and had a mini hissy fit about the NHLPA’s uber-thorough ways:
Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHLPA, left Tuesday’s CBA negotiating session early to fly to Europe and update players there on the union’s talks with the NHL. The league gave him plenty of reading material.
Late Monday night, commissioner Gary Bettman said, the NHL turned over 76,000 pages of financial documents at the NHLPA’s request. Fehr said it was only a “small portion … with the vast and overwhelming majority yet to come” of the data the union expects to receive, and since the NHLPA does not plan to make its first CBA counterproposal until reviewing the full package of information, the only concrete point to work from remains the league’s first offer from nearly three weeks ago.
That initial proposal included a cut in the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent, with other modifications that are unpalatable to the union.
“We had a discussion (Tuesday) about how the players react to the proposals that would modify the terms under which players negotiate individual contracts,” Fehr said. “Things like 10-year unrestricted free agency, elimination of salary arbitration, limitation of contract length and so on. We talked about that for a while, and it will come as no surprise that the players are not enamored with those kinds of limitations.”
At this point, all the players have is dissatisfaction with the league’s initial proposal, with the only basis for comparison being the current system—one that clearly has worked for a union that is willing to continue to play under it, but not for a management side that does seem to be getting somewhat agitated by the fact as the calendar flips to August, with the CBA’s expiration set for Sept. 15, there is no ETA for the NHLPA’s CBA. It is a bitter alphabet soup.
“For the last seven years, they’ve been getting financial information on a regular basis, subject to verification through the agreed-upon procedures under the collective bargaining agreement,” Bettman said. “In addition, we made a substantial financial data dump five months ago, and they had, I think, auditors go in to do some procedures with at least half of the clubs over the last year. So, the union has, for quite some time, had substantial financial information. They have given us, recently, some additional financial information and other information requests, most of which we don’t understand the relevance to, but which we have been producing. Last night, we gave them the first installment, which was 76,000 pages of information, pursuant to their request.”
After my giggle and a, “*#$%@& you, Gary,” I do have to admit that Spector’s take on the NHL’s likely revenue-sharing plan is worrisome…
“We think we’ve taken steps to make it more inclusive,” Bettman said, although the commissioner said the league’s proposal is “actually quite similar” to the current revenue-sharing system.
If there is reason for fans to start to worry, beyond the ticking clock in the absence of an NHLPA counterproposal, that may be it. Simply changing the share of hockey-related revenue is only a short-term fix, as big-money teams continue to find new ways to rake it in, expanding the league’s overall bottom line.
Per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, welcome to the, “This is where the PA’s lawyers will make their money,” and, “This is where the hard work begins,” Chairman Mao (I will not embed the video of Bettman growling—you can watch that on your own):
“They have asked for an exhaustive amount of information,” Commissioner Bettman said. “We think they have plenty of financial information. They’ve had it on an ongoing basis as a union for years; but, having said that, we are doing our best to comply with all of their requests for information—whether or not we think they are relevant, as quickly as possible. But, as you can understand, if we have produced 76,000 pages in a short period of time and we’re gathering it from the 30 clubs and the League office, there is a lot of work to do in a short period of time.”
Fehr said the PA has just begun to digest the information the NHL produced Monday.
In addition to the NHL completing its proposal Tuesday, Fehr said the full committee meeting included discussion on how the players feel about the NHL’s proposals to modify player contracts. The NHL’s proposals made July 13 reportedly include an increase in the eligibility for unrestricted free agency from seven years in the League to 10 years, a five-year term limit on contracts, and the elimination of salary arbitration.
“We let them know that as a general matter, players are not enamored with the proposals they made that would restrict player bargaining power on individual contracts,” Fehr said.
Kinda intriguing that the NHL’s admitting the details of its proposal after the fact, eh?
So Fehr’s off to brief the NHLPA’s European members, Niklas Kronwall included, in Barcelona and Moscow, but small-group discussions over the “guts” of the CBA that both parties can agree upon will continue tomorrow:
Additional sub-committee meetings are scheduled for Wednesday at the League’s offices.
In the negotiating session Tuesday, The NHL was represented by Commissioner Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Senior V.P. of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke, Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford, and legal counsel.
