The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: on delaying the Tomas Holmstrom decision until July, and coveting Parise
by George Malik on 06/12/12 at 05:58 AM ET
Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s general rule regarding the futures of players who qualify for unrestricted free agency is simple: if you haven’t re-signed by July 1st, the team will move on without you. He and the Wings’ brass have, however, made several notable exceptions over the years for long-time Wings who needed more time to decide whether they wish to continue playing in Steve Yzerman, and one player who asked the Wings to explore the free agent marketplace themselves before getting back to him regarding his playing future in Kris Draper…
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Red Wings have chosen to more or less take the same tack with Tomas Holmstrom, allowing the first few days of free agency to play out before coming back to Holmstrom as to whether he might still have a spot on the 2012-2013 team’s roster:
Holmstrom told the Free Press on Monday that he spoke to general manager Ken Holland and “they’re going to decide (in the) beginning of July what’s going to happen.”
Holmstrom, 39, is mulling whether he wants to play another season, but this indicates that if the Wings want him, he’d be open to returning. His wife and kids want him to play; Holmstrom’s concern is that he has a lot of hard mileage on his body after 15 seasons, especially his knees.
Coach Mike Babcock made it clear at the end of the season that at this point in his career, Holmstrom’s role would be to help the power play and otherwise make do with fourth-line minutes, the latter of which only amounts to a few shifts a period. It’s harder for a veteran to get his legs warmed up right away, but it was pretty much the role Holmstrom played this past season; 10 of his 11 goals came during man advantages. Whenever Holmstrom hasn’t been available for the power play, Babcock has lamented Holmstrom’s absence, saying the net-front presence isn’t the same.
Since Holmstrom hasn’t decided what he wants to do—or rather, that he wants to retire—there’s no harm for the Wings in putting off making a decision. Holmstrom is a pending unrestricted free agent, but there’s zero chance he plays elsewhere. The Wings can see how things shake out during the opening days of free agency. Currently, they have 11 forwards under contract for next season, counting Gustav Nyquist, and the team wants to re-sign Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, who are eligible for restricted free agency. Overtures have been made toward pending unrestricted free agent Jiri Hudler, but he’s expected to test the market.
The Wings want to add a top-six forward via free agency, and could decide some of their own players, like Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak, don’t fit into the future. Regarding Holmstrom, both sides have the luxury to see what happens in early July, then go from there.
The concept doesn’t hurt a bit—Holmstrom’s earned it and then some—but it’s probably going to do nothing more than delay Holmstrom’s retirement presser until the middle of July. I hate to say that as I believe that Holmstrom’s more or less irreplaceable, but something tells me that the Wings will look toward Nyquist as a more regular player, if not try to finally add that bottom-six forward “with size and grit” that the team and coach Mike Babcock in particular have wanted to snag for the past two or three years.
Regarding Hudler, we’re getting to the point that the “Hudler can earn more elsewhere than the Wings can afford to pay him” line has become a chorus, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan added his voice to the mix on Monday evening:
Jiri Hudler had to be one the happiest free agent-to-bes in the world of the NHL last week. Hudler a handful of other forwards who had decent offensive seasons. The group was thrilled to see Colorado’s David Jones, who scored 20 goals and had 17 assists, sign a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Avalanche, foregoing unrestricted free agency.
David Jones? That kind of money? If Jones is worth that money, how much is Hudler worth?
Hudler, in case you’ve forgotten, had 25 goals and dished out 25 assists. A fine year, not spectacular, but without a doubt Hudler found chemistry with linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula and was one of the Wings’ better players.
It’s been speculated that Hudler should be able to get an outstanding offer from somewhere. But now, there’s little doubt Hudler should be able to land a huge deal from another team looking for offense. They’ll see Hudler’s production and offer Hudler even more money than Jones got.
General manager Ken Holland said he will offer Hudler a contract soon, but it’s likely it’ll be below $4 million per season.
