The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/29/11 at 03:36 AM ET
So Brooks Laich is off the market after signing for crazy money with Washington, the rising cap means that the Hurricanes could afford to re-sign Joni Pitkanen, as Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski suggests, the Islanders have two days to try to convince Christian Ehrhoff that a gigantic payday makes playing for Garth Snow and Charles Wang worthwhile—as opposed to, say, taking $4.5 million to play for the Red Wings, which James Wisniewski might find appealing—and barring any unforeseen circumstances, Jaromir Jagr’s going to choose to play for Pittsburgh, not Detroit.
The strangest unrestricted free agent market’s thinner than the wisps of hair on my head when I was 19 (good riddance), the Red Wings will have serious-arse competition for the two or three top-flight defensemen available on Friday and, for the first time in a long time, a marquee player in his late 30’s is telling Detroit, “Thanks, but there’s somewhere else I’d rather play.”
So what are the Red Wings doing while they wait for Friday? First and foremost, according to MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Wings are trying to keep Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller in the fold...
Holland provided up update on contract talks with defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who can become an unrestricted free agent on Friday:
“We’ve done a lot of talking (with Ericsson’s agent) the last 4-5 days,’’ Holland said. “We’d like to re-sign him. I don’t think money’s as big an issue. He’s 27, he wants to know where he fits going forward and how it affects his role. We’ll see between now and Friday if we can get a deal done.’‘
Holland said that’s pretty much the case with forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller as well.
And the Wings have officially told Kris Draper and Chris Osgood that their futures in Detroit will have to wait to be determined:
Holland said on Tuesday that he has informed forward Kris Draper and goaltender Chris Osgood that they won’t be offered contracts prior to Friday, the start of free agency. Holland wants to see what unfolds in free agency before making a final decision on the two long-time Red Wings.
“We’ll reassess after July 1, when we see who’s out there,’’ Holland said.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirms the latter bit of news...
“We’re going to explore the market first,” Holland said. “We have cap space. The players we’ve got want us to build around them. They want to stay. They want to be important players.”
The Wings have 16 players (11 forwards, four defensemen, one goaltender) signed for a salary-cap hit of $47.6 million. This year’s cap is $63.4 million. The Wings also have to sign rookie forward Cory Emmerton since he’s out of minor league options. If he doesn’t make the roster Emmerton could be claimed off waivers if they try and send him to the minors.
Before confirming Khan’s report on Monday, stating that Eaves and Miller in particular may test the market to receive the kinds of assurances in terms of ice time, top-nine roles and no healthy scratching that the Wings cannot give them:
“We want to keep them,” Holland said. “We think they’re going to grow and develop into bigger roles and have bigger responsibilities.”
Eaves has been a third- or fourth-line player in Detroit. He has developed into a stellar penalty killer and good forechecker. He has also contributed a bit offensively with 25 goals in the past two seasons. Holland said Eaves’ agent was going to talk to his client today and then get back with the Wings by Thursday.
“I’m sure they look at our depth and they’re not sure where the opportunities are going to present themselves,” Holland said. “They think they can have a bigger role with other teams.”
As for Ericsson, he’d be pegged in as the Wings’ #5 defenseman if they sign someone—and while there’s always the, “We’ll improve from within and/or patch holes and wait till next season” option available to Holland, it’s very hard to believe that the Wings will stray from their blueprint in terms of building from the strongest core of puck-moving defensemen available—so Ericsson, who’s at least received a contract offer in the $2+ million range, wants to be sure that he isn’t buried at the bottom end of the depth chart, either:
“We’d like to sign him,” Holland said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re close on money, but there’s more involved in his decision than just money. We’re talking about his role this year and going forward.”
Bottom line, perhaps with Eaves and Miller as well as Ericsson?
“We’ll continue to talk,” Holland said.
And fans will continue to wait. If Ericsson walks, as Pleiness states, the Wings won’t stand pat—they’ll find someone to replace him, but he’ll probably come from the UFA bargain bin. The Wings’ first priority involves replacing Rafalski, then either finding a back-up goaltender and/or reinforcing their forward lines.
If the Ericsson, Eaves and Miller exit, obviously, the plan changes a little bit, but in any and all cases, the Wings will not overpay to bring someone to Detroit. It’s about selling players on taking less than the insane amounts of money teams that feel like overpaying can throw at players because in Detroit, you’re paid well, treated like a king by the team’s ownership and, most importantly, you’re expected to be part of a team that contends for the Stanley Cup each and every season.
No matter how many free agent curve balls are thrown Ken Holland’s way, that ultimate bottom line will not change, and the Wings will not deviate from building a team that can fulfill those lofty expectations for the sake of “gutting it out till there are better free agents” available. If Holland can’t find what he wants to fill roster holes on the open market—and it might take more than one defenseman to do so in the Wings’ case if the top targets disappear—he’s stated that he’s willing to make trades.
About the only thing we shouldn’t expect to see this summer is an offer sheet tossed at a restricted free agent. Otherwise…It’s about overbuilding a team that can at least reach the team’s expectation level of a Western Conference Final playoff finish.
Update: Stating the obvious, via the Free Press’s George Sipple:
Holland said the agents for Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller continue to consider offers. Holland said he doesn’t think he’s far apart with any on money.
Update #2: Quite interesting, via the Free Press’s “staff”*:
Wings general manager Ken Holland said Tuesday he made Jagr an offer a while ago and “he’s obviously getting close to a decision. I don’t know which way he’s leaning.”
Holland said the agents for Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller continue to consider offers. Holland said he doesn’t think the sides are far apart with any of them on money.
“These guys are 27 years of age, they’ve been support players in Detroit, they’ve been very happy doing it and they’re coming to a stage in their career where they’d like a bigger role, bigger responsibility,” Holland said. “We’ll see where it goes. We feel there’s a tremendous opportunity here for Jonathan with the loss of (Brian) Rafalski.”
Holland reiterated that he told Kris Draper and Chris Osgood he would explore the market and not sign either of them before Friday, July 1. He also said no decision had been made on Mike Babcock’s assistant coaches.
*I looked up whether one places quotation marks within or outside colons and/or semicolons and the rule appears to be that punctuation goes inside the marks.
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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.