The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/02/12 at 12:55 PM ET
Updated 12x at 2:12 PM: Capgeek reports that the Wings have signed Marek Tvrdon: Good morning. Before the craziness starts—as of yet, there’s no news regarding Ryan Suter or Zach Parise—here’s a brief look at today’s Red Wings stories:
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner penned a slate of profiles of the Wings’ free agent signings, but he ends his entry with a little captain obviousness that may frame today’s events perfectly:
IIf the Red Wings are able to land Parise and/or Suter on Monday, when it’s expected they’ll announce where they’ve decided to sign, the Wings will obviously be overjoyed with their free-agent signings. It’s hard to imagine Suter not being a Predator or Red Wing based on Sunday’s scuttlebutt. Parise’s situation appears to be more muddled.
Whatever happens will dictate if Detroit has to employ an alternative plan, going after a Matt Carle and/or Alexander Semin.
Anyway you look at it, the circus hasn’t left town.
• No surprise here: MLive’s Phillip Zaroo reports that Wings fans are less than happy with Mikael Samuelsson’s return. Somewhat ironically, Samuelsson was conducting a conference call around 11:30 AM EDT, so here are some highlights from the Wings’ official Twitter account…
Mikael Samuelsson is currently on a conference call with the media. “I’m not going to lie, I wanted to resign with Detroit.” (In 2009)
Samuelsson said he’s talked to a few of his new/former teammates including Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.
After being traded to FLA midseason, Samuelsson said it was great to see that franchise rebuild, make the playoffs and be a part of it.
As well as the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Mikael Samuelsson on signing w #Redwings: “I hoped to hear from them. I definitely was interested right away. I’m so glad to be back.”
• The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper happened to speak with Jordin Tootoo about his decision to sign with the Wings...
On leaving Nashville: “I want to thank the Nashville Predators for giving me the opportunity to play there for eight years. It was a great eight years of many ups and downs and I want to thank David Poile. I give him the utmost respect for him for allowing me to be a Nashville Predator for that long. To the fans of Nashville, I’m always going to have a heart and a special place for Nashville. Making this decision was pretty tough, but I think this time in my career, it’s a good change for me and this has been an amazing experience as I’ve never been in this point in my career and I couldn’t commend the Predators for all that they’ve done for me over the years enough.”
On signing with Detroit: “I think the biggest thing is I know Detroit, we played against them many times over the years and I thought this would be a great fit. I bring an element to the game that no other player brings. I think I’m in the prime of my career. The Wings don’t really have a guy like me. Obviously this has been a truly amazing honor and at the same time I’m very excited to put on the Wings jersey. It’s an original six team and a lot of history there.”
On the rivalry: “This is the team we had to beat in order to be at the next level, I’m just ecstatic to be a part of this organization now and I’m ready to grow as a player and a person both on and off the ice.”
On being told by Nashville that they weren’t going to re-sign him: “At the end of the day, we’re here to play hockey. I think every hockey player can relate to that when you told you’re not going to be in the lineup, it kind of stings you. Nashville has been very loyal to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their belief in me and giving me opportunities to be a better player.”
• And the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff finds the Wings’ decision to finally sign a player to “keep the flies off” to be a fascinating one:
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland admitted that a change in philosophy was behind Sunday’s move to sign agitating former Nashville Predators forward Jordin Tootoo to a three-year US $5.7-million contract. “We played against Nashville, we know him,” Holland said of Tootoo. “He’s physical, he gets under the skin of our players. It’s an ingredient we’ve always talked about. We wanted to get some physical play into our game and we signed Jordin Tootoo. We think he’ll provide an element of an edge to our team in the bottom six (forwards).”
Always a team which first put the emphasis on skill, the Wings made early playoff exits in each of the past three springs, and this past season, as the playoffs wore on, it became painfully evident that Detroit’s style of play wasn’t going to work anymore in the biggest games of the season. The Wings also upped their physical size with their other forward move, adding former Wing Mikael Samuelsson, who will basically replace the role of diminutive Jiri Hudler on the roster. Hudler in generously listed as standing 5-10, which isn’t true, while Samuelsson tips out at 6-2.
We know him,” Holland said of Samuelsson, a Wing from 2005-09. “We like him. He can skate. He’s got some range. He can play the right point on the power play. He’s got a shot. We’ve had him and he played well for us.”
As for Tootoo, he’ll bring the kind of hard to play against element to Detroit that’s been lacking for some time. “I’ve really grown as a player over the last couple of years,” Tootoo said. “My foundation is being a physical presence but at the same time I know I can contribute offensively. I’ve proven that over the last couple of years, but at the same time, I still have a lot to work on.”