Hudler is probably better off staying with the Wings and playing with players who complement his skills. But that’s probably not going to matter. If David Jones can land a contract worth $4 million per season, Hudler is going to get similar or better money – and price himself out of Detroit.
That’s how it’s going to go, regrettably. The Wings won’t really have the opportunity to do anything more than give his agent, Petr Svoboda, a courtesy contract offer at the draft and be told, “Thanks, but no thanks.” This summer’s free agent crop is so very thin in terms of scorers that it’s hard to imagine Hudler landing anything less than a $4-4.5 million deal somewhere else, and let’s face it, here in Detroit, that kind of money is ludicrous for a player that doesn’t skate as fast as Filppula and doesn’t provide the kind of goal-scoring pop, and when he’s confident in his abilities, anyway, physical panache that Johan Franzen does.
In contract news of a different kind, Hockey’s Future’s Ian Altenbaugh weighed in on the playoff performances of Wings prospects Tomas Jurco, Xavier Ouellet, Petr Mrazek, Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Backman and Alexei Marchenko, but it’s this quip about Jurco’s status as an unsigned prospect that’s particularly intriguing:
The Wings are attempting to sign Tomas Jurco but the process has become dicey. According to Jurco’s agent, J.P. Barry, the Red Wings and he have settled on the terms of an entry-level contract, however it cannot be filed with the league due to the lack of an agreeable transfer agreement between Slovakia and the NHL. The NHL has extended the window to sign such prospects until June 15th (typically there is a moratorium on signing entry-level contracts between June 1st through July 1st) which would allow Jurco to play in the AHL (or NHL, of course) next season. He is eligible to return to Saint John for an overage season, but that’s not a direction the Red Wings or Jurco’s representation seem too interested in as, developmentally, he is ready for a new challenge. When asked whether Jurco may have to spend a year in Slovakia’s pro league, Barry expressed optimism to Hockey’s Future that it would not come down to that but did not rule it out completely.
If and when the Wings do sign Jurco, they will get a silky smooth stickhandler, who can weave in and out of the tightest of spaces and make plays. He has good hockey sense and anticipation skills which he invests offensively more than defensively but he exhibits the ability to learn, which should earn him the adulation of Detroit’s brass in due time. Jurco saw significant minutes throughout the Sea Dogs championship run and seems poised to move on to the next level.
One way or another, Jurco will remain in North America. If the Wings can’t officially sign him, it’s doubtful that the Saint John Sea Dogs will bring him back as they have oodles of “overagers,” but I’m sure another QMJHL team would be happy to acquire his services.
I also have to note that the suggestions that Pulkkinen will come over to play for the Griffins remain incorrect: he’s going to stay with Jokerit Helsinki for at least one more season, though he will probably attend both the summer prospect camp and fall prospect tournament and main training camp. Calle Jarnkrok will also take part in the summer prospect camp, but Brynas IF hasn’t made the same kind of guarantee Jokerit GM Jarmo Kekalainen did regarding Pulkkinen’s availability for the fall.
The Los Angeles Kings’ capturing of the Stanley Cup concluded the 2011-2012 NHL season—and as I said on Twitter, I congratulate them heartily for a hard-earned and much-deserved win, and certainly offer my sympathies to Devils fans, but…
When your team has hoisted the Cup, every time it’s awarded to another team, it feels like someone else is dancing with your girl, and that someone has taken the Cup away from its “home,” so four years removed from this past Stanley Cup championship and three from that awful loss against the Penguins, all of it seems like forever.
Here in Metro Detroit, the rumor mill’s about to kick into high gear, with Wings fans dreaming of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signing with the team on July 1st.
Given that the Devils just lost the Stanley Cup, I’ve gotta admit that I feel kind of cringe-y reporting the obvious—Parise was in no mood to discuss whether he plans on returning to the Devils, as ESPN’s Katie Strang...
#NJD Visibly upset, Parise declined to discuss his future. “I’m not talking about that.”
And the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti confirmed Parise’s line:
Parise wouldn’t answer a question about his future.