The NHLPA was represented by Fehr, Special Counsel Steve Fehr, General Counsel Don Zavello, Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, Director of Operations Alex Dagg, and 11 players: Craig Adams (Penguins), Dan Cleary (Red Wings), B.J. Crombeen (Lightning), Mathieu Darche (unrestricted free agent), Shawn Horcoff (Oilers), Steve Montador (Blackhawks), George Parros (Panthers), Cory Schneider (Canucks), Kevin Westgarth (Kings), Ryan Whitney (Oilers) and Keith Yandle (Coyotes).
“All of our proposals are on the table,” Commissioner Bettman said. “I believe there is ample time to make a deal by Sept. 15.”
According to the AP’s Lynn deBruin, talks will resume next week after Fehr comes back from Moscow, but the PA’s still less than delighted with the set of parameters the league is giving them to work with…
While both sides acknowledged negotiations are amicable and constructive, Fehr said players clearly are “not enamored” with proposed limitations on contract lengths and a clause that would force them to wait longer before becoming unrestricted free agents. Fehr wouldn’t even say if he is encouraged by the revenue-sharing proposal.
“We haven’t evaluated the changes from current revenue sharing to determine whether we think it’s the appropriate thing to do or if it misses the mark in some respect,” Fehr said.
And as the clock does indeed start ticking—with, as deBruin notes, ultimate ironies in the room in Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold and Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford among the Board of Governors’ representatives…
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he believes there is “ample time to make a deal” now that all league proposal are on the table. The NHL canceled the entire 2004-05 season before the current collective bargaining agreement was finally reached seven years ago.
Fehr declined comment on the pace of the current negotiations.
“All I’ve said is Sept. 15 is not a magic date unless someone wants to make it so,” Fehr said. “There’s nothing that happens on Sept. 15 if we don’t have an agreement, provided nobody says we’re going to go on strike or says we’re going to lock the doors.”
There is good news of a sort:
While various subcommittees have discussed everything from ice conditions and player pensions to grievance procedure in past sessions, core economic issues are now at the center of the talks.
Players currently receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenues, and reports indicate the initial league proposal on July 13 asked that it be reduced to 46 percent. The owners want to extend rookie contracts to five years from the current three, and they want to cap all contract lengths at five years.
So now the PA gets to work digesting the NHL’s financial disclosures (expect quite a bit of that having to do with the league’s desire to change the definition of “hockey-related revenues” to further subtract from the players’ share), as the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts notes (and you might want to check out Sports Illustrated’s Stu Hackel’s exhaustive and excellent take on the revenue-sharing debate as a backgrounder)...
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the players are not yet in position to make a counterproposal to the owners. They need to study the owners’ proposal on revenue sharing as well as the large amount of information they turned over first.
“We haven’t evaluated the changes from current revenue sharing to determine whether we think it’s the appropriate thing to do or if it misses the mark in some respect,” Fehr said Tuesday.
The NHLPA’s clearly closer than not to making a counter-proposal, and Danny Cleary told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that all that paperwork will help flesh that proposal out:
“The one thing for us is, we’re waiting on audits from each team so we can go over the numbers,” Cleary said Tuesday. “They started to come in last night, and once we get those in—that’s the biggest thing so far. We can’t really look at revenue sharing till then.”
Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader are the Wings’ PA representatives, but any player can represent his team at these meetings. Cleary, 33, went because “it’s important to have veteran presence there, and to represent Detroit. It’s not too far to go, either; the meetings are usually either in New York or Toronto.”
The last time the CBA neared an expiration date, an agreement didn’t materialize by the deadline, owners locked out players, and the ‘04-05 season was lost. The major battle then was a salary cap, which the owners ended up getting. This time, revenue sharing is going to be bandied about with equal vehemence.
With six weeks to go, Cleary acknowledged, “there’s going to be a little more urgency in August. As a player, you’ve got to be optimistic. It’s hard to say. I really don’t know. But it was a good meeting, and we definitely have the right people in place.”
