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Red Wings overnight report: the aggressive pursuit of all available options for improvement

The difference between a general manager and Red Wings fans like you and me is that Ken Holland can’t afford to be frustrated by, or, given by this blog’s comments section of late, join Wings fans in either attempting to break his ankles jumping off the bandwagon or impale himself upon the nearest sharp object simply because the Red Wings have yet to land their big fish.

Zach Parise was probably headed to Minnesota from the outset, but the Wings made their pitch. Ryan Suter at least listened to an in-person offer from Mike Ilitch, Chris Chelios, Ken Holland, and, according to Mike Babcock, Mike Babcock, but Suter was swayed by Parise. The Red Wings did their best to go after Rick Nash, unlikely as their status as Columbus’s self-styled “arch-rival” made any potential deal with Columbus to be, but the Blue Jackets didn’t want to move him to Detroit.

And now we’ve found out that while the Wings didn’t engage in trade talks with the Nashville Predators, they sure as hell were keeping very close tabs as to whether Weber would be interested in inking the kind of front-loaded offer sheet the Flyers threw at him. Weber preferred going to Philly, so the Wings stood back and watched the Flyers stomp on Nashville’s toes instead.

All of this happened while Holland and the Wings’ management were telling the press and people like me that they were “happy with what they have” and would simply sit, wait on Shane Doan, and possibly consider adding a free agent defenseman to the mix while waiting out this summer’s crop of second and third-tier unrestricted free agents who are still asking for July 1st, “Plan B” prices when the reality of their situations is that the remaining players are mostly teams’ plans “C” and “D.”

We can also assume that, should Mark Gandler have been telling the truth when he told Sovetsky Sport’s Sergei Bergishev that his client’s priority is to remain in the NHL, the Wings are likely interested in what Alex Semin might command, and as Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper and even Mike Babcock continue to work their phones, it’s hard to imagine that the Wings will do anything else than knock on every door, check the asking price of every free agent and every player who might possibly be on the trade market (see: Keith Yandle, Jay Bouwmeester, and yes, even Bobby Ryan) as the summer progresses.

That’s how the Wings roll. Holland has always explored every avenue that could avail him of an opportunity to improve his team, regardless of whether the Wings are in the sweepstakes for Player X or not, and at this point, the Wings are just checking names off a very long list of targeted assets.

None of the players they’ve been interested in have reciprocated Detroit’s advances, for either their own reasons or because their franchises wouldn’t do business with the Wings—and let’s be honest, here, if it was Detroit and not Philadelphia, there would be no discussion as to whether the Flyers would match that massively front-loaded offer, the Predators’ owners would simply swallow hard and eat that $56 million in salary and lockout-proof signing bonuses over the first four years of what is $110 million, or approximately 22 million Hot and Ready pizzas—but that can’t deter the management from continuing to move purposefully and aggressively to improve the team.

They can’t get frustrated. They can’t get discouraged, lament the futility of their attempts thus far, throw their hands up and say, “F*** it, I’m gonna turn my phone off and golf till September!”

With all of that being said, I was surprised by the level of fatalism MLive’s Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness employed in describing the Wings’ unsuccessful attempts to improve their roster thus far, to the point that I started to wonder whether The 19 had written their articles instead.

Khan sounds downright bummed out by the way the Weber sweepstakes unfolded…

After missing out on unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter, the Detroit Red Wings turned their attention to his former Nashville defense partner, restricted free agent Shea Weber, in their effort to fill the gaping hole on their blue line. The Red Wings contacted one of Weber’s agents, Kevin Epp, and had numerous conversations, but the talks did not reach the stage where they were able to tender a formal offer. Weber reportedly visited Detroit, San Jose, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia. He chose to pursue a deal with the Flyers. Philadelphia, on Wednesday, signed Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet.

Once again, the Red Wings tried to reel in a big fish but were left lamenting the one that got away. Add Weber to the list that includes Suter, Zach Parise and, in all likelihood, Rick Nash, as there appears to be little chance Columbus will trade its franchise player to Detroit. The Red Wings remain in the hunt for power forward Shane Doan, but he’s hoping to re-sign with Phoenix.