Tootoo, who is good friends with Red Wings centre Darren Helm, insisted the Detroit offer came completely out of the blue, but he jumped at the chance when it was offered. “This was a time of new beginnings for me and I feel after what’s gone on in the last couple of years, I need a change,” Tootoo said. “Fortunately, the Red Wings caught my attention and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Holland admitted that Sunday’s signing and the continued pursuit of defenceman Ryan Suter and left-winger Zach Parise almost assuredly mean that Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom are no longer part of the picture in Detroit. Detroit has approximately $18 million in cap space remaining, but also must sign restricted free agents Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey.
“Obviously we’re probably not going to do anything more until we know what’s going on with those two big guys,” Holland said. “We’re sort of sitting on a cap situation where if they want to come to us, we can’t keep adding. In order to have a possibility of being involved in deals for Suter or Parise, if we lose some people we lose some people.”
• This is a big bummer: Shoomedia posted a 45-minute interview with Nicklas Lidstrom. From the Cityfestivalen in Vasteras. In Swedish. I wish I knew what he was telling Curre Lundmark:
• Henrik Zetterberg engaged in a lengthy interview with Dagbladet, but things are about to get too busy for me to translate it, so you’ll have to deal with the Google translation for now;
• And again, I know this is late in the game, but I’m trying to defer the cost of plain old getting up to Traverse City in terms of gasoline and being able to afford eating food while I’m up there. My budget remains shoestring thin and if you can lend a hand, I’d 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, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Update: New Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill spoke to Kalamazoo’s 1660 the Fan. Here’s his interview:
Update #2: The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo weighed in on the Wings’ free agents (he nearly burst a testicle yelling about “no one” talking about the Wings’ present players needing to lead the charge on Fox 2’s Sportsworks last night). Here’s his take on the Wings’ signings:
Of the Red Wings three moves so far, the one I liked the most was signing goalie Jonas Gustavsson. He played OK for Toronto the last couple years, but there is an upside there, and he will push Jimmy Howard for the starting job. It wasn’t like Howard was a sieve vs. Nashville in the opening round last spring, but he didn’t come close to matching Nashville’s Pekka Renne. Howard was hurt late in the season - he was often brilliant before the injury. He did seem fine heading into the playoffs. His save percentage was under 90 percent, though, against the Predators. If the Red Wings are going to surge to the Stanley Cup title, or even make a decent run, they need better goaltending than Howard provided. Howard is on the last year of his contract. He should be motivated. It’s not like Gustavsson is some aging journeyman - he is actually younger than Howard.
- I was surprised the Red Wings signed Jordan Tootoo. He is nasty little player. He doesn’t score much, but sure gets into a lot of trouble on the ice. The Red Wings fans should enjoy this part of the game. He will crash the goalie (see below video)
- Mikael Samuelsson .is a right-handed shot for the Red Wings power play unit. He played the role extensively on this first trip with Detroit. He also scored key goals during a Stanley Cup run. Major knock on Samuelsson: He lacks consistency
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James has penned her Samuelsson story, and she reports that the Wings actually won something of a multiple-team sweepstakes for his services:
“I hoped to hear from [the Wings], and I did,” he said today from his native Sweden. “It was a pleasant surprise. I definitely was interested right away. I’m so glad to be back.”
The Wings signed Samuelsson, 35, to a two-year, $6-million contract Sunday, bringing back a forward they didn’t want to lose three years ago. He’ll get to contend for a spot among the top six, but the biggest appeal was that he shoots right-handed and has a big shot, something the Wings badly need for their power play.
Samuelsson was one of four players the Wings added Sunday, joining free agents Jordin Tootoo, Damien Brunner and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. The Wings also made offers to defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise. They’re among the front-runners to land Suter.
Samuelsson played for the Wings in 2005-09, when the team’s decision to focus on keeping Jiri Hudler left Samuelsson to sign with Vancouver. He had a career-high 30 goals his first year with the Canucks. After a little more than two years there, he was traded last season to Florida. He missed 28 games with various injuries, fitting 14 goals and 17 assists into 54 games.
Samuelsson talked to fellow Swedish Wing Henrik Zetterberg before signing and heard from Niklas Kronwall today.
After hearing from “a bunch of other teams,” Samuelsson said, “that put me in a good situation towards where I wanted to be, and that was Detroit.”
Not a surprise, but Mikael Samuelsson never really wanted to leave the Red Wings three seasons ago.
