The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/30/12 at 04:49 AM ET
Sometime on Monday or Tuesday, the vast majority of NHL teams’ fans might very well be playing this song in their heads, “Want it All Back” by the Seatbelts. To paraphrase, given the ridiculous number of teams bidding on an incredibly small number of free agents, even with the market fluctuating due to so many teams telling their restricted free agents to go ahead and “test the market” while others snap up their attractive targets or trade their signing rights while they can…
Let me think
If I add up all you owe me
And Include my time
I might make it through the summer
And I guess that ain’t too bad
I used up all my money on you, baby
and I want it back
Due to market fluctuations, despite Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s insistence that his team is dealing from a position of strength, the Red Wings’ “program” is indeed on the line, at least to some extent, and as such, what will the Wings’ brass spend Saturday doing?
Planning. To quote another movie, if “the Russians don’t take a dump without a plan” (if this entry sounds nonsensical, I’m blaming it all on my own case of pre-free agency nerves, because each and every day I’ve missed with my head cold has involved waking up with a start, dreaming that so-and-so signed with some other team), the Wings don’t plan on spending Saturday afternoon doing much other than planning, planning and planning some more.
Unlike those of us with nervous dispositions, or those of you who believe what you’re reading (and trust me, by July 4th, if not the time our friends to the North light up their fireworks on Sunday evening, 99% of what’s been written over the past month, up to and including what’s written on Sunday at 11:59 AM Eastern Daylight Time, will seem almost comically outdated and ridiculously inaccurate), the Red Wings are running what would be the equivalent of computer simulations with a real-life capologist (Ryan Martin…why do you think the Wings let him out to introduce Jeff Blashill as the Griffins’ coach on Thursday? So he could see the sun before hunkering down in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena for the weekend) on hand, wondering what they’ll do if player A signs with team 1, players A, B and C sign with teams 2, 3 and 4, hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ryan Martin’s got a dozen dozen scenarios plotted out to ensure that nothing surprises the Wings come Sunday.
Holland spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan about the team’s plans for one final organizational meeting to pare down their lists and get down to brass tacks:
“We’ll decide how we’re going to attack July 1,’’ Holland said. “We’ll look at our list one last time. Some of it has changed with players signing. We’ll formulate a plan. When noon Sunday hits, you hit the phones.’‘
Their two biggest needs are a top-pair defenseman and a goal-scoring winger. After setting aside money for their own restricted free agents, the Red Wings will have about $18 million in salary-cap space.
“We got cap space, we’ll explore the market, but it’s got to make sense,’’ Holland said.
You know the names. If you don’t, Khan provides them in spades. You also know the Wings’ game plan by now, but you’re also going to find out why I find it so utterly silly that Ryan Suter seems to believe that he can hang out on the farm Sunday and start doing the do-see-do on Monday:
“There’s a game plan, but you need a lot of game plans,’’ Holland said. “Things happen fast. At noon, we’ll contact all the people we have interest in because if you wait on the first people on your priority list then you’re behind on the others. The rest of it is instincts, experience and preparation. You got 5-10 minutes to make a decision.’‘
Also attending the meeting are assistant general managers Jim Nill and Ryan Martin and pro scouts Mark Howe, Glenn Merkosky, Bruce Haralson and Kirk Maltby. They’ll be working the phones on Sunday.
So if you’re getting the image in your head that agents’ offices are on speed-dial, and that top player agents probably have a similar “call bank” of higher-ups taking down contract offers coming in simultaneously, well, we might not be far off. Though I’m guessing that Mark Gandler’s office (see: Alexei Yashin, Alex Semin, almost every Russian that’s “gone home to the KHL” over the past half decade) just plays Kalinka over and over again while you’re on hold.
Something tells me that after Nicklas Lidstrom and his favorite coach, Curre Lundmark, receive their feting during Vasteras, Sweden’s CityFestivalen tonight, the Wings will ensure that Lidstrom spends Sunday evening, Swedish time, by the phone.
Regarding the game plan, after the whole, “Um, we could use a #1 defenseman and a top-six forward who can score goals” part?
Khan has some insights into that, too:
They also will be looking for a big, physical fourth-line player. The options include center Paul Gaustad (Nashville) and right wings Brandon Prust (New York Rangers) and Jordin Tootoo (Nashville).
Holland said they need a backup goaltender, whether it’s someone earmarked for the Grand Rapids Griffins or an upgrade on Joey MacDonald. Possibilities include Scott Clemmensen (Florida), Johan Hedberg (New Jersey), Jonas Gustavsson and Chris Mason (Winnipeg) and Al Montoya (Islanders).
According to Khan, Babcock wasn’t kidding about being ready to take the first flight out of Saskatoon to meet with a player and/or their agent, and the Wings’ brass really will have Mike Ilitch’s private plane gassed up and ready at Metro Airport’s corporate terminal if they need to fly to Toronto, Madison, Minnesota, Timbuktu, wherever to meet agents and players in person.
And you can guess the story Petr Svoboda tells Khan about one Jiri Hudler by now, and how much he loves the Wings, and not how Hudler’s days in Detroit were probably numbered from the moment the original Dynamo Moscow, flittering on the brink of financial insolvency, tore up the second year of his 2-year, $10 million contract.
If Hudler had any intention of remaining a Wing, he would have signed by now, but very understandably, he’s going to chase the $4-5 million payday that the Wings would rather send toward someone with a more well-rounded game. More power to Happy Hudler, I suppose, but his likely departure makes signing a goal-scoring forward all that much more important.