Big, talented and tough, Weber, a finalist for the Norris Trophy the past two seasons, would have been the best possible replacement for Nicklas Lidstrom, even better than Suter. Now, Weber likely will never be a Red Wing.
Trading for Weber was never a viable option for the Red Wings, contrary to a TSN report. The Predators had no intention of dealing him to their Central Division rival and no trade talks took place. Detroit’s only options of landing Weber were to sign him to an offer sheet, with the hopes Nashville would not match, taking the compensation instead (up to four first-round draft picks), or hope that Weber signed a one-year deal with the Predators and became unrestricted in 2013.

But, the new CBA could feature a lower salary cap, a limit on the length of contracts and an increased age for unrestricted free agency. So Weber was wise to get his mega deal while he could.

The Red Wings have ample salary cap space (roughly $13 million) but have not yet been able to fill their primary needs – a top-four defenseman and a top-six forward. Options are extremely limited. The Red Wings, under general manager Ken Holland, have never tendered an offer sheet to a restricted free agent. They have no team policy against it, but seem to feel it does nothing but inflate prices for others and is pointless (of the six previous offer sheets tendered to a restricted free agent since the lockout in 2004-05, only one team did not match – Anaheim took three draft picks from Edmonton for Dustin Penner in 2007).
But, times have changed in the parity-laden NHL. That is why the Red Wings explored the possibility of signing Weber to an offer sheet. Once again, they believe they gave it a good shot but were left with nothing to show for it.

I’m impressed with what a “team source” (Jimmy Devellano, is that you?) had to tell the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness…

According to a source, the Wings had expressed interest in Weber and had “numerous conversations” with his agent. The Wings seemed to do everything they could to engage Weber to try and find out what he was looking for in a deal, but never were able to entice his camp into negotiating.

“If you’re not the No. 1 team, it doesn’t matter,” the source said. “We explored, but we could only get to a certain level.”
The source also denied reports that the Wings had been in contact with Nashville about possibly trading for Weber. Had Detroit given Weber an offer sheet it would have been a first under general manager Ken Holland’s watch. The Wings have really never had to because they’ve had rosters with the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull and Chris Chelios.

“Times have changed,” the source said.

Holland said prior to the start of free agency that he would do whatever it took to improve the team in the offseason.

The Wings are still in need of a top six forward and a top four defensemen, which there are none left on the open market and therefore a trade may need to be made in order to fill that void. It’s just another chink in what once was the luster of playing for the Detroit Red Wings.
Weber adds to a growing list of players the Wings have either been rebuffed by or are currently awaiting word on where they’ll play next season. Detroit continues to wait on whether Phoenix forward Shane Doan will return to the Coyotes or sign with another team.

“We’ve been in contact,” Holland said earlier in the week. “We’ve talked about what we’re thinking of. They know we have interest.”

[sarcasm] You’ll have to excuse me for a couple of minutes while I go burn my Red Wings jerseys, t-shirts, hats and memorabilia in a huge bonfire in the condo complex’s parking lot. [/sarcasm]

It doesn’t surprise me, either, that a TMR reader told me that 97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Valenti and Terry Foster were declaring the Red Wings’ offseason a “disaster,” and that they went into full seppuku mode when…

Well, first, they went into seppuku mode when they found out that they had to talk about the Red Wings at all, and then they doubled down when they found out that the Wings couldn’t land Weber, either.

I can at least confirm via the Valenti and Foster podcast page that, barring a Bobby Ryan trade, described the Wings’ offseason as a “disaster,” and that Valenti suspended his, “Lions, Lions, Lions, Lions, Tigers, Lions, Lions, Wal-Mart Wolverines suck! Lions Lions, Tigers Tigers, Michigan/Michigan State, Tigers, Lions, Lions” talk to lament the terrible, horrible, no-good very-bad ineptitude of the Wings’ management:

Download file

Is this Wings fan being a Pollyanna?

I don’t know.

Frankly, if I am pissed off about anything, it’s that the Wings lost out on Sami Salo’s services (he wanted 2 years, the Wings gave him 1) and also missed out on Matt Carle (he and Salo both signed with Tampa Bay) and Jason Garrison (who signed with Vancouver) while sitting on their hands waiting for Ryan Suter to make up his mind. In this laptop GM’s opinion (I own neither an armchair nor a proper desk), even with the Wings clearly looking to add a top-six forward who can score at least 20 goals, I would have doubled down on defensemen and ensured that one of the back-up plans didn’t go by the wayside while playing the waiting game, but the Wings aren’t exactly alone in the Missed Out on Carle alumni club, Salo’s kinda sorta made of glass and Garrison had suggested that he was going to Vancouver from the outset, so I’ve basically got one beef with KH & Co.