“I’m not going to lie, I wanted to re-sign,” said Samuelsson, who left for the Vancouver Canucks when the economics of the salary cap made him a casualty with the Red Wings.
“I hoped to hear from them and that was a pleasant surprise (when the Wings called),” Samuelsson said in a teleconference Monday morning. “It’s always a surprise when teams are calling, and I was definitely was interested right away.”
“We know Sammy and we know what he can provide us,” Wings GM Ken Holland said. “He has size, he has a great shot, he can play the point on the power play. He adds size and skill and we know him.”
That familiarity was what appealed to Samuelsson, along with the Wings’ penchant for winning.
“The main reason I choose teams at this point in my career is whether they have a chance to win or not, that’s the main reason,” he said. “I liked Detroit a lot last time and it was a tough decision (to leave). It’s very comfortable.”
“The Red Wings are a very skilled team,” Samuelsson said. “They still have those type of players (skilled) in my mind. I know they lost Nick and I don’t know what Homer’s situation is (Tomas Holmstrom, who is likely to retire), there are some holes to fill, but definitely they are a contender and that’s why I chose that team.”
“I know what Detroit is about,” he said. “If you play good, you get that ice time and that’s the way it should be.”
Update #2.5: More Samuelsson from Bob Duff...
#redwings Samuelsson: “I’ve been there before and really liked it. It was a hard time when I left, but I know that I will like it again.”
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
#RedWings Samuelsson: “We were in two finals and one of them we won, so it is hard to leave, but that’s what the salary cap does to you.”
Update #3: Sigh. Along comes Nicholas J. Cotsonika with a ramble about “free advice” to Ryan Suter. Of course Cotsonika suggests that the Penguins are his best option, but here’s what he has to say about the Wings:
– Detroit: Nicklas Lidstrom just retired. Those are huge skates to fill, even for a defenseman as good as you. But nobody expects you to win seven Norris Trophies and be a Perfect Human, and this is a unique opportunity.
I’m sure Cheli has made this pitch. He played at Wisconsin, like you did. He’s buddies with your uncle. And there is a reason a guy like him – once the captain of a division rival, his hometown ‘Hawks – fell in love with the Wings when he played for them and still works for the organization.
)Yeah, the Wings’ core is older. But the Wings have been called too old for more than a decade now, and they keep winning, and winning, and winning, and they have more young pieces than you might think. With committed ownership, a savvy front office and a sharp scouting staff, they have been able to rebuild on the fly without high draft picks. You could be the next piece that carries on that tradition.
Great player after great player has come through Detroit. We’re talking Hall of Famers and superstars, too numerous to mention. The Wings have Original Six tradition. They call it Hockeytown, but hockey isn’t the No. 1 sport. The arena and downtown are gritty, but the suburbs are beautiful. The Wings have won four Stanley Cups since 1997 and made 21 straight playoff appearances.
You can take Lidstrom’s minutes. You can pass the puck to Datsyuk and Zetterberg. You can stay low key. You can have a chance to win. Maybe you can bring your buddy Zach, too. But even if you can’t, you know the Wings will go after the next star, and the next one, and the next one.
Update #4: I never know whether to trust Andy Strickland, but the Production Line’s Michael Petrella reports that Strickland, who used to blow smoke and make up rumors for Hockeybuzz, dished the following quip:
Goalie Joey MacDonald would like the #redwings to trade him to team where he has chance to stick on NHL roster. Makes one-way money next yr
Update #5: Here’s SI’s Al Muir’s take on the Wings’ signing of Jonas Gustavsson:
• No one scouts Swedes better than the Red Wings, so don’t be surprised if Sunday;s best signing turns out to be Jonas Gustavsson. The Wings are hoping he won’t have to be an impact player next season—they need Jimmy Howard in that role—but there’s a real opportunity here to rediscover the game that had scouts comparing Gustavsson to Henrik Lundqvist two summers ago. It’s thought that Gustavsson’s struggles were linked to being uncomfortable with the tinkering of Toronto goalie coach Francois Allaire. Removed from those machinations and surrounded by more than a few of his countrymen, he could thrive…and just in time to afford Detroit a little protection with Howard approaching UFA status at the end of 2012-13. That Ken Holland is one smart cat.
Update #6: From MLive’s Phillip Zaroo:
Jeff Blashill spent just one year as an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings, but during that time, he got to see just how important Nicklas Lidstrom was to the team, both on and off the ice.
Lidstrom, who retired earlier this year after 20 seasons in Hockeytown, left a pair of gigantic skates for general manager Ken Holland to fill.
