The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/16/11 at 08:43 AM ET
With the exception of a couple of “slow days” before the NHL Awards and Nicklas Lidstrom’s announcement that he’d return for at least one more season, Red Wings fans haven’t had any sort of, “Okay, our team’s roster is set and our management’s heading to their summer homes, now we wait!” off-season. The Wings’ coaching and playing rosters have remained in flux, and that’s still the case as we head into a “slow” weekend because Wings GM Ken Holland has chosen not to announce any decisions as to Chris Osgood or Kris Draper’s futures with the organization until Monday at the earliest.
In the interim, there’s something to keep in mind, and it was something that rattled around in my brain during prospect camp but never managed to find its way out: regardless of whether you want to see Osgood and Draper continue to play or hang ‘em up, the fact that the players and Wings’ management made a mutual decision to wait until after July 1st to determine their respective courses of action is nothing less than extraordinary.
If you think about Holland’s track record over his entire 14-year tenure as the Red Wings’ GM, the biggest constant regarding free agents-to-be has remained the same, with only three previous exceptions: if you’re not a part of the team’s plans and/or are signed by July 1st, the team will move on without you, and if you choose to postpone deciding whether you want to return to the team until after July 1st, your roster spot will likely be filled by and your salary will find its way to be committed to someone else.
That’s the rule. Sign by July 1st or the Wings explore other options, regardless of whether you’re Dominik Hasek and you’re not sure whether you’ve still got the desire to play or you’re Andreas Lilja and you want to “test the market” and see what other teams might offer you before returning to Detroit for a counter-proposal, and regardless of whether we’re talking about the era where the Wings could toss Mike Ilitch’s money around like it was made of pizza boxes or the post-lockout CBA, the team moves on and finds a suitable replacement, 99.9% of the time. Even Nicklas Lidstrom’s not exempt from the rule (because, at 41, he’s still Nicklas Lidstrom), and over Holland’s tenure, only three players have received the benefit of the team’s doubt, usually to its peril—which is why the Wings tend to stick to the rule to begin with:
1. Sergei Fedorov didn’t sign with the Anaheim Ducks until July 19, 2003, and what happened between July 1st and 19th remain so contentious that both Fedorov and the Wings’ management still aren’t on speaking terms;
2. Steve Yzerman chose to retire on July 3rd, 2006, breaking the deadline rule by three days because he was, well, Steve Yzerman;
3. And Brendan Shanahan was allowed to avail himself of his options before leaving the Red Wings scrambling for a replacement when he signed with the New York Rangers on July 9, 2006 (despite rumors to the contrary, Shanahan, Mathieu Schneider and Robert Lang are the only Wings who explicitly or chose to leave Detroit because they didn’t take to Mike Babcock’s style of coaching).
There are players that don’t quite fit the bill in defections like Jiri Hudler, who sighed with Dynamo Moscow after filing for salary arbitration with the Wings on July 8th, 2009, but by and large, the Wings dictate the terms and July 1st the drop-dead date.
That’s why Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller’s agents found a way to get the pair signed before 12 PM EDT, and it’s way, prior to this CBA, if you weren’t a Wing by midnight on July 1st, you were, to put it politely, S-O-L.
In Chris Osgood and Kris Draper’s cases, Holland did choose to not offer either player a contract and test the market himself for possible alternatives, but it’s very clear that the team has chosen to make no free agent moves or trades in goal or up front until determining the fates of two long-serving veterans who’ve given their hearts and souls to the Wings.
That’s a pretty damn exclusive club to join given the number of players who’ve come and gone from Detroit via free agency or retirement since the summer of 1997, and regardless of the outcome of Osgood and Draper’s discussions with the Wings’ management, it’s important to remember how important the Wings feel #30 and #33 are, to the point that they’ve become the fourth and fifth players who’ve been given the benefit of Ken Holland’s post-July 1st signing and spending clout.
Otherwise, it is indeed a quiet morning: as reported on Friday morning (via the Red Wings’ Twitter account of all places) Justin Abdelkader will indeed attempt to keep his lunch and his wits about him while flying with the Blue Angels on Wednesday, and he spoke to the Free Press’s George Sipple about the opportunity to turn and burn:
“It’s always something I dreamed of doing, go up in a fighter jet like that, especially the Blue Angels,” Abdelkader said today.
Abdelkader is scheduled to fly for about 45 minutes with Blue Angel No.7, Lt. David Tickle, in an F/A-18 Hornet. The special demonstration by the Navy’s elite jet team is not open to the public. The Blue Angels will be in town to headline the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show on July 23-24.
“Ever since I was about 3 or 4 years old, we had an air show in Muskegon, and I was always fascinated by the jets and the planes,” Abdelkader said. “I was able to get pilot lessons when I was younger and would someday like to try to obtain a pilot’s license.”
Abdelkader said he has gone up with a flight instructor — and with his mother and sister — and “got to take control and fly around a little bit.”
It has been a busy summer for Abdelkader, who went to a wedding in June for former Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg and has two more weddings to attend in the next couple of weeks. He said he also has done some off-ice training in metro Detroit with Wings forwards Kris Draper and Dan Cleary and defenseman Jakub Kindl. He also works out twice a week with a private trainer.
• Speaking of which, per RedWingsFeed, I’m not sure whether Wings prospect Mitchell Callahan is either insanely dedicated or just plain insane (probably both) for stating that he’s going to go to Toronto to train with Grand Rapids Griffins strength and conditioning coach Aaron Donwey—Downey scared the hell out of some of the Wings’ prospects by engaging them in circuit training that involved something like 30 seconds on a station and then 10 off before moving to the next one. If Callahan doesn’t take out his two front teeth before he trains with Downey next month, he might sweat his partials off;
Callahan and most of the Red Wings’ prospect camp participants took in Friday’s Tigers-White Sox game from Mike Ilitch’s suite, but Brooks Macek and more than a few Western Canadians headed home early for the Calgary Stampede. Travis Ehrhardt was very excited to take it in;
• Also out West, and in the “celebrity appearance” category, the Associated Press reports that Mike Modano and Brett Hull are taking part in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada;
• In the “celebrity appearance that you can actually take in” category, and including a “cowboy” of sorts (Abdelkader’s flight won’t exactly be a publicly viewable affair), the Saginaw News’s Adam Bouton reports that former Wing Darren McCarty will appear at next Thursday’s Great Lakes Loons baseball game;
• Ditto in the re-posting department, via, um, me: I had not seen this previously, but Sports Illustrated offers a slate of would-be NHL player product endorsements which begins with…“CheliOs” (hey, it’s better than “Osgood n Plenty,” Paul Coffey Coffee, Bob Beers Beer or Bourque and Beans);
• And all I have to say about this is this: thank you, but seriously, if there is anyone who’s not a big deal, it’s the typing monkey.
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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.