In terms of the sales pitch, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan received the latest version while noting that the Wings are at least relatively confident that Damien Brunner will join the fold on July 1st as well:
“We are going to be aggressive,” Holland said. “I like a lot about our team, but we’d like to add some pieces.”
Holland mentioned trading as a possibility to add those valuable pieces. But that option will come only after seeing what happens when the free-agent market opens Sunday. And with approximately $18 million available to spend, there’s a lot to look at.
“Our staff will be in the office and we’ll contact the players we are interested in,” Holland said. “We’ll make our calls and begin the process. We’ll be ready to go.”
The two players the Red Wings — and virtually every other team with salary cap space — are after are Devils forward Zach Parise and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter. Parise and his representatives, headed by Wade Arnott, likely will spend time in Toronto. Whether they’ll meet teams face-to-face hasn’t been determined. Parise, 27, had 31 goals and 69 points as the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
Suter and his agent, Neil Sheehy, will be in different places — Sheehy in his Minnesota office, Suter at his Wisconsin farm. Suter, 26, is as durable an all-around defenseman as there is. And defense is the area the Red Wings want to address with the losses of Lidstrom and Stuart.
“We have a solid group of defensemen,” Holland said. “But would we like to add a seventh defenseman? Yes.”
That seventh defenseman might be a #1 kinda guy, if all goes well, but if he doesn’t pan out, it’s nice to know that the Wings don’t have just a back-up plan, but instead, an array of back-up plans that they’re going to keep revising until 11:59 AM on Sunday morning.
Between now and when we find out what will actually happen and which players will sign on to help determine the Red Wings’ future, all you and I can really do is wait, hope, maybe pray and mostly talk it out to keep ourselves and each other sane.
Also of Red Wings-related note: In the foreign-language news category:
• While he hasn’t re-signed with the Wings just yet, Fabian Brunnstrom still wants to remain a Red Wing, and Arbetarbladet’s Magnus Hagerborn reports that Brunnstrom’s in Gavle, Sweden, working out with Nicklas Backstrom’s trainer, Sebastien Falk, to try to readjust his skating stride;
• In Stockholm, Aftonbladet’s Johannes Hagglund reports that Dick Axelsson’s working out with Nebez Kurban, who apparently works with pop stars as well as athletes (Sweden’s entry in the Eurovision song contest, Loreen, worked out with Kurban). Kurban’s promising to finally get Axelsson into decent physical shape;
• This one won’t translate via browser-based methods, so you’ll have to do what I do when I really want to get something right—line the translation up by cutting and pasting the text into the Google translate pane and then get out a dictionar…Well, okay, you won’t need to do that with this one, but Yekaterinburg has a news website, 66.ru, and Sergey Panin reports that Pavel Datsyuk brought the World Championship trophy to his hometown on the 28th, and sports minister Leonid Rapoport brought the Gargarin Cup with him via the KHL. Both visited the residence of the Sverdlovsk Region’s governor, Evgeni Kuyvashev (he’s the head honcho of the Sverdlovsk Oblast/Province, and Yekaterinburg is the province’s capital city).
Datsyuk gave the governor a signed Team Russia jersey, and governor Kuyvashev announced that the province would be sponsoring Datsyuk’s now-hometown KHL team, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. There’s a photo gallery attached to the story if you’re interested (you can click on the text to the lower left of the image to snag 1,200-by-800 pixel versions [edit/update: and you can TOTALLY tell that the sports minister knows his ass is dead if he puts a scratch on the Gargarin Cup, so yeah, Alexander Medvedev and the KHL are powerful sorts], and as always, beware Russian spyware, it’s nasty stuff);
• Back over on this side of the pond, We All Bleed Red on YouTube posted Gordie Howe’s speech made when he was awarded the Order of Hockey Canada, and it’s borderline tear-jerker material:
• In terms of content over the next day, I’m not at 100%, but I’ll get up in the afternoon (gotta rest while I can get it) and want to know if you want me to post catch-up stuff—I’ve got fifty or sixty stories bookmarked and could bullet-point them if you want, but if you want me to pick up and go, I can do that, too;
• And finally, I pulled a spreadsheet together, tallied up all the funds, and I’m all of $100 away from subsidizing the hotel stay in Traverse City for the Wings’ summer prospect camp from July 7-14 (holy crap thank you wow!!!), but I don’t know how much away from being able to afford what I’ll be eating, drinking and what my Pacifica that just got back from the repair shop will be drinking along the way (I know it’s a dinky crossover, but I didn’t pick it, the parent picked it for herself and then decided that I shouldn’t be driving her 94 Grand Marquis [which is still going, somehow], and it’s been a faithful companion) and back, so if you can lend a hand, anything would be greatly appreciated. And yes, after looking at the fees Paypal takes out of each transfer, we’re gonna do a Kickstarter account in the fall. I’ll have to think up t-shirts or something so you can get some sort of tangible product for your trouble.
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, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
I should be up to as healthy as I’m gonna be by later today, and I’ll just deal with the boogers as they come as free agency is “go time.”
Also: It occurred to me that this marks the 30th year that the parent has been a certified RN in the State of Michigan, and she’s a helluva nurse. She’s given me a de-facto prescription to take an extra anti-anxiety pill if I need it on Sunday, and I’ll see if we can make that a blanket one, and especially if you’re a self-medicator of a different kind, whether that can be extended to allow those of you who aren’t driving to spend mid-day Sunday having another beer or another shot as needed. Don’t mix with the psychoactive stuff, though, it’s one or the other there.
On that note, here’s one from Fatboy Slim to summarize my feelings about what’s to come. From his official YouTube channel, which published his entire catalog, b-sides and remixes included:
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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.