How are things going to shake out when the PA makes its counterproposal? Probably not well initially, as the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein, who’s predicting a lockout, suggests…
The revenue-sharing piece is a key part of negotiations. While the owners’ proposal hinges on cutting the players’ split of revenues and treats modest revenue-sharing among the 30 clubs as a secondary component, the union’s initial offer is expected to make more extensive revenue-sharing among clubs the centerpiece.
Bettman and the owners have proposed cutting the players’ share of overall income from the current 57 percent to 46 percent — or 43 percent, by the union’s estimate, after proposed ownership revisions in what makes up hockey-related income.
Based on last season’s $3.3 billion in revenues, that proposal amounts to a transfer of $425 million transfer to the owners from the players. That would represent a 24 percent pay cut in players’ salaries — the same percentage that players gave up in agreeing to a salary cap after the 2004-5 lockout.
The union is not expected to agree to giving up any percentage of its split of revenues. However, its proposal will probably be based on a far more extensively revised revenue-sharing plan among teams. That plan is expected to address the problems of a half-dozen or more money-losing clubs that would benefit from greater revenue-sharing.
Under the current plan, only 10 teams can receive revenue-sharing money from the league’s richest clubs. There are restrictions that prevent cash-poor teams like the Islanders from receiving revenue-sharing funds, because they are in a media market with more than 2.5 million households. Further restrictions lower the amount of money some clubs can receive.
The Players’ Association staff includes Steve Fehr, Donald’s brother, whose role includes working up a revenue-sharing proposal. Steve Fehr helped shape the revenue-sharing plan used in Major League Baseball in various forms since 1994. Baseball’s revenue-sharing system is credited with helping low-revenue teams stay solvent.
After the negotiating session Tuesday, Fehr left for Barcelona, Spain, and Moscow, where he will brief the N.H.L.’s European-based players on the negotiations. He said other union officials would continue talks with the league in New York on Wednesday, and again next week.
As the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts suggested on Monday night, a serious revenue-sharing plan may break some of the solidarity the owners are currently bringing to the table, and as such, will likely give the players enough leverage to start talking about a middle ground between theirs and the owners’ proposals. That’s key if we’re talking about avoiding a lockout, and that’s why these audits are relevant in every way, shape and form.
I’d point you to the New York Daily News’s Pat Leonard’s blog entry on Tuesday’s meetings for more giggle-worthy material from Chairman Mao, but it’s interspersed between doom, gloom and more doom and gloom:
Bettman, however, did not indicate a drastic overhaul to the [revenue-sharing] system, saying “it’s actually quite similar” to what’s in place now.
“We have revenue sharing now,” Bettman said. “There are some changes to it, but it’s based on the current format.”
The commissioner also was asked about the tone of the negotiations, a standard question it seems after every meeting.
“They’ve been throughout amicable, constructive, cordial and professional,” Bettman said. “And we anticipate they’ll stay that way. “
Fehr, though, seemed more forthcoming with his description.
“The demeanor is very frank and businesslike,” he said. “When we agree on things, it’s very pleasant, and when we don’t, it’s less so. There’s not a lot more to say about it.”
In the player and coach appearance category:
• According to Aftonbladet’s Johannes Hagglund, Dagbladet’s Martin Nygren and Allehanda.se, Henrik Zetterberg will be part of an NHL-star-studded team taking part in a charity game between Peter Forsberg and a team of players representing Njurunda, Zetterberg’s birthplace, on August 8th, and will play the “Visby Roma Hockey” team in Gothenburg on August 9th. The Icebreakers (Forsberg, both Sedins, Nicklas Backstrom, Gabriel Landeskog and others are taking part) are raising funds for handicapped children in the Swedish province of Vasternorrland.
• Back over on this side of the pond, from Fort McMurray Today:
Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock will be in Fort McMurray for a speaking engagement on Aug. 29 to help benefit the Edge Fort McMurray [Alberta] Skill Academy 20121313 academic year and financial aid program. Babcock is the only coach to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal and IIHF World Championship. To purchase tickets or sponsor the first annual Edge Fort McMurray Legacy dinner, contact Brent Devost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the alumni department:
• In alumni news of a very different sort, Gothenburg Posten’s Kajsa Sandin reports that Hat Trick Dick Axelsson is working out with the Frolunda Indians, and that Fabian Brunnstrom will join the team today;
• I’m just going to refer you to NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky’s note that one recently-retired Wing and another who may or may not join him soon mean that Sweden’s World Championship and Olympic teams will be undergoing some dramatic changes;
• And DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose’s timing of an “Alumni Reunion” Q and A with Mike Knuble is…Interesting:
Question: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
Knuble: “No, not really. It was such a long time ago. There are a few guys still here, but I’ve kind of moved on.”