“When Nick retired, obviously you lose a guy who, even at his age, was a top 10 defenseman in the NHL,” Blashill said in an interview on ESPN 970 Marquette. “He was also a tremendous leader and a guy who everybody in the room had a tremendous amount of respect for, and just an unbelievable human being. That’s a big loss, and there’s no other way to put it.”
Blashill — who will remain in the organization as the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins – doesn’t think any one individual will be able to replace the future Hall of Fame defenseman. Instead, players already on the roster will have to step up, even as the Red Wings acquire others to bolster the blue line.
“You need your guys from within to take steps,” Blashill explained. “I think Nik Kronwall is one of the best people I’ve been around. I think he can take further steps. You’re going to have to go out and find some guys in free agency and either get an elite player or get some guys that are great fits. That’s all you can do. And again, that is the reality of the salary cap era and the parity that it represents.”
Here’s the interview:
Update #7: Here’s the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s story about Mikael Samuelsson:
“I kind of knew who was high on my list and yet there were a bunch of other teams,” Samuelsson said. “That was surprising that many teams called. That put me in a good situation and allowed me to choose where I wanted to be and that was Detroit.”
After spending four seasons with the Wings and helping lead them to the Stanley Cup in 2008, Samuelsson signed a much more lucrative deal with the Vancouver Canucks after the 2009 season.
“I’m not going to lie, I wanted to re-sign (with the Wings),” said Samuelsson, who got a three-year deal with $2.5 million a season from the Canucks. “It didn’t happen. (Marian) Hossa was a big part of Detroit, or I didn’t know if he was going to be there or not. A couple of circumstances came down to it. Vancouver called really fast around July 1 and that was a good contract I couldn’t say no to,” Samuelsson added. “It was a good situation. They were potential winners too. I saw a good team in them and a nice city and good players as well. It was a good situation for me and I couldn’t turn it down at that point.”
Hossa wound up signing with Chicago Blackhawks that same offseason.
“We wanted to keep him three years ago but the salary was beyond where we wanted to go,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said on Sunday.
“When I choose a team at this point in my career it’s for if they’re going have a chance to win or not,” Samuelsson said. “That’s the main reason why I chose Detroit. I know many of the players there and I know what it’s like from last time. It was a really tough decision for me to leave the last time I did. It’s very comfortable for me here. It shouldn’t take me any time to get adjusted to the game or the system that they’re playing. I know they play the same way like they did when I left.”
“If you play good you get your ice time and that’s how it should be,” said Samuelsson, who is a member of the Triple Gold Club having won gold medals at the Winter Olympics and World Championships and a Stanley Cup. “I have to be good and it doesn’t matter if I play on the second, the third or the first, it doesn’t matter. They haven’t talked top six (forward) or bottom six (forward),” Samuelsson continued. “They said they needed a right handed shot on the power play. Hopefully I’ll play there. They didn’t mention much what was going on and at the same time I know what Detroit is about.”
And Pleiness offers much more from Samuelsson in a meaty story.
Update #8: This is interesting, from Capgeek:
#NHL #RedWings Damien Brunner can earn up to $425,000 in performance bonuses, $1.35M cap hit http://t.co/ZFeb8cos
Update #9: We have a signing! Of a prospect, from Capgeek:
#NHL #RedWings also signed prospect Marek Tvrdon. http://t.co/ByLU9NO1
Update #8.5: From Helene St. James:
#RedWings news today: With $425,000 in bonuses, Damien Brunner could earn $1.35 M. ... Prospect Marek Tvrdon signed to 3-y entry level deal
Update #8.75: The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness also confirms the Brunner news.
Update #9: Pleiness piggybacks the Tvrdon news…
The Wings have signed forward Marek Tvrdon, their 115th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, to a three-year, two-way contract.
The Slovak winger will make $65,000 in Grand Rapids, or $617,500 with a $92,500 signing bonus if he makes the Wings.
Here is what redwingscentral.com wrote about Tvrdon.
“He jumped right out at me with his size, his skating and his skill. He’s a really good skater. He’s a similar player to (second-round pick and fellow Slovak) Tomas Jurco, to be honest. He’s really skilled and he’s a very good skater for his size.” — Red Wings scout Jeff Finley (June 2011) … “He knew that Detroit (director of player development Jiri Fischer) was there (for a four-point game on Oct. 21, 2011) and that was a big part of (his strong play). He has to do it every night — not just when Detroit is here. Was it a breakout game? I want to know why he can’t play like that every game. If he can do it once, he should be able to do it again and again. That’s what we want from him.” — Vancouver Giants head coach Don Hay (October 2011, Vancouver Province) … “Tvrdon showed some stuff I like — he’s a big body and he has a good feel for the game — but looks like his intensity has to come up a bit.” — Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson (January 2012).