Otherwise, the Red Wings are clearly moving much more aggressively than they’ve let on, and will likely continue to doggedly pursue every option and opportunity they can explore and/or exploit to improve the team going forward, and while I am very much so a recovering pessimist…

The fact that this team did indeed employ Mike Ilitch’s private jet to bid on Parise (Babcock and members of the team’s brass were turned away from Parise’s agents’ offices in Toronto) on July 1st, added Mr. I himself to the mix while bidding for Suter, attempted the impossible in simply attempting to work out a trade with Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson at all, never mind making a serious attempt to acquire Rick Nash in the process, and the fact that this team was actually considering going nuclear on Nashville with an offer sheet, never mind that the Wings are being mentioned as one of the “favorites” to land Shane Doan, should he choose to leave Phoenix between now and half a decade from now…

Despite the team’s inability to score star players via the free agency, trade or offer sheet markets, the Wings’ brass is clearly employing the style of managerial play eschewed on the ice by today’s birthday boy, Pavel Datsyuk, offering “more shoot” and “more shoot” on top of that.

The management team continues to move aggressively in its attempts to improve the team, much more aggressively than they’ve let on, and while the team didn’t engage in the same propaganda policy as the Wild, who unleashed former North Stars GM Lou Nanne upon the Minnesota airwaves to insist that the Wild would not be out-bid on Parise or Suter (and it should be noted that the Wings did indeed match the Wild’s $90 offer for Suter, and that Parise was the one who wanted that extra $8 million tacked on at the very end of the process so that the pair would be paid the same amount), the team’s track record thus far speaks to a kind of aggressive mentality that we’ve never witnessed from the Wings before, and if player agents and general managers weren’t paying attention before, the, “They tried to go after Nash? And they were serious bidders for Weber, too?” kind of buzz the wake of the Wings’ attempted moves creates will perk up ears toward potential signings or trades in a way that only substantive and substantiated action can going forward.

This team may have been “happy” with what they had in the lineup after signing Jordin Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson and Mikael Samuelsson and re-signing Darren Helm before he became a RFA, as well as re-signing Kyle Quincey prior to arbitration, but Holland & company are probably equally “happy” with their shooting percentage thus far, too.

As a partisan Wings fan, I’m not thrilled by the results, but the team’s level of effort, intensity and attention to detail has exceeded my expectations, and I have to believe that at some point this summer, it will deliver more than some sort of Petr Sykora and Pavel Kubina = good enough band-aids answer to fans’ questions as to how the team can best address its needs for a 20 goal-scorer and a top-four, if not top-pair defenseman.


Regarding Mr. Doan, he’s in a “holding pattern” until the Coyotes’ prospective owners find out whether the lawsuits surrounding ballot proposals to nix the team’s sale work themselves out in the courts, as he told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen...

“I’ve made no bones about the fact that I want to go back to Phoenix if the situation works out,” said Doan, who was in New York on Thursday attending the collective bargaining session between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association. “I understand at some point I’ll have to probably make a decision without knowing all the information, but until I get as much information as I can, I’m going to try to wait.”

Doan said he would have liked to already have his decision made, but instead he finds himself trying to avoid the temptation of signing a contract before he learns as much as he can about Greg Jamison’s bid to buy the Coyotes. Doan has spent his entire career with the same franchise, including the past 16 years in Phoenix. He has been the Coyotes captain since 2003.

“I want to make (my decision) as soon as I can,” Doan said. “I’ve got four kids and my wife getting ready for the upcoming season. My kids are older. They’re all in school. They’ve got different things they like to do, whether it’s dance or hockey or volleyball or swimming. To get into a new city and find stuff like that is sometimes tough, so obviously my wife would like it to be sooner than later.”

Doan said the Coyotes came to him right away to talk about a new contract, but it didn’t get discussed much because he is still seeking information on the ownership situation. Jamison has been approved by the NHL as the buyer for the franchise and is attempting to work through the process of completing the purchase.