Gulitti offered more context to Parise’s lack thereof via his Fire and Ice blog...
It didn’t take long after the Devils’ season-ending Game 6 loss to the Kings tonight for thoughts to turn to the team’s future. Devils captain Zach Parise, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, wasn’t ready to speak about his, though, in the quiet postgame dressing room.
“I’m not talking about that,” he said, cutting off a questioner.
It is clear Parise, who had only one goal and no assists in the Finals, will be the team’s No. 1 off-season priority.
“I think Zach is a big thing the organization has to take care of first, no doubt about that,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “They need to try to lock him in and lure him into staying. He’s a franchise player and a guy the fans love. As a captain, he’s a great leader and he did a great job first year as a captain to bring a team counted out early in the season to what we accomplished.”
But questions about his future won’t stop dogging the Devils out of respect to the magnitude of their defeat. NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale believes that Parise’s future is the most important question which faces the Devils going forward:
1. Will Zach Parise return to New Jersey in 2012-13?
This is undoubtedly the million-dollar question since there is no other forward on the free-agent market comparable to Parise. There could be as many as 10 teams ready and willing to open their checkbooks and make serious offers for the left wing, who has spent his seven-year NHL career in New Jersey. According to The New York Post, Parise might expect offers similar to the nine-year, $60 million contract Brad Richards signed this past summer with the Rangers. That deal included a $10 million signing bonus last July and an $8 million signing bonus due this July.
Parise, who has declined comment on free agency during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, did admit during the regular season that he is certainly open to re-signing with the Devils. While that’s all well and good, how much will it take?
I’m sticking to my guns here: players have their own decisions to make, and no matter what we might believe, fans like you and me can’t do anything but wait and hope that when a player gets to June and hasn’t re-signed with his rights-holder, he might in fact be leaning toward making that coin flip that is weighing the decision to remain loyal to the only NHL organization he’s known versus watching that long line of Brinks trucks back up along the road to their summer homes, secure in the knowledge that over half the NHL’s teams would gladly take financial care of them for the rest of their playing careers and, given the fact that players like Parise and Suter are likely to be the last players to cash in on “lifetime contracts” under the current CBA, know that they won’t have to work another day in their lives (after they hang up their skates) unless they want to.
I’d love to believe that the mounting evidence in terms of articles penned by those who have little to nothing to gain repeating their, “Well, Parise and Suter are really considering what teams like the Wings can offer them,” and I do know that the Red Wings’ organization treats its players like kings—the quote over the locker room door, “To whom much is given, much is expected” might best describe, to steal Art Regner’s book title, “What it Means to be a Red Wing”—and again, Michiganders tend to be sports-mad but do give athletes their space and privacy as a rule…
But it’s up to them, not us, and with Nicklas Lidstrom having retired, Jiri Hudler’s skates figuratively out the door, Brad Stuart’s wishes having been accommodated and Holmstrom likely about a month from retiring, the Wings’ front office faces the stiff task of ensuring that the team lands the kind of marquee talent which will ensure that the team’s standard of excellence does not slip.
That means going after Parise, Suter, Carle, Wideman, Semin, Parenteau, Garrison, a back-up goalie and that fourth-line forward like there’s no tomorrow, and like the $26.2 million in cap space the team possesses under the likely temporary $70.3 million cap is burning a hole in Mike Ilitch’s pocket.
Whether Ken Holland, Jim Nill and Ryan Martin can craft together the kinds of rights-snagging trades and contract offers which make Detroit the most preferable destination among the long list of would-be suitors, and whether Jimmy Devellano, Mike Babcock, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios and the Wings’ players can put together the kinds of recruitment videos/DVD’s/text messages and phone calls necessary to “sell” players on the winning and player-centric environment the Wings offer prospective employees.
Also of Red Wings-related note: this morning….