Update #10: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose penned an article about Samuelsson’s return:
“The time that I was there we were in two (Stanley Cup) finals and one of them we won, so it is hard to leave, but that’s what the salary cap does to you,” said Samuelsson, who left for Vancouver and a lucrative contract in 2009. “Some players have to leave, but I definitely have a strong feeling toward the guys in the locker room and the organization as well. I knew what I wanted when I hit the market and I’m happy that they wanted me too.”
Entering his 12th NHL season, Samuelsson has played for six different clubs, producing 148 goals and 194 assists in 669 games. He was a fifth-round draft choice of the San Jose Sharks in 1998. But three years later, he was acquired by the New York Rangers, which was the first of three trades in Samuelsson’s first two NHL seasons. Then last October, he was traded for the fourth time in his career when the Canucks sent him packing for Florida. He also played a handful of games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003. This time, several teams showed interesting in acquiring Samuelsson, he said, but when he canvassed the offers, returning to a team, an organization, and a community which he’s very familiar with was far more attractive to him and his family.
“This doesn’t feel right now like I’m changing teams again,” said Samuelsson, in a phone interview from his home in Sweden. “It feels like I know what the organization is about, and I think I know how we play, or supposed to play, and I know the guys. It’s not going to be one of these situations where you have to take some time to adapt in a couple of weeks to learn the new guys. I know a lot of the guys in the locker room there.”
Being back in an organization that makes the playoffs a prior is also a quality that helped coax Samuelsson back to Hockeytown.
“It’s a contender to win the Cup, that’s the main reason I came back,” he said. “The other reasons are that I’ve been there before and really liked it. It was a hard time when I left, but I know that I will like it again because they have a good team with hard practices and good coach and a good group of guys.”
In his first tour with the Red Wings, Samuelsson played a versatile role as a top six forward, who also averaged more than 2 ½ minutes of ice-time on the power play. He continued in a similar capacity with the Canucks, which is something that he hopes he can do again in Detroit.
“I don’t see (my role) changing too much,” Samuelsson said. “They know what kind of player I am, they know what they get from me. First of all, my thoughts are if you play good you’re going to earn your ice-time. Hopefully, my role can be what it was last time, which was being on the second line and contribute, and can be on the power play as well. I can play actually in a lot of different situations.”
Update #11: According to the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe, the Toledo Walleye have offered former Wings prospect Nick Oslund an ECHL-only contract.
Update #12: Okay, Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s Samuelsson story:
“The main reason, when I choose a team at this point in my career, is if they’re going have a chance to win or not,’’ Samuelsson said on Monday. “I know many of the players there and I know what it’s like from last time. It was a really tough decision to leave the last time. It’s very comfortable for me here. It shouldn’t take me any time to get adjusted to the game or the system. I know they play the same way they did when I left.’‘
The Red Wings signed Samuelsson to a two-year, $6 million contract on Sunday, the first day of free agency. He spent two-plus seasons in Vancouver and most of 2011-12 in Florida. Samuelsson said he was surprised that a “bunch’’ of other teams called. His decision was easy.
“(The Red Wings) are always a high-skilled team, and they still have those players in my mind,’’ Samuelsson said. “They lost Nick (Lidstrom) and I don’t know what’s going on with Homer (Tomas Holmstrom). I think I’m coming to a very good team. Maybe we have some holes to fill, a little bit, but it’s definitely a contender, and that’s why I chose this team.’‘
Samuelsson likely will step into the top-six forward role created by the apparent departure of free agent Jiri Hudler and will play the point on the power play.
“They said they needed a right-handed shot on the power play,’’ Samuelsson said. “They didn’t mention much (about his role). At the same time, I know what Detroit is about. If you play good you get your ice time and that’s how it should be. I have to be good and it doesn’t matter if I play on the second (line), the third or the first.’‘
Samuelsson suffered torn tendons in his left leg in the 2011 playoffs with the Canucks, who lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. He was dealt to Florida on Oct. 22 but said it took him until Christmas time to start feeling comfortable. Samuelsson returns to a dressing room full of familiar faces from his four seasons in Detroit, including fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg, whom he spoke to before signing, and Niklas Kronwall, who contacted him on Monday.
“The time that I was there we were in two finals and won one (Cup), so it is hard to leave,’’ Samuelsson said. “But that’s what the salary cap does to you. Some players have to leave.’‘
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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.