Doan said he has been in regular communication with Jamison and Coyotes general manager Don Maloney.

“They’ve been great as far as keeping me informed of what they think is going on,” Doan said. “The hardest thing is nobody really has an idea. It’s just being pushed further down the road. I think that’s disappointing for them very much as well as it is for me. It’s disappointing that it hasn’t been dealt with and done a while ago.”

And he reiterated his talking points to ESPN New York’s Katie Strang:

“I want to make it as soon as I can,” Doan said Thursday outside NHL offices in Manhattan, where he and other NHLPA members gathered to participate in the latest round of labor discussions.

Coming off a 50-point season, Doan said he has received varying degrees of interest from several teams but does not want to mislead any about his first priority: to remain with the organization for which he has played for the past 16 years.

“I’ve made no bones about the fact that I want to go back to Phoenix if the situation works out,” he said.
“Teams have been great about being patient with me, and I appreciate it so much because I know the fluidity of the market and the way that it moves,” Doan said. “The teams have been so kind to my family and understanding the situation we’re in. That being said, eventually I have to make a decision, and it’ll have to probably be without all the information.”
“The hardest thing is that no one really has any idea. It just keeps getting pushed further down the road,” Doan said.

When asked specifically whether he’d consider playing for the Rangers, who are believed to be interested, Doan responded: “I’ve got a few teams that you look at and that you’re serious about. That being said, I’ve also talked with some teams that I didn’t think I was [serious about], but that kind of made their case. When it comes down to it, I’ll really make my decision. I don’t want to put anybody in a situation where you feel like, you know, if you impress me, I’ll come,” he said. “Until I make my decision, I don’t want to force anyone’s hand.”



Regarding player who will remain with the Wings given his production, barring something extraordinary, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford offers a “By the Numbers” look at Valtteri Filppula’s 2011-2012 season:

23: Scored 23 goals during the regular season, which marks his personal-best and the first time that he has reached the 20-goal plateau during a single season.

43: Number of assists he had during the regular-season, his personal best. Eight of those assists came on the power play. Was third highest on the team for assists, behind Pavel Datsyuk (48) and Henrik Zetterberg (47).

400: Played in career game No. 400 on Jan. 7 against Toronto. He finished the season having played 442 NHL games. Only seven players on the current roster have played more games in Detroit.

18: The center finished the season with a plus-18 rating, his single-season career best.

Here are two other numbers about Filppula: he’s 28 and will be paid $3.5 million this season in the last year of a 5-year contract that has a $3 million cap hit.



Speaking of numbers, when I checked out Filppula’s player page on the Wings’ website by looking at its roster page, the website reveals some “secrets” for those of you who are interested in buying jerseys:

• Jordin Tootoo will indeed wear #22 and Mikael Samuelsson will wear #37;

• Jonas Gustavsson’s slated to wear his customary #50;

• Damien Brunner’s slated to wear #24;

• And as of yet, Gustav Nyquist, who wore #89 in college, is still slated to wear #14.



And in your daily CBA update, there’s some irony in the fact that, as the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein notes, the NHLPA was planning on very specifically speaking to the NHL about the nuts and bolts of its initial offer to the players, so it was very convenient that incredibly hawkish owner Ed Snider tossed the 14 years and $110 million that he did at Shea Weber given the league’s desire to eliminate contracts longer than 5 years, burying year-by-year increases or decreases in salary in averaged cap hits over the lifetime of the deal, and especially given the NHL’s desire to cut the players’ share of revenues from 57% to 46% while redefining what constitutes hockey-related revenues, yielding at least a 22% pay cut to start:

Donald Fehr, the executive director of the players association, said the subject of Weber’s offer sheet and Suter’s contract came up briefly during Thursday’s negotiating session, in which the two sides discussed how the owners’ proposal would affect individual players’ contracts.

“When you see an offer sheet like that, it represents how the player and the club feel about what an appropriate contractual relationship is,” Fehr said of the Flyers’ offer to Weber.“That includes length, that includes dollars, that includes payment terms and all the rest of it.”

Such offers and contracts “speak for themselves,” he said. “You’ll have to ask them why they want to modify the system to prevent that kind of choice.”

Fifteen N.H.L. players attended Thursday’s negotiating session. One, Shane Doan, said he found nothing objectionable about the Flyers’ offer to Weber.