• If it makes Mike Babcock Jr. any happier, the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s resident RoughRiders expert/fan, Scott Herbst, gave Michael Babcock the second a glowing endorsement in terms of his performances while trying out for the USHL’s powerhouse team:
Michael Babcock: Hockey fans, if his name sounds familiar, it should! He is the son of Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. Michael looked like one of the fastest skaters in camp and uses that speed to avoid defenders in the neutral zone. I could see him spearheading the RoughRiders’ penalty kill.
The youngest “Mike” would retain his U.S. college eligibility by playing with a USHL team, but the USHL is at a higher level of competition than most high school leagues (it’s not quite the OHL, QMJHL or WHL, but the fact that they pay their players small stipends negates their ability to vie for athletic scholarships offered by NCAA colleges), and it should come as little surprise that as the Red Wings’ coach is a proud graduate of McGill University, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in North America, the coach wants his son to attend college…
• And, all things considered, this might be an appropriate note to end on: In Detroit, having five NHL defensemen under contract in June and a restricted free agent to sign—which is exactly where the Wings find themselves—is cause for borderline panic because that’s about three too few defensemen to have signed going into October.
In San Jose, the concept of already having Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Douglas Murray and Jason Demers signed, Justin Braun a restricted free agent and Stuart likely to sign before the month is out seems to have yielded panic about some sort of intolerable, terrible, horrible, no-good very bad slate of seven defensemen overloading the blueline, even with unrestricted free agents-to-be Colin White and Jim Vandermeer in the mix, so Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz suggests that Stuart’s arrival must result in the departure of an “inferior” defenseman, and while he claims that Sharks fans want to jettison Dan Boyle (???), Kurz suggests that Stuart’s arrival makes Douglas Murray expendable as something of an “old and busted” player:
Murray has one year remaining on his deal for $2.5 million, and it was clear in the postseason against St. Louis (and even before then) that he’d lost a step. The hard-hitting Murray suffered through an injury-plagued 2011-12, and that may have affected his foot speed down the stretch and in the playoffs, but even early in the season he didn’t seem to be moving very well.
That lack of mobility didn’t help San Jose’s miserable penalty kill, either, as Murray was third on the team in shorthanded time-on-ice per game (1:48) for that 29th-ranked unit. The Sharks are expected to employ an aggressive approach to killing penalties next season, and Murray just simply can’t keep up.
Now that Stuart is here, Murray is expendable, and it shouldn’t be too tough for the Sharks to find a taker for him. The unrestricted free agent market for defensemen is pretty thin this year, and there are always teams looking to upgrade their blue lines in the offseason. Taking a flier on a guy who had an off year, but who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, could appeal to a number of clubs. The Sharks should be able to find a home for the seven-year veteran without too much trouble, and could perhaps land a mid-round pick in the upcoming draft in Pittsburgh at the end of the month.
Murray’s 32, does indeed earn $2.5 million for the 2012-2013 season, and seemed to play pretty damn well for a “slow” defenseman whenever the Wings came to town. If the Sharks want to get rid of him—and I don’t believe that they do, not for a minute—the Wings would be one of many teams happy to take Murray off the Sharks’ hands.
I feel absolutely wretched this morning, so here’s the button as I call it an “early” night at 4 AM: As you know, I’m trying to raise funds to attend the Wings’ summer prospect camp from July 7-14 in Traverse City, and I’m somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way there, with those $5-25 donations that end up paving the way all the way up US-23 and I-75 in short supply. If you can lend a hand, I would greatly appreciate it.
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 and good morning. Things will get crazy from next weekend’s draft on to really the middle of July for me, so while hockey season may seem like it’s “over” for you, I’m gonna be trying to enjoy the next week and a half because it’s generally the only “quiet” period of the summer until I leave for Grand Marais at the end of July. Other than this wee little spot of down time, the late June-to-end-of-prospect camp rush is as difficult as a playoff run in terms of yielding 14-plus-hour days and a pretty crazy level of engagement.
For now, I need to rest up, and maybe by the end of the week I can actually leave the blogging lair to see a friend or two or kick around that $10 soccer ball I bought.
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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.