Question: Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
Knuble: “I’ll say Justin Abdelkader, because he’s from my area of western Michigan.”
Question: What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
Knuble: “Probably my first game, it was against Colorado with the big brawl and it’s a game that everybody remembers. It’s an easy one to bring up, even with people who have no connection to Detroit; they remember that game.”
Question: How has the NHL changed since you played?
Knuble: “It’s a young guys’ game now. When you came in you where the minority as a young player; there were a lot of veteran guys, it seems, on a lot of the teams. Seems to be a young guys game now and you have to skate. You really have to skate a lot now.”
Question: What advice would you give to kids playing today?
Knuble:“Just have fun and enjoy the game. Love what you’re doing, and you never know, it might take you to some great places, and give you a great career.”
Also of Red Wings-related note:
• The Wings’ Facebook page posted a screenshot of Pavel Datsyuk as depicted playing in EA Sports’ NHL 13;
• Yahoo Sports’ Harrison Mooney’s list of the best unrestricted free agents still out there is very good, except for this part about Holmstrom:
In short, the Red Wings’ only competition for Holmstrom’s services is old age. That’s good news, although considering the summer they’re having, they still might lose out.
• My English degree-holding brain turns to mush when I read statistical stuffins, so let me know if this piece of ESPN’s Neil Greenberg’s insider-only article about the Red Wings’ power play needing to pick up the slack given the team’s departures makes sense to you:
Detroit’s shot volume on the power play has seen a huge decline in the years following its back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. The losses of Lidstrom, Hudler and Holmstrom (if he retires) will exacerbate the issue next season unless some of Detroit’s other players—such as offseason additions Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson—take bigger roles, but that is a longshot.
Samuelsson, 35, is on his third team in three years. Tootoo set career highs in points (30) and assists (24) last season, but Nashville earned only 46 percent of even-strength shots in its favor while lining up against third- and fourth-liners. The rest of Detroit’s bottom six has some youth and speed but combined for just 68 points in 2011-12.
As Craig Custance noted Monday, the Wings’ prospect pipeline could produce some help. However, those expecting to see another Zetterberg/Datsyuk-caliber talent emerge may want to curb their expectations. Since the lockout, the average production by a Red Wings forward in his first two seasons has been four points in 21 games and 223 minutes of ice time. That list includes Filppula, Franzen, Hudler, Darren Helm, Ville Leino and 19 others. If you’re looking for a best-case scenario, Franzen has turned in the best early production over that span with 12 goals and four assists in 80 games as a rookie in 2005-06, and 10 goals and 20 assists in 69 games a season later. It’s also worth noting that Franzen’s rookie campaign came in his age-26 season.
A bigger wild card is Damien Brunner, who had 24 goals and 36 assists in 45 games last season in his native Switzerland. When coach Mike Babcock was asked if Brunner could adjust his play for the smaller North American rink, Babcock felt he could.
“We’re going to give him every opportunity,” Babcock said. “He’ll be a top-six forward to start with us and see where he goes.”
The roster is depleted, and the Red Wings play in a tough division that sent four teams to the playoffs. Detroit may still be a star on America’s hockey map, but that star appears to be getting dimmer by the season.
• And again, my availability will be limited for the rest of the week, and in all honesty, I’m probably going to take the following week quietly as it is early August, and these two weeks are really the only “break” that year-round bloggers get.
That being said, the mom’s already pissed that her son’s spending too much time working, the boss says I need to relax and I keep finding myself up in this clubhouse thingy at 3 in the morning. OCD is not necessarily a fun thing to have, folks. It keeps this blog going and me employed despite the anxiety and depression, but sometimes I’d really love to take a couple-day vacation from myself, and that’s not happening anytime soon.
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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.