“Philadelphia’s trying to do everything it can under the current C.B.A. to get one of the finest defensemen in the world,” he said. “We don’t mind the whole offer-sheet thing.”

Doan, the Phoenix captain, also said he was awaiting the outcome of the Coyotes’ arena situation before deciding whether to re-sign with the team or sign with another.

Bill Daly, the N.H.L.’s deputy commissioner, said the Weber offer was mentioned “in a lighthearted way” during the collective bargaining negotiating session. He said there was nothing unusual about the Flyers’ offer.

“We have a collective bargaining agreement that doesn’t expire until Sept. 15, and clubs are operating their businesses consistent with the current terms of our collective bargaining agreement,” Daly said. “That’s the way it should be.”

Fehr told the Sporting News’s Jesse Spector that the NHLPA can’t truly respond to the NHL’s offer until they understand how it will work on a group-by-group and per-player basis:

“If you have something that says we’re going to change the entry-level system, we’re going to change salary arbitration, we’re going to modify this, we’re going to change that, you can identify individual players and say, in the old system, this might have happened, in the system you’ve proposed, something else might have happened, and in a third system we might envision something else might have happened,” Fehr said. “What you’re engaged in, if you represent players, is sort of two things. You want to know what the aggregate produces, but you also want to know how it affects individual players.”

There were 15 players in the room for the latest negotiations, at various stages of their careers. The group included Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who stands to benefit from the current CBA as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Doan’s preference is to remain in Phoenix, but uncertainty over that franchise’s future has led him to negotiate with teams all over the league. At the age of 35, Doan would be a sought-after free agent regardless of the CBA, but he also understands how the owners can seek changes even while handing out megadeals left and right.

“As a player, you understand that you play within the rules that are put in front of you,” Doan said. “Right now, the rules of hockey have changed drastically over the last 10 years. They want to change the rules again on the CBA, and until the rules are changed, there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s completely within the element of the game.”

The players’ questions about how current scenarios would change the owners’ proposal was both to get a better understanding of the NHL’s plan, and to push negotiations forward.

“We feel like we are making progress,” Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra said. “If we want to know what to counter with, we have to know where they’re coming from, and why they’re coming up with these certain aspects of their proposal. It’s wanting to understand their proposal a lot more, and perhaps shape our counter.”

The league and union will meet again on Friday, most likely for a similar session. A counterproposal from the NHLPA might then be expected during the next round of talks.

“That’s part of the process, and you hope to get to that stage and hope you get to it in a timely manner,” Daly said. “You work toward that. … I hope (the initial proposal) provides a framework for moving forward. … I think there’s more than enough time to reach a deal. We just have to keep at it, and hopefully we keep moving forward, and hopefully we can get there.”

Ahem, per ESPN’s Katie Strang:

“We met for two hours, give or take, and spent most of the day discussing the owners’ proposal mostly as it related to how their proposals could change player contracts and would have meaningful effects,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said outside league offices in midtown Manhattan. “And it’s fair to say that discussion focused in no small part on what would happen to players if the scenario of their proposal was adopted.”

Fehr also confirmed that recent contracts would be prohibited in such a proposal. For example, the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet that restricted free agent Shea Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night came up in the discussion.

“I will tell you this: That was a subject that did come up briefly today, not at length,” Fehr said. “I’ve always viewed that as long as there’s no collusion or anything involved, that, taking into account the system, the contract speaks for itself, in terms of what people should be doing. You’ll have to ask them why they want to modify the system to prevent that kind of choice. I’ll let them speak for themselves.”
“Each side had interesting views and theories and projections and predictions, and we hashed it through,” Daly said. “That’s what bargaining is about, and I think it was a good discussion.”

When asked about the limited amount of time to strike a deal before the current CBA expires Sept. 15, Daly expressed optimism a new agreement could be forged.

“I think there’s more than enough time to reach a deal,” he said. “We just have to keep at it.”
The two sides will meet for a third consecutive day Friday, although the NHLPA is not expected to make a counter proposal before the meetings head back to Toronto next week.

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cowboycoffee's avatar

i can still see Pronger flying at Yzerman with Intent to Injure written all over his face. The thought of him wearing the Winged Wheel makes me throw up a little.

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 07/20/12 at 11:47 PM ET

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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.